Christmas vacation is officially over. I have conflicting feelings over this. I am a bit relieved because it is exhausting, and the long breaks during the day will be nice. I don’t think people understand how much special needs parents desperately need some room to breathe. I am also sad to see them go, because I truly find joy in spending time with them. And, for another reason too.
On Tuesday afternoon when the boys arrived home from their first day back, they were happy. They shared bits and pieces of their day. Micah chatted about nothing and everything. (To his teachers, I love you. I forget how much that boy talks and this break has reminded me. Thank you for listening to him and making him feel important.)
When they arrived home from school and had had their snack, they started on their chores and homework. When they were done, they got their much anticipated screen time. While they were running minions and giggling with that ridiculous talking cat, I made a cup of tea and sat down. That’s when it happened.
The first of the daily e-mails arrived. If you don’t know what kind of e-mail I am talking about, I am jealous of you and your inbox. It couldn’t have been more ominous if it tried. Nestled in between a note from my Mom and an update on my order from David’s tea was an e-mail from a teacher. My fingers hovered over the tempting mini trash can off to the side, but there is this little thing called responsibility. So I opened it.
These e-mails are a bit like Russian roulette. You know what is coming, so you brace for impact. But at the same time, there is a small chance and with it a glimmer of hope that you won’t take a hit. Maybe it would be more accurate if the gun was loaded with all but one bullet, because that is how often you get good news.
I sometimes wonder why they can’t seem to write some positive with the negative. Because I know my children and I know the terrible things they are capable of. But I also know their hearts and they aren’t evil. They are sweet, and loving and kind. It is a bit of a messy package. I think it would be easier on autism parents to be able to handle the stress and grief over what their children were up to at school if they could cling to a little bit of praise as well.
My heart sank as I read not one, but two e-mails. Two e-mails for my two very different children. Two e-mails from frustrated teachers who had to come back from a relaxing break and had to deal with my son all day.
But here’s the thing. These are my babies. I have been dealing with my sons for over a decade. Far longer than any teacher. Yes, their days during the week are longer than my days with them. They have more waking hours with my children than I do during the week. But you know what? Teachers, I am giving you my children at their best.
What the teachers don’t see is my children when they wake up in the morning. Screeching because they can’t shut out the noise and desperately need to drown it out. Dumping things all over the floor because they are overly impulsive. Walking around naked because they’re so distracted they can’t even remember they were in the process of getting dressed. In the one hour before I send them out the door, I manage to get them fed, guide them as they get dressed, pack their lunches, and instill some peace in them so they are ready for their day. What the teachers don’t know is that sometimes my children are late to school because I won’t let them leave until they are ready.
I have medicated children. As a parent, that is sometimes a tough pill to swallow. When you first hold your baby in your arms, you fall in love with the sweet. In that magical moment, you don’t really think about the future. When I first held my babies, I didn’t know the magical moment would be when their medication kicked in. Like a light switch from chaos to contentment. When their switch finally reaches contentment after an hour of chaos, I send them out the door and pray they will have a good day. I never dreamed I would have a pharmacy in my home. I never dreamed I would have to give my children meds every day, probably for the rest of their lives. But it’s okay, because it helps them be their best.
Only, I guess their best isn’t good enough. Because the e-mails keep coming. And not just e-mails from the teachers, although those cause me the most stress. Also the e-mails scheduling therapies, doctors appointments, and hopefully some respite. Sometimes I wish for just a moment I could be the parents who get e-mails scheduling play dates and birthday parties. But I am not one of those Moms.
I don’t resent it. I just wish that for one day, I could have it as easy as the teachers. Because when my kids come home, their medications have run out and it is back to chaos. I don’t get the level of contentment the schools do when I send my kids there every day. I wish I could have that. But it’s okay that I don’t. Because I am the mother. The one who will love them, no matter what the e-mails say. The one who will wrap my arms around them when they have had a bad day and just need some love. The one who will stand beside them and advocate for them every step of the way.
Because I am an autism Mom, and it’s my super power. We stretch and give. We deposit here and deposit there and have very little deposits coming back. We get by on little sleep and a lot of caffeine. We show up for meetings. We schedule those appointments. And we answer those e-mails.
Don’t even ask me about the phone calls. That’s a story for another day.