The Handoff

A co-worker asked how my weekend was, and I think I responded something like, “Meh.”  Because it was a nice weekend, and The Man and had a tiny vacation, but I had to give up The Boy, so there’s that.  The truth is I hate giving him up, but I have an undying hope that he will be able to salvage something of a relationship with his dad at some point, and so I know this is good.  Or has the potential of being good.  But having him gone is like not having an arm for a week.

And so, while the weekend was a nice little getaway, and I could do nothing but smile at The Boy’s insistent questions (“How much longer?  Are we there yet?  I wonder what kind of lights Dad’s new car will have…”) and statements (“I can’t wait to see the new puppy!”), it still just sucks and my emotions are a little raw, a little closer to the surface.  I will (and already do) miss being a mom, at least in the active sense, this week.

Here’s to hoping it goes by quickly, uneventfully, and as painlessly as possible.  Tomorrow’s another day.

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Blended Boys

Blending families is an ongoing journey, even when you only have one school-age child.  Differences in parenting styles become apparent fairly quickly, and when your child has special needs, it can be even more challenging.  We have been lucky — The Man and I dated long-distance for several years, which gave us an opportunity to glimpse each other’s parenting styles and transition to a blended parenting style over time.  To say that it’s a finished product would not be right – it continues to evolve, but it’s functioning, and a positive thing for The Boy to have two parents in our home.

The Man continues to learn about The Boy and his challenges.  It can be unfortunate sometimes to have a disorder like autism, because it isn’t oustwardly visible, and people who don’t know will judge, while even people who do know will forget, myself included.  Not forget that he has autism, but forget The Boy’s struggles and needs, even if momentarily.  This happens with The Man from time to time, but we continue to communicate and progress on our journey.

The Man is a natural-born dad — he doesn’t know it, but sometimes I almost burst into happy tears at his small gestures towards The Boy.  He doesn’t even realize that he is doing things for The Boy that have never been done for him before.  And I have found that the one best thing for their growing relationship has been to force them together without me for awhile.  I have had to leave for work for a few hours on each weekend, and they have gotten to hang out a lot more this month.  And you know what?  We’ve had fewer meltdowns from everyone involved.

Yesterday, The Man pulled into the yard, home from work, and immediately grabbed our knock-around bike from the shed to go join The Boy who was riding around the neighborhood with some other kids.  And I watched, with those happy-tears in my eyes.

The Boys

An Awful Weight Lifted

Over the past month, I’ve become quite close, almost best friends, with a feeling I’ve never had to feel before. Because I was always a teacher, and had been for years before The Boy was born, and because (at least where and when I taught) teachers usually had a fairly decent benefits package and fairly decent pay, I didn’t ever carry the heavy weight of worry about providing for my child.

English: Heavy Burden

I know how lucky I was, and I knew it then, but I did work hard for that security, and we weren’t always absolutely free from worry on that front. With the ex doing our finances, there was always worry, but there was always the reassurance of another paycheck on the horizon, even if it was already spent. There was also a time when our district slashed our benefits, and all of a sudden, our all-important speech and occupational therapies were no longer covered. It was a struggle, but we managed. We only got sued by a hospital once, so victory for us, I s’pose.

Today, as I walked out of the Department of Social Services office, where a kind lady had explained to me, “Yes, those mailings you received do mean that your son has full Medicaid coverage,” I took one of the deepest breaths I have taken in months.

No matter what happens, he has a roof over his head, and the medical care he needs.

And now, I don’t have to spend any more emotional energy on that heavy worry, and can concentrate on finding a decent job.

Just a Parent Now…

Now that I am “just a parent” as opposed to a teacher/parent, I thought I would re-post a post I wrote in the spring during teacher appreciation week.  Especially because we are starting at a new school, and a new level of school, I have questions.  LOTS of questions.  And I have this impatient need to get answers quickly.  I have decided to reign myself in, because I remember the first week of school, and The Boy’s teachers could use one less email from me this week if I don’t really need the answer today.

 

I Don’t Owe Him a Thing

When I was first divorced, I bent over backwards to make sure that The Boy spent time with his dad.  And I often bent further than was really fair.  Because I knew if I didn’t, their relationship would suffer.  But finally, I realized that their relationship wasn’t up to me.  It was up to them, and since The Boy is a child, it was really up to the adult in that relationship, namely the ex.  It was most definitely not up to me.

A few days ago, I wrote about the ex’s most recent behavior, asking me for a few “favors”.  My first, knee-jerk reaction was to try to help him out, because if I don’t, he will take it out on his son, probably cancelling his visitation time, and not calling.

But the truth is, that’s pretty likely, even when the ex isn’t pissed off at me.  And lying for him is definitely not in my best interests, nor in the best interests of his own son.  Doing “favors” for him when he hangs up on me is reinforcing that bad behavior.  The truth is that we don’t have that kind of relationship.  We have a business relationship, if that.  Some divorced relationships are cordial and even friendly.  Ours just isn’t.  And because it isn’t, favors are not required.

The simple question is, would he do the same for me?  The answer is no.  The simple question is, would you do “favors” for a person who periodically swears at you, threatens you, hangs up on you, and doesn’t meet his obligations to you?

I didn’t think so.

You Are Not a Failure

A mom posted on Single mothers who have children with autism’s facebook page about feeling like a failure because her son was being pulled from mainstreamed classes, and placed into a special education classroom.  My heart breaks when I read things like that.

Adaptation of above image illustrating an Inte...

I think every Special Needs Parent has those moments, hours, days, weeks, or even years, when we feel like we are the biggest failures on the planet, and we feel that pain so much more deeply because we know how much our kids need us not to fail.  But.  We can not allow ourselves to feel that way for too long, for that very same reason – our kids need us to pick ourselves up and keep rolling that rock up the mountain.  It’s OK to fall, to stumble, to crawl into bed and lock the door once in awhile (assuming everyone else is relatively safe).  But we can’t stay there, and we definitely can’t get into the habit of pointing fingers at ourselves too often.

Maybe it would help to remember those naysayers we have all encountered.  The ignorant, mean-spirited people we have come across.  And then in our weakest moments, imagine what kind of a job they would do in our place.  You see, no one is perfect, and none of us were prepared for this job.  And there was certainly no manual.  But we are some of the quickest studies on the planet.  We can read our children’s faces down to the slightest waggle of an eyebrow, and be able to interpret emotion from it.  We can come up with backup plans on the fly, salvage nasty situations, and calm our children when no one else can.  In the eyes of our children, we are MOM (or DAD), the one and only.  Learning from mistakes is part of the game.  It’s not learning from them that is a failure.

Be nice to yourself, parents.  Try not to beat yourself up too bad.  It’s a waste of energy, and you’ve got too much other stuff to do!

Another Huge Meltdown

We don’t often see huge meltdowns from The Boy.  We are lucky.  Yesterday, we paid our dues.

We were at a big show in the downtown-big city, at a large convention center, and after being told he couldn’t do an activity because it was time to go home, The Boy started yelling.  I gave my purse to The Man and began walking The Boy to the front of the hall, towards the lobby.  He was yelling the whole time, and got away from me a couple of times, but I eventually got him out to the lobby.  I don’t know what I expected when I got there, but it surely wasn’t the full throttle, running, kicking, screaming (“I’m going to kill you!”, “I’m going to call the police!”), escaping, knocking-down-signs, knocking-down-mom kinda thing I got.

Yep, I got tossed, too.

The Boy is bigger, although he was plenty to handle the last time something like this happened.  I cannot just pick him up (or even attempt to) anymore.  At one point, I looked at The Man and said, “I don’t know what to do,” and there was nothing we could do.  We let it peter out, got him seated on the floor near the coat check, and then my brain kicked in.  He was not listening to me (all I was saying was “stop” because I knew he was too far gone to listen to anything else), so I got on the phone and called people I thought he might listen to.  I got a hold of his ASD teacher, who agreed to speak to him, and within a minute, he was ok enough to get his coat on so we could head home.

The Boy spoke to Fantastic Babysitter in the car on the way home for quite awhile, which was an excellent distraction, and had the desired calming effect.  When we got home, I let him be for awhile, and then we talked about what had happened.  I’m not satisfied that we’ve processed it properly, but I’m going to keep working on it.

The Man and I were shaken, but he was perfect.  He held my purse, and followed us (but not too closely!) during the whole thing, even speaking with a few people who were concerned.  He said this morning like he felt he hadn’t done enough, but he did — he helped me with the aftermath, my aftermath.  I was wrecked, emotional, and exhausted, and he took care of me.  That’s what I need from him — I need him to look after me, so that I’m OK to look after my son.

It was an emotional day, but I was proud of myself for remaining relatively calm, and not resentful of The Boy at all.  I felt so bad that we had a breakdown in communication, and I felt bad that he lost control.  I can only guess what that feels like, and I’m sure I wouldn’t like it.  I was proud of him for coming out of it, and I was proud of The Man for how he handled himself.  Now I need to go see what I can do about these sore muscles…

What’s Working

I talk about a lot of stuff that I’m going to do, but I don’t always get back to you and let you know what’s working, so…

  • The cold oatmeal in a jar?  That’s been working!  Like clockwork.  Except just in the last week or so, I’ve been getting a little sick of it, so I’m going to switch up some flavors.
  • The 6-Shelf Sweater Sorter!  The Boy actually filled it himself this past weekend and was proud of himself for doing so.  And the best part is that he is wearing every pair of his pants now, not the same pair every day.  Success!  It also keeps me on track with making sure the laundry gets done so it can be filled.
  • It’s early days yet, but the Magnetic Menu Planner is working SO well!  It helps with making the grocery list, and reminding me what’s planned (and what needs to be defrosted, etc.).  I have been cooking like a fiend, and loving it.  I’m even freezing leftovers and reducing waste.

Another success I’ve had recently is with chores.  I have written about allowance, and not basing it on chores before, but saw this post about how to make a visual chart for kids, and allowing them to have input.  I implemented only the chart of what gets done each day, and The Boy is actually doing chores (like wiping the kitchen counter, and picking up his things)!  The best part?  We haven’t even talked about allowance – he’s doing it because I need him to help out (and I need to teach him basic living skills).  You can’t get any better than that.

Build upon success

Take a minute and think about what’s working for you lately.  Let us know how it’s going in the comments below.

Most Important

The Passage of Time

The Passage of Time (Photo credit: ToniVC)

The Boy and I are first to the school every single day, with the exception of the lone morning custodian. He lets us in the door shortly after 7am, and we wait, often for at least 10 minutes, until other faces arrive, children and their parents, but rarely the same ones. And then around 7:15am, the Kids Club staff arrive.

There have been a couple of times when a parent has come in, assumed I worked for Kids Club, and promptly left their children with a quick peck on the cheek. Nevermind my big puffy coat and scarf… Or there are times when a parent comes in, constantly looking at his/her watch, declaring over and over how they have to get to work (as if I don’t). Today, a woman actually pecked her kids and told them she was going to go wait by the door, because she had to “skedaddle”… Yep, that 15 seconds from the gym to the parking lot door is really going to make a difference, Lady.

When I overhear things like this, I often look at the kids, who look embarrassed and sad. All of these parents are sending a message, with their words, actions and body language that no kid could miss — work is more important.

There are times when we have a rough morning, and yes it’s irritating to have to text my boss and tell him I am running late, but he’s my kid. There is nothing on this planet more important than him. And if I have to be a few minutes late to work, so be it.

I hope these parents get a clue before their children are grown and gone, but realistically how will they learn?

 

Single Moms to Special Needs Kids

I read a sad Facebook post on the Single Mothers who have Children with Autism Facebook page, that started, “YOU MIGHT BE A SINGLE PARENT OF A CHILD WITH AUTISM IF…” and listed 25 (25!!?) ways to identify yourself in that category, many having to do with the inability to even think about dating. I know this post was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but to me it seemed rather sad. And I guess it had to do with the repetition on the theme (and the assumption) that there is no hope for you in the dating world if you have a child with autism, and aren’t you better off anyway, being alone?

Does every single mom to a child with autism end up with a great guy? Heck no. I know how incredibly lucky I am.

But.

I’m happy today because I stuck my neck out there and risked it all. I’m happy today because I decided I wasn’t going to be lonely for the rest of my life. Yes, you read that right, I DECIDED. I’m happy today because I valued myself as a person, no less than my son.

After my divorce, I was told, point blank, that no man would ever date me if they found out my son had autism. And I half-believed it. I joined the online dating scene, landed a semi-regular guy to see, and it was over in about a month. I was devastated until my gynecologist (Yep, you read that right, too!) asked, “Did you love him?” and I said, “Uh… No.” “Then you’re free!” he said, and it clicked. He was so not right for me, and I was not really myself for that month (although it was so nice to be back in the swing of things again!). I learned a lot.

Then I dated “Bachelor #2”. That’s actually what I called him, although not to his face. That lasted two, count ’em TWO dates. You can read all about it here.

And then I gave up. I started to believe I would never find a partner and would only be lucky to date a guy here and there. So I quit. I quit the online dating scene, and didn’t pursue much of anything for a long time.

But.

I had already known The Man a few years. We came into contact a couple months later. And then we hung out again a couple months later. And then again a couple months later, and every freakin’ time I walked away with a huge crush, and a long list of reasons why it wouldn’t work. And a few months later, inspired by a blog post (I’d link it, but I can’t remember which exact one it was…), and Fidelity by Regina Spektor, I decided that I wasn’t going to settle, and I was going to take a risk with my heart, if a risk was made available. And it was.

And here I am. Single Mother who has Child with Autism and a Partner (fiancé!).

I’m certainly not writing about this to brag, and this hasn’t been all rainbows and lollipops, not by a long shot. But it was definitely worth sticking my neck out for. And because I am happier, we are all happier. Much, much happier.

And I know how tough it is to make arrangements to just get out of the house. I KNOW. Listen! I don’t even have family in the area! I am lucky enough to be able to afford a babysitter, but even if I couldn’t, I’d hook myself up with a friend and swap time, or apply for respite from one of the many great nonprofits out there that provide it.

Single Mothers who have Children with Autism, you and your happiness are worth the time, effort, and risk.

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” ~ Henry Ford