I went to a talk the other night presented by Susan Senator, a mom who speaks and writes about autism and how it affects people's lives. There was a lot of great information shared, but one piece stood out for me in the moment. She was talking about how you can become so angry about a behavior that your child is presenting that in that moment, you can forget something so important. The behaviors are part of the disability. They are entrenched in the day to day life of autism parents, to very differing degrees. What she said that stood out for me was this: "When I am angry in that moment, I remind myself, I am on his side."
This was a very subtle yet extremely poignant AND potent concept for me. For parents of autism, it needs no further explanation. But I wanted to share a recent moment where it helped me reel myself back in. And honestly, being able to work on that skill with my boys made me feel like a million bucks and made me a more effective mother.
Last night, Connor was in my bed coughing. And by coughing, I mean "coughing"! Each time my husband and I tried to get him to drink some water, his reply was "NO!" Now, of course we wanted Connor to be comfortable. But we also wanted to sleep! This went on and on for hours. I was exhausted, aggravated that my child would not just take a sip of water! Wasn't he uncomfortable? I would ask if he was tired, but that is no longer a question I care to visit after 4.5 years of sleep issues. I could have yelled, I could have been grouchy. He was fighting us on a simple task like drinking water...the affects of which would make him more comfortable and would allow us all to sleep. Frustrating? Yes.
Instead, I was calm, and while I was up, going to the bathroom--awake so long I could no longer just lay in bed and fight the urge--Connor came up to me crying. He put his arms out for a hug--which is still such a new concept for him to initiate, I cherish each time it happens. I was able to hold him. To calm him. To get to him drink some juice (organic with little sugar!) and wipe his nose. His bloody nose. It was a long night. But, I kept thinking of that little phrase, "I am on his side." It carried me through. And in the end, Connor was comforted and went back to sleep. And I got to sleep with a clear and happy conscious. Not only I did I solve the issues at hand but I was able to do it in the caring, loving and nurturing way that I always want to--but cannot always achieve because Autism, so often, takes away my own abilities to be myself. But last night, I won out.