Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘emotions

Mother Like Me

with 7 comments

After yesterday’s post, I had some people question why I didn’t react more to what happened during our flight.  It is a valid question, and one that had whirled around my own head ever since Saturday.  You see, my instinct was to protect my children.  Adrenaline was coursing through my system, and my body felt like it needed action.  My brain even pictured the various actions which would have satisfied it- all were physical, and all of them would have landed me in trouble with aviation security.  But I wasn’t thinking about that.

I was thinking about what the children would do if I raised my voice, or had a physical altercation, or even moved to argue face to face with the man in front.  Pudding had already had a meltdown over the change of seats.  A meltdown during which she became violent, briefly clawing at my face with her fingers.  Pudding is not usually an aggressive child, but she already felt threatened, and was lashing out. And this was with me being calm.

If I get worked up, if I raise my voice, if I give in to strong emotions, it is absorbed and reflected back at me by two people who need me to stay in control.  That isn’t to say that I never get angry, or I’m always in control of my emotions, but I do know that when I explode, so does everyone around me.  And I really didn’t need that.  Nor did the rest of the passengers crammed on to that painfully full flight.

Well, all apart from one, that is.

Before I actually confronted him, calmly, I’d spent several hours with Pudding and Cubby sleeping on me, peacefully oblivious to the barely-contained rage I was feeling.  Any parent who knows this forced calm- and I’m certain there are a few of us with children on the autism spectrum- know that this inertia is a hundred times more difficult than acting on our feelings.

We do it, because we can.  They can’t.

We can take a deep breath, calm ourselves down, refuse to let things escalate.  My kids don’t know how to do that yet.  They are learning, and like with many of life’s lessons, they need them modeled time and time again.  Even when there are jerks within hitting distance who totally deserve it.

Now, maybe you have children who don’t follow your every move, hear every word you say (even if they conveniently don’t pay attention at times), or detect every change in your pitch.  That way you don’t risk the same consequences.  Maybe you haven’t had years of learning to show Zen when you feel anything but.  I’m glad for you, and I’m jealous of you.  You don’t have to hold it all in until you find a suitable outlet.

Believe me, it gets hard, when you mother like me.  Certain situations are just harder.  But at least when the gory fantasies (I’m always like Buffy the Vampire Slayer in my daydreams) I had of what I could do when the plane touched down and the kids were handed off to the husband didn’t get to come true, I can always write about it here.

Because some how, some way, this stuff has to come out, if you are going to mother like me.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Girl Cousins

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Only Pudding likes Hello Kitty.

We hear that a lot in our house.  It is an established fact.  A Pudding fact at that- nothing more irrefutable.  Going to England meant the kids were going to meet their British cousins for the first time.  Pudding has one girl cousin, and Pudding wasn’t going to tolerate any competition.  I thought a mutual love of Hello Kitty might bring the girls together.  I excitedly told Pudding that her cousin was going to have a Hello Kitty birthday cake the day after they met.  I thought she’d love it.  But I’d forgotten that only Pudding likes Hello Kitty.

So before meeting her, Puddings cousin was on notice.  Not only was she going to have the cake, but a birthday too, of all the rude things! Didn’t she know that Pudding likes birthdays?  And then there was Nanny.  Was this little usurper going to steal Nanny’s affections too?

This time around, Pudding had immediately bonded with her grandparents.  This is the tough part of foreign service life.  And the tough thing about autism.  For a child struggling with social interaction, limited time with loved ones doesn’t help.  We can’t predict how things will be.  When we visit family, I feel like I’ve just set off a soggy firework- it might fizzle out to nothing, or it might be explosive, and you don’t really want to be the one to risk trying to fix things when it could go off in your face.

This time with my mum it was like this from the first day…

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Which was awesome!  But I noted how Pudding jealously eyed her neurotypical three year-old.  Because Nanny is her Nanny too.  And every time previously, Pudding has only had to share her Nanny with Cubby, which is fine because she has to share everything (but Hello Kitty) with him.  But this was new.  And new can be hard.  And new people?  Even harder.

Jealousy may be ugly, but someone this beautiful should never be play the ugly step-sister role.

This little cousin already came with her own thoughts and feelings.  Pudding hadn’t allowed her to like Hello Kitty, or to have a birthday, or share Nanny.  This was hard.  Not just for Pudding, but for me too.  Well aware that the time we could spend with family was constantly trickling away, I wanted everything to be perfect for everybody concerned.  I knew it wasn’t going to be.

Then again, I could see that Pudding’s response was valid and true to who she is.  In fact, a perfectly normal feeling.  So I let her have it.  I stopped trying to force interactions.  I allowed her to be jealous.  If allowed is the right word- she certainly doesn’t need my permission to feel things.  But I acknowledged it.  Kids get jealous.  Even spectrummy mummies get jealous, we all do.

And just like any of we creatures on this planet fortunate enough to sense the range of emotions that make up the human condition, it abated.  Or dissipated.  Spent.  Probably a whole lot sooner than if I’d tried to facilitate the relationship.  And in its place…interest.  Fascination in another little girl.  Then, before we knew it- affection.  Love.

Her enemy turned into a friend.  When Pudding’s cousin balked at the idea of riding in a horse-drawn pink princess carriage, Pudding didn’t want to ride without her.  When she wore princess slippers,

Pudding squished her way-too-big feet into a matching pair.  And whenever they were together, the two held hands, and ran around giggling at each other.  Best of friends for their remaining time together.  Inevitably, of course, the two were wrenched apart, and we had to feel the pain and loss of separation.

Still, we have memories to last a lifetime full of love, friendship, and family.  But they don’t have to last a lifetime, just til next time.  It is something over families take for granted, but we know just how precious it is.

  When we return she’ll know there are people there who love her through good and bad, just as she is.  And if we’re all very lucky, they might even be willing to share their Hello Kitty cake once again.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Pudding and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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Yesterday Pudding asked me to read her Alexander and the the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Pudding likes this book, but it goes in phases for her, and she hasn’t been interested in reading it for several months.  I wondered if there was a reason for her choice….

I went to bed with Daddy in my room and then I woke up and Daddy wasn’t there, and I was scared.  I went to Mummy and Daddy’s room, and they were asleep, so I had to wake them up to get in their bed. Daddy had to get out.  Even though it hadn’t started yet, I could see it was going to be a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

When I woke up it was still dark and there were no birds singing yet, so I had to make noise instead.  Mummy is grumpy, so I keep talking and turning until she cheers up.  Eventually I hear Daddy get up, so I decide it is time to go downstairs.

Daddy wants me to do my therapeutic listening program, but I don’t want to.  I don’t like wearing the head phones, and I don’t want to listen to that music.  I pull the cord out of the CD player and Daddy makes me do it again from the beginning.  I get my pink yoghurt on my Hello Kitty nightgown and I start to cry.  It isn’t even 7 O’Clock, and already it is a Terrible Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

I think next time I’ll move to Australia.

Mummy washes my face and the cloth is scratchy.  She makes me take off my Hello Kitty nightgown to be washed and I don’t want to.  I want to always wear my Hello Kitty nightgown.  She makes me wear warm clothes and socks, when I want to wear a dress and no socks- I could do that in Australia.

Cubby has to get dressed too, but Cubby doesn’t have to go to school.  Cubby doesn’t even have to go back to school until May.  It isn’t fair- I should be able to stay home too.  I tell Mummy I’m not going to school today.  She take me anyway on this Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

The little kids at my preschool scream and cry and it hurts my ears.  I tell Mummy I want to go to a different school.  Mummy says she’s working on it, but she isn’t working on it today and I don’t want to go today.  I have to do OT when I don’t want to, and speech therapy too.

I bet I wouldn’t have to do that in Australia.

Mummy picks me up from school and she tells me we have to go to a lab-o-ra-to-ry.  I don’t like it there, they hurt me the last time.  Mummy says she has magic plasters (Band-Aids) so it won’t hurt my arm this time, and puts them on where my elbow is.  I don’t like it.  I try to take them off.  Mummy and my teacher tell me I can’t take them off, but Mummy draws Hello Kitty on them and I like them better.

When we get to the hospital we have to wait for a long time.  The lights are too bright in here, I want to go back outside.  I don’t like to wait, my brother doesn’t like to wait, and my Mummy doesn’t like it when me and my brother have to wait.  Mummy has to write on lots of forms.  I try to draw with her pen, but she doesn’t like that.  Mummy seems angry and I don’t know why and that makes me scared.  I knew for sure this would be a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Mummy says we have to be good in the waiting room to get a lollipop, but when I try to be good by spinning around and making noises, she thinks that isn’t being good.  Then I go around the room and touch everything, and Cubby copies me.  I don’t know what else to try.  I’m confused, and that makes me more scared.

Finally it is my turn to go in, and I get up on the bed and I am brave.  Now the nurse takes off my magic plasters, but I don’t want her to because she didn’t ask first, and because they have Hello Kitty on them.  I tell her I need a Hello Kitty Band-Aid, but she shakes her head at me.  I don’t know what that means.  The nurse tells me it won’t hurt because of the magic, but then I see the needle, cotton wool, and the little dish thing from last time.  I remember last time and now I’m very scared.  Being this scared hurts me more than needles.  Mummy reminds the nurse again about my awe-tism, and the nurse’s eyes move upwards like they’re going back into her head.  I don’t know why she did that, but it feels like Mummy is more angry.  I can feel when Mummy is angry, even if I don’t know why.  It makes me more scared.

Mummy tells me not to be scared, and says I’m being brave and will get a lollipop for sure.  Mummy also tells Cubby he can have one, but I don’t know why because he isn’t brave and anyway he’d better not get a pink one.  Mummy holds me and talks to me about going swimming.  I love going swimming, and soon everything is done and I’m not scared any more.  I get a lollipop, and it is pink.

We go back to get my things for swimming and on the way Cubby is talking about how he and Mummy went to one of my places while I was in school.  I hit Cubby, but I’m the one who got into trouble.

I’ll bet that kind of thing doesn’t happen in Australia.

When I’m getting changed I have to stand on one leg and I fall down.  My class for swimming has been changed and now it is all boys instead of girls and boys.  I don’t like this and I get mad, but Mummy says I have to calm down if I want to go swimming.  I do want to go swimming, but I’m still mad, so during the lesson I keep undoing my costume and telling everyone, and showing my galou-galous.  Mummy says after that she is glad Daddy wasn’t there.

Mummy says it is cold outside, and even though she cut off all my hair when she didn’t like the way I cut it, she makes me use the hair-dryer.  I don’t like hair-dryers, not on any day.

We go home and have dinner, and I get ready for bed, and it is almost the end of my Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

If I think about it though, they probably have hair-dryers in Australia, because I’ve lived on three continents and things don’t change as much as you’d think.  I ask if we can read the Alexander book.  Mummy is looking at me strange, and she asks me what was my day like.  I’m not sure what to say to answer her, so I tell the truth:

“Today is Monday, Mummy.”

Mummy smiles and tells me that it is.  And gives me a cuddle, but I can’t go to sleep unless she stays in the room with me.  I hope she is there when I wake up again…..

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Something Blue

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It happened on this night.  After I was done crying, and Spectrummy Daddy had talked about ways we could make things easier on me, I went upstairs to bed.  Sitting on my bed was a small jewelry box, the kind that usually contains rings or earrings.

My first thought was that he’d had my wedding and engagement rings fixed after I’d had them cut off.  Which was odd, because my ring finger still bore a groove where the rings had become stuck.  It will actually take a few more weeks until they’re fully back to normal, though they aren’t as swollen as they were back then.

That meant it had to be a gift.  Very frequently, I’m aware that I don’t feel what I’m supposed to.  Perhaps something else I have in common with my girl.  I didn’t feel happy or grateful.  I was actually a little annoyed that he would think I could be bought from my sombre mood by a trinket.  I was also thinking of the many things we need over and above jewelry for me.  I thought about telling him to return it, we just couldn’t afford it.

For a while it sat there, unopened.  Then I let out a few more breaths, and decided not to turn a nice gesture into something that would hurt us both.  I opened the box.  Inside was a beautiful blue-violet tanzanite ring.  Now I knew we couldn’t afford it.  I tried it on the ring finger of my right hand, and it fit perfectly, like it was meant to be there.  Now there was no question of returning it- I didn’t even want to take it back off!

Spectrummy Daddy came upstairs and filled me in on the story.  While I’d been inside the jewelry shop having my rings cut off, he’d been trying to keep the children occupied outside.  Pudding had picked out this one, and Cubby concurred.  I have to say- those kids have got great taste!

It was supposed to be for my birthday and Mother’s Day, but Spectrummy Daddy told me he felt that I needed to see right then how much I meant to all of them.  I haven’t stopped wearing it since, though I remove it a few times a day for some of the grubbier tasks that come my way.

Rings, while expensive, can be replaced, or fixed, or new ones can be bought.  I’m the thing our family can’t afford to be without.  I’m just as precious to my family as they are to me, and right now I need to treat myself as something fragile and valuable.  Now I have something blue to remind me of that always.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm

The Whole Story

with 30 comments

I haven’t written about what has been going on, but I’ve decided that all parts of the story need to be told.  This month has been hard.  I need to let my friends who call me a super-mum know that I’m really not feeling super.  I need to explain that although we love living here, it comes at a price.  But most of all, I just need to tell the truth about hard times, because I know many people are going through even longer, tougher, more challenging times.  It isn’t fair to them, or myself to pretend everything is fine.

So, this month has been hard.  Mostly it has been difficult because I’ve been unwell.  So as not to scare away my (three) male readers, I’ll refer to my health issues as some ongoing lady problems that have been getting progressively worse.  Ultimately, I’m now very anaemic, which is good in that it is treatable, but bad in that it makes me feel lousy.  I’m weak and tired.  My brain feels like mush, and can’t seem to retain any information, I’m forgetting appointments.  I have heart palpitations, and wake up with numb hands, arms and feet.  My immune system is struggling, so I’m catching every germ I come across, and each one is hitting me hard.

Some of my medications have nasty side-effects too, and one weekend my fingers swelled up and I had to have my wedding and engagement rings cut off.  But I am receiving treatments, including iron injections every two weeks so that I’ll be back to speed in weeks rather than months.  Though I can’t exercise at the moment, I’m doing my best to rest, eat an iron-rich diet, and take all the supplements to support the healing process.  It just takes time.

I’m spending much more time indoors than I have previously while living in South Africa.  Unfortunately, living in a house with bars on the windows inevitably feels a lot like living in a prison, this is made all the worse by the fact that recent events mean I don’t feel as safe in my home as I used to.  Earlier this month, there was an armed robbery on our compound.  By a huge stroke of luck, all the families who live here were out at the time.  Generally on a Saturday afternoon, either our children or our neighbours are playing where the incident happened.  Anyone who has a young child on the spectrum knows that in the face of danger, they are likely to behave unpredictably.  I’ve lost many hours of sleep thinking about what might have happened if we hadn’t gone out that day.  The security officers here are great, and have already made some changes to minimize the risk of this happening again, but I’m shaken that an electric fence, gate, and security guard were ultimately so easy to overcome.

It has been hard because I’m always far more homesick after my parents visit than I am before.  Homesickness and culture shock are wrapped tightly together.  The more you miss home, the more alien a place can seem.  I’m struggling to remind myself to enjoy all the wonderful people and places here, rather than wishing for September to get here for an R & R trip back to England.

Last week brought things to a head.  I forgot to take Pudding swimming one day, then Cubby to OT another.  Then Cubby was ill, followed by Pudding too.  Instead of wanting to rest in bed, my kids become more hyperactive when they’re sick.  Not only was I struggling to keep up with them, but I’d missed the very things that help them to regulate.  By Friday, I was just exhausted.  Not only was I feeling too weary to face the effort of getting Pudding into school, or schedule an appointment for a 24-hour EEG for a child who couldn’t handle a 30 minute one; but I was too drained to get through another ordinary day.

Far from the “super-mum” a friend called me in an email, I was feeling physically and emotionally at rock bottom, and taking my frustrations out on the very people who most need my love and support.  When Spectrummy Daddy got home from work, I took a bath, and let my tears fall into the water, until most of the tension left me.  After we’d got the kids to sleep, we talked about what measures we could take to make things easier.  But, once I’d finally let go of trying to keep everything together, I no longer felt like I was coming apart.

It isn’t the end of this hard month yet, but I’m starting to feel stronger.  Yesterday when the car broke down, I didn’t join it.  I was just grateful it happened with Spectrummy Daddy there, and in a safe place.  I’m using visual strategies to keep me on track of the things I need to do this week, and hopefully that will keep me from getting too overwhelmed.  After all, if it is good enough for Pudding, it is good enough for me too.

So now I’ve honoured the truth.  I’m not a super-mum.  Though I love living here, it does come at a cost.  I can go through hard times, and while they have absolutely nothing to do with autism, they can challenge my ability to parent.  I’m going to keep telling the whole story, even if I’m hoping that this particular chapter will come to an end soon.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

March 26, 2012 at 11:50 am

Happy Hands

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“Mummy, look: she’s got happy hands!”

Pudding and I had returned from an appointment, and Cubby was observing his sister.  And he was right.  Spot on.  Pudding was flapping, but her hands were unmistakably happy.  She gets flappy when she’s happy.  She also gets flappy when she’s frustrated, or anxious, or overwhelmed, or terrified, but those are all different flaps.  If you pay very close attention, you can tell the difference.  This was a happy one.  He knew.

Cubby flaps too.  As he gets closer to 3, I’m pretty sure that he flaps like his sister, and he flaps to be like his sister.  So essentially I’m just as certain about not understanding as ever I was.  There are times when he deliberately imitates his sister: he watches her flapping and joins in.  At other times, it is an unconscious reaction.  He flaps for the same reasons she does.

I flap too.  Less than either of the kids, and so infrequently most people don’t observe it.  I flap at extremes of emotion.  Which emotions?  When I’m especially frustrated, or anxious, or overwhelmed, or terrified, or happy- just like my little ones.  I don’t consciously flap: no sooner have  I realized I’m flapping than I stop.  It is almost like I’m overwhelmed by emotion, and it takes me out of myself for a few seconds, and in that time, my hands have their own plans.

So what are my hands’ plans?  I don’t know.  Maybe there is in fact a purpose to this automatic and subconscious gesture.  This could be my brain’s way of calming me down when faced with an unexpected feeling, in the way that my eye will blink when an unexpected foreign body enters.  Pudding and Cubby have a much greater degree of sensory dysfunction, and the world is therefore a much more unpredictable place.

But Cubby’s comment intrigued me, because it is entirely possible to read what she is feeling by the flap of her hands.  What if this is also an instinctive communication tool?  At those moments when our communication is challenged, the hands take over.  I don’t know if this holds true for me- if by observing my hands alone you could tell if my agitation was due to a positive or negative event.  I just know what always holds true: that behaviour is communication.  Even if all I’m saying is that I need a moment or two before I can speak.

Cubby has the gift of being able to express himself much easier than his sister.  But he has another gift: he is attuned to her.  He understands how she expresses herself.  Just like any other siblings, their relationship isn’t perfect, but there are moments they make my heart flap.

 

 

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

February 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Newton’s Law

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“To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction:

or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions.”

Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

I would say that, as a rule, my life is governed by Murphy’s Law.  As we are in the process of moving, however, I can’t help but think of Newton’s Law- possibly the only thing from studying physics almost twenty years ago that my tiny little brain still remembers.  For me to write a post that even refers to physics is ridiculous- together with the other sciences and mathematics, these are definite areas of weakness for me.

We are currently staying in temporary accommodation, and there is no kettle here (the horror!).  To make tea, I had to boil water in a saucepan, but then the lid was stuck.  Spectrummy Daddy couldn’t remove it either.  He is similarly challenged in these areas, and between the two of us we couldn’t decide on the best course of action.  We are not great systemizers, for parents of a child on the autism spectrum.

He thought we needed to boil it again to heat and expand the metal; I felt it needed to be cooled to shrink it.  And my interpretation of Newton’s Law means my way makes sense.  And Spectrummy Daddy’s interpretation of his wife is to go along with whatever I think until I prove myself wrong.  It is cooling in the fridge as I write.

But really, I’m not talking about a pan lid.  I’m talking about Pudding.  You see, I feel like I know my girl well.  I have a conceited notion that I can predict how she will react to a given action.  Having lived in the same house for two years, surrounded by her favourite things, I thought she would have  a very emotional reaction to leaving her home.

Moreover, I felt that she would also react negatively to our temporary quarters.  For those of you keeping track, this is where we stayed two years ago, and I wrote about it here and there.

Even before I stepped into the room, the smell of the cleaning products was unmistakably familiar.  Had I been blindfolded, I’d have known where I was.  And the same layout, and similar (updated) furnishings intensified the memories. I know she remembers the place, so I’ve been on high alert for any sign of anxiety, but none came.  She danced and pranced around the rooms.  She was giddy and giggly.

After staying the night, we needed to return to our house on Sunday to finish sorting things ready for the packers to come.  And there it was: an equal and opposite reaction.  Instead of having problems leaving her home, she doesn’t want to leave the temporary accommodation.  The meltdown I’d been anticipating came, but for a completely different reason.  Whereas I’m the one stuck and struggling with the past, she is ready to move on.

The forces on our two bodies are equally strong, but pushing us in opposite directions.   Newton’s Law.

I just went to the fridge and tried to take the lid off again, and it still won’t budge.  I think we can safely say that I’m as baffled by physics as I am my girl at times.  But unlike a subject I’ve avoided ever since leaving school, I’ll spend the rest of my life striving to understand the mysterious, perplexing and incredible Pudding.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

July 25, 2011 at 8:59 am