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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Honesty Bombs and Power Steering Fluid

These twinkies  are supposed to start kindergarten in the fall. 
I could cry. Jackson suddenly weighs 12 pounds more than Lincoln, but apart from their weight, they’re still questionably similar for fraternal twins. And they're most definitely, in my heart, NOT ready for a mainstream Kindergarten setting. We will determine their best option for the fall as it gets closer. 

They're both so incredible--so deliciously precious, so funny, and so weird. Their brains fascinate me, and frustrate me. They have beautiful cursive handwriting and recitation skills that blow my mind. But they’re stubborn, nearly impossible to reason with, and socially strange.
They're a mystery to me, and yet I know their idiosyncrasies by heart.

They're predictably unpredictable. 🤷🏻

Life with Jack and Linc is like living with foreign exchange students, from Mars, who have very little grasp of the language, no care at all for social norms, they're extremely messy, but they bring a joy, love, and life to the house that you can’t imagine being void of.

Let's change the subject.

Have you ever driven a car without power steering fluid?

I have. 

It sucks.

Our power steering fluid was leaking and Ryan said it should be an easy fix, but he just hadn’t had time to look it, so I was filling up the power steering fluid daily to keep it going for our busy school and extracurricular schedule. He didn’t get around to it for a couple weeks. I must’ve spent $50-60 on steering fluid over the course of those weeks.
In that time I managed to not crash the car, but there were many times I ran low and had to bully the van to go where I wanted it to go.
It’s actually insanely difficult to keep from crashing without it. Your strength is not enough to move two tons of metal.  You have to take turns at dangerously high speeds to keep the vehicle moving in the right direction.
I’m going to just make a general assumption that most reading this have never filled up their own power steering fluid. (MOST.)
And in case you didn’t know…you are VERY blessed to have a car that will turn at will, without a second thought, you move your wrist, and the 5,000 pounds of machinery you’re riding in, obeys you.
THAT is a miracle of science.
I have a very good idea of how blessed I am that Ryan eventually fixed the leak.
Yesterday I was in the car with all five kids running an errand, and Lincoln had a full-blown "no mommy no mommy no mommy"  crying fit—or what the autism community coins a “melt down”.
Why did he lose his mind?
Because I took a left and he really wanted me to go right.
This was not a predictable drive. I was in a new area of town, I finished the errand and was heading back home. His reaction was unpredictable.
But he looked down the road where I HADN’T turned and started panicking, pleading, with one of his favorite words…”THIS! THIS! THIS!”
I couldn't calm him, no words would comfort him. Trust me, I tried them all.

With his beat red little face, his tiny 50 pounds strapped in his seat belt, he cried and he wailed, "no mommy!" over and over.
Not in an angry, irate voice. It was more of a desperate plea. He couldn't control his devastation that I took a left out of the parking lot. I went through our breathing exercises in the rear view mirror, trying to get him to relax, as I drove on. Lukas was in the backseat, forehead in hand, face turned out toward his window, not hiding very well how badly he wished he could escape the car. Juliette’s face was pained, staring at me in the rearview mirror as if pleading with me to help Lincoln.  Levi started yelling, “STOP CRYING MINCOLN!” and Jackson, sitting next to Lincoln, had this strange aloof smile plastered on his face, watching the other cars go by, not concerned at all that he was riding in misery.I tried speaking sweetly to Lincoln, then sternly, then yelled, then went back to sweet—but nothing worked. I put the radio on, and turned it WAY UP to drown him out…then was told by my other children that it was way too loud and I turned it off again. I opened the windows and let the air fill the car, (sometimes that works) but it only irritated him more. I prayed, and my mind wandered.

I felt helpless.  Angry. Depressed. Hopeless. In moments like that, the twins’ entire future unravels in my mind and I can’t imagine how they’ll ever thrive in a classroom, make a friend, or live independent lives. The hope and joy that bubbled up at something wonderful they’d done the day before, is squished, pulverized, melting as quickly as the wicked witch of the west under water. There is no hope, it’s just despair, driving me into a spiral of negativity. This is my life. This is what it comes down to.  I was meant to suffer in this way, and it may last forever. (clearly, I can get a little dramatic when things go awry.) 

Finally (it’d been 7 minutes tops, but felt like 90) I came to another road and decided to hell with destinations…if Lincoln wants to pick where we go, so be it.
I had already worked myself back to sanity by the time I came to a complete halt at the stop sign, when I asked calmly, slowly, but loudly (so he could hear me over his own cries): Lincoln, where do you want to go? Pick one, do you want to go left? Or right? (gesturing with my fingers as I spoke in my most therapeutic voice)
Lincoln caught his breath and immediately said left, but in the form of a question, as if he was not sure that I’ll follow through.
I was so happy he stopped crying I smiled and responded, “YES ok great! Let’s go left!” and proceeded to turn…
When suddenly, MOST unpredictably, Jackson starts freaking out.

Lincoln stares at Jackson, his lip begins to quiver (he doesn’t like it when Jackson cries…who does?!), and Jackson pauses long enough to stare back at Lincoln, but clearly is just getting ready to cry louder… Lincoln plugs his fingers in his ears as he’s known to do and starts crying again, this time in unison with Jackson, who is upset that I changed the course in our drive, and upset that Lincoln is crying too.

In the rear view mirror, the middle row has two little boys, soon to be six years old. One has his ears plugged and tears streaming down, the other has both hands temporarily to his own face, muffled moans are intermittent with full-blown sobs, depending on where he places his hands. The three in the back are silent.

With the twins both now crying, I just apologize to the other three in the backseat and try to comfort them with a very loud- “they’ll stop in a minute, they’re both now crying because they’re both crying! We’ll be home soon!”

I realize that makes no sense but it made total sense to me as I explained it... but I had to say something to the victims in the back.

In those moments, life is not beautiful, life is not fair, and I’m reminded of how completely powerless I am.  I can’t turn left or right, I’m just stuck in the moment (as are any others unfortunate enough to be near us during a melt down).

There’s no book, mentor, or any other human on earth that will be able to predict when my parenting power steering fluid will suddenly gush out, when the drive will become impossible, or what to do to get it flowing again, and QUICKLY.

So many of us go through life not giving power steering fluid a second thought.

When was the last time you got in your car, pulled out of your driveway, and were overcome with gratitude and joy that you had power steering fluid in your vehicle?

That was just recently for me, because I REMEMBER how hard it was to turn that corner a couple months ago, how I had to back up and inch around the bend three times while traffic stopped behind me, cars began to honk, unaware of my struggle to get the van around the corner, assuming I’m at fault.

Now, when I get in a car and it TURNS with barely a finger, I notice. And I’m grateful.

For those of us who LIVE with those leaks—for those of us who know how difficult it is when the power steering goes out, we are acutely aware of when we have parenting power steering fluid, and when we don’t. That’s just part of the awesome, autism-parenting journey.  Your gratitude for an uneventful, episode-free family outing is exponentially greater than the parent who ALWAYS has calm, positive family outings.

They drive not even knowing where their power steering fluid reservoir is located, because they’ve never had to know. And I’m so happy for them, that they don’t know the powerlessness that I know.

(Honesty Bomb—the previous statement is a big chubby lie. I am not happy for them. I want them all to know at least a SLIVER of what we go through, not for their suffering, but for their tolerance and understanding, and empathy. I want it so badly, for every parent to KNOW WHAT I KNOW--and yet I know how awful that must sound as you read it. And I’m #sorrynotsorry. My blog can be immature at times. )

I’m positive there are many other parents reading this who feel like you also were given a kid who is unpredictable, a kid who came without an instruction manual and it seems your model is wired differently, maybe even incorrectly.
And to you I say, I’m sorry.
I cry with you.
My heart breaks with yours.
I scream too.
I lose my temper too.
I am just as confused as you are.
I do not judge you and your crazy children anymore, because I know better-- that I don’t know at all what your circumstances might be, and why your child behaves as he does.
I don’t know what tomorrow will look like either.
I’m scared too.
I’m embarrassed too.
I wish it were easier too.
You are not alone…I bet you have people in your tribe who can empathize with you to some degree.
I find that to be true ALL THE TIME. God puts people in my path who encourage me, and love on me, and they're not always the people I'd expect to be empathizers.

And a final thought for my mainstream, normal peeps, outside of this crazy current I'm swimming in…
I am not suggesting that every parent out there, that you come into contact with, is doing a great job. I'm not suggesting you need to automatically praise instead of criticize, because I do believe there are a lot of stupid, selfish, ignorant parents who create their own problems by not loving their children enough to discipline them.
I don’t expect you to recognize every tantrum as a special needs melt down, or that every misbehaving child is someone with autism. But I do expect you to now move forward with a tenderized heart, because I’ve poured mine out in this post and explained that sometimes “bad” kids aren’t bad. Sometimes parents who seem to have no control over their children, actually are doing a really good job with what they’ve been given.  They’re using everything they’ve got.
Sometimes, they’re just out of power steering fluid, and it’s not their fault. They don’t need honking, impatience, or judging eyes.  Those parents most definitely don’t need you to brag about how flawlessly your car is running.
What they really need is some empathy, a word of encouragement, lots of prayers, and lots and lots and lots of hugs.

The twins cried and moaned and cried for another 10 minutes, then right as we pulled up to the house, Jackson plastered his goofy smile on, and while his face was still soaked with tears he leaned over to Lincoln, put his hand on his brother’s shoulder, and sweetly announced, “That’s ok Mincoln!”
Lincoln stopped crying, and they both hopped out of the car and walked into the house as if nothing had happened.

Forgive my hashtag, but #wth.  Parenting lesson #734: You may feel like you have no idea what you're doing. You are in fact, correct.

1 comment:

  1. You know I know what you are going through and it is hard at times because people don't understand the heartache we feel for our special children and that we only can do our best to help them and it is not always easy. Meltdowns are hard and as something upsets them one minute, the next they are laughing. That makes me crazy sometimes. Love you Danielle you and I are doing a great job with our special children.