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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Good Autism Mother vs. Bad Autism Mother

In my head, there's a long-running series "Good Autism Mother vs. Bad Autism Mother".   Any situation with Janey can trigger an episode, one of those staples of sit-coms, the same scene replayed with each mother getting a shot at handling it.  Here's an episode for you, entitled "Janey Wakes Up in the Middle of the Night Crying"

Good Autism Mother Version----

GAM, as I will call her, immediately of course wakes up completely, and rushes to Janey's side.  She is already searching her mind to figure out the antecedent to the crying---what caused it?  Because of course she truly believes nothing is just out of the blue.  Something is MAKING Janey sad, and figuring it out is job one!  While working on that, she comforts Janey "My sweetheart!  I am right here!  I will do whatever it takes to make you happy again!"  Janey keeps screaming.  GAM starts with a huge list of ways to help.  She sings sweetly to Janey.  She rubs her back.  She pulls out a communication program on the iPad to help Janey say what is wrong.  She assesses Janey's possible level of hunger, and fixes her a nutritious snack if there's any hunger possible.  She speaks to Janey in kind, measured, reasonable tones "You seem very sad.  How can I help you feel better?"  If nothing seems to work, she assumes that the problem is that she herself, GAM, has not yet figured out what caused the crying, and that she just has to work harder at it.  She never, ever thinks for a minute about the sleep she isn't getting.  She stays by Janey's side for 2, 3, 4 or however many hours.  She doesn't wake up her husband and beg him to take over.  She is patient, calm, loving.  Eventually, when it's almost morning and almost time to get Janey ready for school, Janey falls back asleep.  GAM doesn't grab some sleep them---oh, no!  She gets Janey's clothes ready, organizes her backpack, does some light housework and then gently wakes Janey up to start the day.

Bad Autism Mother Version---

Upon hearing Janey's cries, BAM pretends she doesn't hear them.  She pretends to be fast asleep, hoping her husband will get up instead of her.  If he doesn't, she yells out quite loudly "Janey!  It's the middle of the night!  Go back to sleep!"  This won't work, of course, but maybe it will wake up her husband so she doesn't have to deal with the whole bit.  He doesn't wake up.  Reluctantly, and thinking over and over how she is very put upon and stressed and nobody understands her life, BAM gets up and goes to Janey.  She says "It's nighttime.  Go to sleep"  She never once even TRIES to figure out why Janey is crying.  She doesn't really care, at this point, when her eyes keep closing from the horrible lack of sleep.  Janey keeps crying.  BAM says "Hey!  How'd you like to watch some Kipper?"  Janey doesn't answer, but BAM takes that as a yes, and puts on Netflix to a Kipper episode both Janey and she can recite fully.  Janey kind of half stops crying to watch the episode, and BAM takes the opportunity to sit next to Janey on the couch.  She knows she can't sleep, because Janey will then tear the house to pieces, but she closes her eyes a couple times.  The night drones on.  Janey is still crying off and on.  Janey asks for soda.  BAM doesn't even consider  that maybe soda is not the best thing for Janey to drink in the night.  She just hopes against hope Janey will drink it and go back to sleep, so she pours Janey a glass.  Janey pours the glass on the floor.  BAM walks away, straight to her sleeping husband, wakes him up rudely and says "I've been up for hours.  Janey is driving me insane.  Take over right now"  BAM doesn't care that her husband has to work in a few hours.  She doesn't care about anything but sleeping.  She goes straight to sleep, leaving her husband to clean up the soda and deal with Janey.  Janey, as in the first version, goes back to sleep right about time for school.

I've got thousands of episodes like that!  But now I have to wake up Janey and get her going for school.  BAM is going to grab one last cup of coffee, though, before GAM takes over and gets Janey through another day.  Both of them wish you all the best of days.


grammacello said...

I do hope writing this was some help and that you can get a nap today, while Janey is at school.
Sleep deprivation is just.....awful
Hugs, Grammmacello

Hillary K. said...

Your words reflect my feelings so well. But what about the hopelessness? There are no words. Not for me, anyway. Thank you for this blog.

CK's Mom said...

Hey Suzanne,

I'm not the mother of a child with special needs--I found your blog because ever since my cousin's child was diagnosed as autistic, I have been very curious about autism and still read up on it whenever I see articles or blogs or whatever that pop up on the internet.

In any event, I am a primary breadwinner and mom of 2 kids, one of whom seems to be ADHD and the other one who is 16 months old and is both super cute but also super challenging right now--a lot of grabbing inappropriate things and then screaming when I try to take them away (ball point pens, remotes), refusing to sit in his high chair, climbing everything in the house and risking head injuries, etc. which constantly keeps me on edge-- and I am really feeling you on these comments. I think we all do our best as parents, but sometimes, for whatever reason, we are not really at our best. I've been yelling at my kids way too much lately and sometimes I really feel frazzled and quite defeated. I am certainly setting a very poor example for my kids sometimes. We really don't have any friends or family who will babysit and we don't have the finances to pay someone. So my husband and I have to lean on each other, and that doesn't always work out so great, because sometimes we are both short tempered after stressful work days, long commutes, errands and chores and pets, and then kids testing our patience.

I'm sure it's that much harder with a situation that appears to be, at least arguably, permanent in its frustrations.

A little spilled soda and Kipper never hurt anyone :) As for DH, is he hanging in there and rolling with it when you get frustrated?

Antti said...

I hope you made it latte with double espresso. You've earned it.

jeffreymwhite1 said...

Don't you mean good autism mother vs tired autism mother? Being tired is a biological condition which impairs our ability to function as usual. Some studies show tired driving is worse than drunk driving. You would not be so judgemental to others, so give yourself the same consideration. You are inspirational.