Janey went back to school yesterday. It was a good Christmas vacation. She was happy a great deal of the time, and I think she enjoyed herself. But she seemed pleased to be going back to school, back to the routine she likes.
She came home in a good mood yesterday, and I think school went well. But something set her off around bedtime---tiredness or frustration over something she couldn't explain or who knows what. Suddenly she was screaming and biting her arm and kicking and in a full meltdown.
That's when I said, without thinking, "I don't want to take her back to Bradley" Bradley is the psychiatric hospital Janey spent time over two years ago.
Tony looked at me in surprise. Once Janey was calm enough for us to talk, which actually didn't take long, he said "You are usually the one telling me not to jump ahead to the worst possible outcomes" He was so right. And I've been thinking about what I said all last night and all this morning.
I don't know what stress flashbacks technically consist of, but I think I had one there. And I think I have them a lot. No matter how well Janey is doing, it almost always feels a moment away from disaster. She can be having the calmest, happiest day possible, and I fear that something will happen and things will go horribly downhill, and we will wind up in a hospital of one kind or another, or wind up getting a call from school that we need to have a meeting, we need to talk about her placement, or that Tony will call me from a ride with her and say she undid her seatbelt somehow and caused him to crash, or that some other random disaster will hit.
Thinking about the whole thing yesterday, I keep somehow connecting it to an article I read, one that on the surface doesn't have much to do with her meltdown or my reaction. Here's a link to the article...link. It's about a boy with autism who has won a Rhodes scholarship, after his mother took him out of school and gave up a career in medicine to homeschool him when he was eight. It's a very nice article, and it's wonderful news, and inspiring. But for some reason, it bothered me a great deal to read.
I've read plenty of articles about autistic people who have done great things, and they often include a parent's huge devotion helping them along. I think this one just hit my eye at the wrong time. Janey did so well over vacation, and I read this just as I was worrying about her going back to school. There is no way I'm going to homeschool Janey. I couldn't do as good a job as the schools do, and I need the respite desperately. What hit me was the devotion of the mother. Truthfully, I feel I'm pretty devoted to Janey. And looking at all the parents I know of kids with autism, either in person or through this blog, there is so much devotion out there it's incredible. But it doesn't all lead to Rhodes scholars. And I'm not saying there shouldn't be articles about the times it does. There should be. But sometimes, despite my better judgement, it makes me feel like I somehow didn't devote enough, or didn't put my devotion into the right ways to help Janey.
Both my flashback and my reaction to the article are parts of the stress that I think most of us parenting children like Janey feel. No matter how well things are going, we remember when it all fell apart. No matter how hard we work at being good parents, we can find examples that make us feel like we didn't do enough. I wish I had a pithy thought to put here, something to reassure myself and everyone else reading this that everything is going to be fine, that we are doing all we can for our kids, that we shouldn't have the fears and doubts we do. But I don't have a thought like that. I have only a hope that if you've also suddenly flashed back to the darkest times, if you've read an article that makes you feel like a slacker, that if you have lived this life too, you're not alone.