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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Jealousy, Anger, Boredom, Fear....

In my own mind, there is a list of acceptable emotions to have as a parent, especially the parent of a child with autism. Happiness, pride, love, determination, hope, curiosity, amusement, empathy---you'll notice the list is full of positive or encouraging feelings. But there's also a list of feelings I classify as, if not forbidden, at least not to be spoken of much. I'm going to try hard here to be honest about some of those.


In my ideal version of myself, I'm never jealous of other parents or kids. I delight in what Janey can do, and never think about what other kids are doing. In reality, sometimes I am so jealous it's hard to describe. I see other girls her age on Facebook, doing all the regular 13 year old girl things, and I can barely stand it. I look at other mother/daughter relationships, with all their ups and down, and I long for that kind of relationship in my own life. Every child with autism that functions at a higher level than Janey can make the green-eyed monster come out in me. The jealousy isn't all the time, but when it shows up, it's powerful.


We got a new couch recently. For the few of you that have seen our furniture, you know it was highly, highly overdue. It's nothing fancy, but I had this dream of it looking fairly good for maybe, say, a month. This Sunday, as Tony drove Freddy back to school and I stayed with Janey, against my better judgement, I went to the bathroom while Janey was watching TV. In the few minutes that took, Janey got a bottle of salad dressing out of the refrigarator and, for reasons known only to herself, poured the whole bottle on the new couch. I don't get angry that easily, but I made an exception there. I was furious. Life with Janey presents a lot of moments like the Couch Incident. In some ways, it makes no sense to be angry at Janey. It does no good, I don't think she usually gets why I'm angry, it doesn't do anything but get us both worked up. But having a child who does inexplicable and destructive things on a fairly regular basis---yes, I get angry sometimes.


For some reason, this feels like one of the most taboo emotions to have when dealing with your autistic child. I feel like I'm supposed to consider every moment an exciting learning opportunity, a chance to teach and help. However, the truth is, sometimes life with Janey can get boring. Her favorite thing to do with me is what she calls “Snuggle on Mama's bed”. In reality, it's her bed, and it's not usually really snuggling, it's lying there next to each other. My role in this game is to sing little songs and recite nursery rhymes and otherwise carry on a monologue. Sometimes this time feels wonderful, a time of connection between us. Other times, though, I am just plain bored of it. Janey doesn't want me to sing or recite or talk about anything new. She is open to new music in the car, but not when we are snuggling and I'm singing. She doesn't want to talk herself, or be asked questions, or listen to any books except a few nursery rhyme ones and occasionally “Go Dog Go”. I'd say we spend a couple hours a day in this mode. And it gets boring. Very, very boring, at times.


Recently, there's been attention in the news to the hideously high rate of abuse of those with special needs. I can't read through these articles, but I've read enough. When I think about that kind of thing...well, often I just can't. The fear would overwhelm me. And in the background, there is a fear that never ever goes away, the fear of what will happen to Janey when Tony and I are gone. When I think about her in any kind of situation where she is scared or confused or being hurt or not cared for---the fear is horrible. Add to that the fear that was planted, planted deep, when she lived with a burst appendix for three days without us knowing, the fear of the harm that can come from her lack of ability to communicate well...the fear is always, always there.

There you have it---the emotions that often get left out of what is openly discussed when talking about this special needs parenting gig. It's not an easy job. It's the job I'm committed to for life, and my love of Janey is my pay. But like any job, no matter how well paid, there are days you just want to gripe, to speak openly about the sometimes tough work conditions with others on the work site. Thanks for listening.

1 comment:

hero said...

y Daughter is 4 years old and she is diagnosed with autism one and half years back. I regularly read your column. As a father I go through all the emotions you said. this piece really moved me. i pray god will give enough strength for both of our families.