May 4, 2010

Morning Unglory

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , at 11:06 am by autismmommytherapist

Today, autism can bite me.

This sentiment had its origins in my 4:00 AM wake-up call, when I heard my husband enter our oldest son’s room down the hall. I listened to him make a vain attempt to try to quell the sounds loudly emanating from my firstborn, noises that reverberate around the upstairs despite the sound sleep, fan, and air purifier we employ so the white noise will enable our youngest child’s slumber to remain undisturbed. Jeff and I have a pretty good routine worked out, where he does middle of the night duty and sleeps late in the morning, and I do crack of dawn and try to get a solid eight by turning in early. This used to work for me when I was able to return to unconsciousness in the wee hours, but as middle age has set in I’m finding this sleep surrender to be an increasingly difficult endeavor. In this regard, I truly mourn my youth.

I acknowledge this is one of those nights I won’t be returning to fantasies of Clooney (at least unconscious ones), and I sigh, go to the bathroom, then open our bedroom door slightly, and assess the situation. I see a slightly damp pair of footie pajamas slung over the gate at the top of the stairs, and realize that we probably gave our son too many liquids before bedtime, and he has overreached the boundaries of the pull-up he still wears at night to prevent these situations from occurring. By this point my son has been returned to bed, as has my husband, and the cacophony of “ee” has mildly abated. I doubt Justin will be able to return to sleep. I doubt his mother will either. I am correct in both assumptions.

I give up the ghost at 6:15, and drag my sorry and tired body out of the warm cocoon of my bed to begin the two hours of child care required before my son blissfully gets on his bus and journeys off to his full-day autism program. As I head towards his room I steel myself, because the days when Justin doesn’t get multiple cycles of REM sleep mean an increased incidence in his perseverative and impulsive behavior. When I’ve had a decent night’s rest I can usually take it in stride. When I haven’t, I know I’ll be annoyed with him by 6:30.

I am certain this is one of those days.

It begins with his indecipherable need to enter his brother’s bedroom a good hour before his highness needs to be awoken, and I’m simply not permitting this breach to occur. We struggle outside Zachary’s door, Justin’s vowel repertoire ramping up by the minute, until my sleep-deprived brain recalls there is a perseverative toy on the counter in the bathroom. If I can hang onto one arm and position the rest of my body correctly, I can reach my prize without losing my iron-clad grip on his thrashing appendage. I manage to do so, a veritable miracle for the least flexible person on earth. As soon as he makes visual contact he grins ear to ear, and marches placidly into the bathroom to pay his visit to his porcelain friend.

It’s 6:27, and I’m already sweating.

Our next battle ensues as I attempt to get him to put on his socks, articles of clothing he has worn many times before, which today are apparently utterly offensive to him. I concede this battle, run to his room and fetch another pair before he can dart into his brother’s room, and am rewarded with a smile. Clearly, these are the only appropriate pair he can wear today.

I am grateful for the purely mild scuffle in which we engage at the end of the hallway, as my son who usually placidly descends the stairway to his waiting breakfast has today decided this would be an excellent opportunity to disturb his exhausted father and play on the computer. I manage to corral him through the gate and gently propel him downward with only mild protests. This one, I win.

Within minutes he is sequestered in his special chair, the one with the tray we believe makes him feel more secure when he’s eating the meals we at times have fought so vociferously to force him to ingest. At his third bite of waffle he gags, a pleasant event which he is prone to during allergy season as he contends with his pervasive buddy, post-nasal drip. The waffle remnants fortunately land on his tray, save for one half drop of saliva that penetrates his shirt. I pray he won’t notice it. He does. This transgression of food-oriented effluvia requires a Madonna-like outfit change, the need for which he indicates by releasing his tray, standing next to his chair, and stripping out of his entire outfit in the middle of my kitchen floor. Yes, the socks too.

It’s 6:48.

I run upstairs like a madwoman, reconstruct a new ensemble, and dash downstairs before my son can propel his naked body over the downstairs gate he has recently, to our great concern, learned to surmount. I practically vault over the obstacle myself in Olympic imitation, and get to him before he’s even lifted his foot over the summit. We’ve made it this far. I’ll be damned if he wakes up either of my boys upstairs.

He redresses, manages to keep down the rest of his breakfast without incident, and takes his plate and fork to the sink in a ritual he has mastered for years. I begin to wash up his cutlery but am interrupted by a hard jerk to my arm. I turn, regard his intense look, and with my peripheral vision take in the gaping door of the toy closet, and know immediately what he requires. When Justin’s OCD is in overdrive, nothing will placate him but the precise placement of every single one of the spinning, musical toys we employ as reinforcers for good behavior. Everything not only has its place, but must be positioned at a particular angle that only my son can discern. Usually I can redirect him to a more productive activity, or get him to do it himself. Not today. I tell him I’m coming, and in my tired condition forget to block what comes next in his newly acquired perseverative repertoire; the giant shove in the back to propel me toward the toy closet, just in case I haven’t understood his needs.

I stumble toward toy mecca. I am regretting my need to procreate.

It is 6:59.

We spend almost ten minutes together arranging, rearranging, adjusting, as I endeavor to placate him so I can tend to my youngest son, get them both on their respective buses, and the hell out of my house. I decide to conclude my morning routine with Justin to get all the fun completely over with, and manage to shove him into the bathroom for one last attempt at the potty. I don’t have the patience to wait for him to immerse his feet in his third pair of sneakers in almost as many weeks, so I shove them on, and hope for a break. They’re soon discarded, and I am rewarded with a look of utter disdain at what I’m guessing was the inappropriate placement of the Velcro on his precious extremities. The sneakers return to their appointed position. They are rejected again. This time I plead, I beg, I implore, I promise Disneyworld someday in the future if he will just don these damn shoes and go to school. He takes pity on me and permits their passage, and I remark to myself that the offending straps are not in any discernibly different place than they were the other three times I secured them.

It’s 7:06.

I recognize that all children are intensely irritating (some most of the time). After teaching for a dozen years I was stripped of all illusions concerning their personalities, their bossiness, their need for order. My personal belief is that all small children suffer from schizophrenia, manic-depression, and narcissism, and by the grace of God solely through maturity, most discard these leanings and morph into acceptable human beings. I was prepared for the frustration factor when I conceived, as I had learned over the tenure of my teaching career how not to react to my students’ ridiculous behavior without stroking out. I was not prepared for this much concentrated irritation, in this degree of intensity, for forty years. In all fairness to Justin, when he’s healthy, well-rested, and not being denied some absolutely imperative request, he is lovely to be around, and in some respects, is only mildly more annoying than most children his age.

But not today.

Today, I am done, and I haven’t even woken up the other one yet. I am finished with the spinning, the compulsions, the incomprehensible need for systems I cannot even begin to fathom with my exhausted neurotypical mind. For once, I am freed from pondering how I’ll teach him to tie his shoes one day, how I will ever encourage him to utilize a fork consistently, what will happen to him when I’m dead. Today, I’m just annoyed as hell, and living for 7:56 AM when both boys will be ensconced in their respective vehicles, hurtling towards an education, and I will be pounding the pavement of my humble three-mile running route to exercise both my body, and my soul. This morning, it’s autism one, mommy zero.

But tomorrow, I will kick its ass.


  1. LZ said,

    Oh so many things this brings up for me…I can feel the frustration at the idea of trying to sleuth out just what that pattern of the day in the toy closet is supposed to be, how the shoes should be tied this time, and then all of a sudden, a break in the process so that suddenly what was horrifying two seconds ago is suddenly perfectly acceptable. There is often no rhyme or reason, no sense to make of it. Trying to meet the needs of a child who often cannot express those needs himself, and whose needs seem to change at any given moment with no fault to lay anywhere. It is an emotional roller coaster–heartbreaking, frustrating, irritating, migraine-making, wondrous, glorious, joyous, exhilarating, rewarding, awe-inspiring, and even peaceful…all rolled into one heck of a ride.

    Though I often wonder exactly when and where I signed up for this, I have come to realize that although this is my greatest challenge, I also consider it my greatest honor, and I would not trade my son (or his brothers, just in case they read this) for the world.

    Ok, well, maybe for a few hours here and there…but never permanently, and I would always want him back. 🙂

    • Your few hours comment made me snort as I can picture you saying it. I always think however that to Justin there is a reason, an explicit reason, for everything. Just wish I could figure it out….

  2. Shivon said,

    “I stumble toward toy mecca. I am regretting my need to procreate”…I love the humor you use in your writing, even when it is tough. In fact I think it may be our saving grace when handling our childrens’ challenges. I do hope tomorrow is a bit easier at the very least 🙂

  3. Mary Craig said,

    Sorry but this made me laugh! I had such a similar morning but mine included the sassy, hyper-verbal, typical daughter who isn’t exactly susie sunshine in the AM too. Its nice to know I’m not the only one who is overwhelmed some days. It’s also nice to know that for a whopping 3 1/2 hours a day I am child-free!!!

    • Please, don’t apologize, that was its intent! We HAVE to find the humor sometimes just to get through the day…

  4. Naomi Seligman said,

    Having recently explained to my 12 year old son that discarding his socks after once washing was not okay with me (they were already detectably less soft), I can in a small way relate to your morning, Kim 🙂 Cole’s sensory demands used to be far more consuming; so I guess I’m here to tell you it will probably get better. Thanks again for sharing – it helps to know that these kind of experiences are shared by other parents.

    • Oh my God I’m laughing. We have lots of sock issues here too. Then the ones they like invariably lose their mate in the wash, and I’m back to second string. Thanks for posting Naomi!

  5. Cindy said,

    Dear lord, I’m exhausted just reading that and just that much more impressed that you would greet me with a smile when I saw you in the morning. Granted the smile was sometimes a little twitchy and there might have been an unstable gleam in your eyes, but still – huge accomplishment.

    …and yes, tomorrow, like most days, you will kick ass.

    • Hmm, just a gleam? I think pretty much the whole kahuna my dear… Hell, I’m just lucky it only happens once in a while. Mommy needs her rest. Think how scary I’d be if this happened every day…

  6. misifusa said,

    I pray that you win tomorrow…and every day thereafter. I am thinking of you. I am, as always, amazed by your descriptions and feel as though I am there with you…one minute at a time, ticking away until the bus arrives! Yoda, DragonMaster, Momma Kimi,
    May the force be with YOU tomorrow! xo

  7. Kerri said,

    You poor woman! I feel for you today….and every day. I know what it is like to not sleep at night and then be required to function the rest of the day as if you had a great nights sleep. On a normal day with sleep the patience levels are high. You can tolerate almost anything with a smile. When you are lacking sleep or not feeling well the patience level decreases by at least half and every little thing your husband or children do irritates the crap out of you. But we are WOMEN and we push forward and make it through the times with as little yelling as possible and hope that tonight we will get a good night sleep and tomorrow will be better. And it will. Maybe even later today will be better. Someone will say the cutest thing you have ever heard, give you an amazing smile, give you the best hug you have ever had, or just do something you asked without an argument. Then you remember why you wanted kids to begin with. These are the moments that get us through the rough moments, days, weeks, months, and years. Our children are our most precious creations and we are strong mothers who will make it through all the trials and tribulations. Your running is your sanctuary. We all need to find our sanctuaries and go to them on our rough days. We all need something that is ours to treat ourselves and not share it with our children or husbands. We need to take time for ourselves. I wish sleep for you tonight.

    • Oh I did, believe me. I’m just grateful that morning was an aberration. For some people, that’s the way it is every single day. I don’t know how they do it.

      Happy Mother’s Day to you too!

  8. This…this is Hilarious!!! And so much like my mornings! (I made the mistake of putting the right shoe on before the left shoe this morning and Colin did a little Tasmanian Devil spin through the house before landing in the hallway with both shoes thrown high on top of a bookshelf!)…You’re on my blogroll now!

    • Thank you, and sorry for the question, but what’s a blogroll? It sounds intriguing… Thanks for getting that this entry was supposed to be funny…

  9. Kathy Milmore said,

    I was exhausted just reading this…

    • I’m wearing you out these days with my writing. I’ll have to rectify that with drinks this summer. Nothing more apt to perk us up than some good wine…

  10. Hi, Kim 🙂 I’ve been reading every day, and this particular post really hit home for me today as a mom, and after reading it, I continue to be amazed and inspired by your strength and honesty. As parents, we often feel that we live an entire day in the hour or so that it takes us to get our children up and out of the house each day, but you, girl, have it in spades. I admire your honesty in admitting how irritating it is, and I love the fact that, in the words of a Southern belle, “Tomorrow is another day.” Keep the stories coming – they are nourishment for parents’ souls 🙂

    • I love when you respond Marcia because you always get it (no surprises there). Sometimes it is a lifetime from crib to bus, isn’t it? Thanks for reading them, and count yourself in that strength category my friend.

  11. Amy McLaughlin said,

    From one “sleep baby” to another, I feel your pain!! There is just nothing like a good night’s sleep. I am impressed that you could recall your morning with enough detail to write about it. I don’t think I could have achieved even that.

    Another wonderful entry!!

    • Thanks Amy, I know you get it! Give us eight solid hours, we can change the world… Thanks for writing!


  12. Anita said,

    I can no way compare your battles with mine but honestly, every child out there, until the age of AT LEAST 22, is a complete and utter abomination when they don’t get their way! And Melissa changes her outfit prior to going to school at least 4 times! Why?! She has no friends anyway for crying out loud! Those looks of utter disdain from Justin? Yup – every kid has them up their sleeve! Thanks for sharing – keep them coming!

  13. Kate said,

    Sounds like a horrible morning. You’ve tried hard to keep the tone light but it must be very rough contending with your headstrong son. I used to teach teenage autistic boys and I know how difficult it can be. just the thought of him shoving you in the back — hard — toward the toy closet makes me shudder. You deserve an award.

    • Thanks. Fortunately, in the last six months, we’ve had very few incidences like this, which has made all of our lives so much better. Thanks for reading and posting, I appreciate it!

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