Here it is, Sunday evening once again.
The kids have spent their typical Sunday afternoon with their papa, only this time I was invited along too. We spent two hours in a movie theatre laughing together and munching popcorn.
That probably sounds strange to most….the five of us sitting there together.
The kids, their papa, their step-mom…..and me.
But we’ve committed to doing what the kids need, and right now this is it.
As the movie ends, Zion starts in with the anxiety.
“We go to mama’s house? I watch movies mama’s house? Mama? Mama? Mama?”
Oh autism…can you not just take a day off?
I place my hand on his knee. “Just a minute, buddy. Let’s talk to your papa.”
Papa and step-mom decide they want to buy everyone dinner. I tell them that Zion is really over-stimulated from the movie, and it is probably best to say goodbye for today.
But papa persists, wanting to spend more time with his kids…which of course, I understand completely.
So I concede. I explain to Zion that we are going to a restaurant, and then we can go home. He says, “No restaurant. We go to the mama’s house.”
I feel ya, babe. But sometimes we have to compromise.
Even though I already know what is going to happen.
We get to the restaurant, and the moment I turn my head, Zion throws a handful of tortilla chips as hard and as far as he can, and they scatter across the floor.
Without saying a word, I take his hand and walk him over to the mess. He dutifully cleans up the chips, and I take him to the (women’s) restroom for a little “motivational chat.”
We take our deep breaths.
We return to the table. As I’m discussing tacos and white cheese dip with the server, Zion flings his menu across the restaurant and just barely misses a hitting a little girl.
I get up again, wordless, and take Zion’s hand and we go to pick up the menu…and then back to the restroom. This time I stand him facing the wall, and he gets a 5 minute time out. I tell him that when he can be kind and calm, we will leave the restroom.
This takes 11 minutes.
We return to the table. By this point Zion’s papa is looking at me like, this is what you do every day?
I smile sarcastically and whisper, “welcome back.”
He widens his eyes and shakes his head.
I look over and Zoe is trying to give her brother some chips and cheese. He hits her. I reprimand him, and ask what he wants to order, when he lets out a loud, guttural scream. A few of the patrons around us are startled. Several others begin to whisper and stare.
I firmly take hold of Zion’s arm and say, “that’s it.”
And then he starts to cry.
Finally, out of concern for the other patrons and honestly just a fair measure of despair, I ask the server to box up our meals.
Papa pays the check and waits for the to-go boxes, while I take Zion out to the car.
There are tears and sobbing all the way home.
And some from Zion as well.
Lesson: Always go with your mama gut. When the child is already escalating and you are invited out to dinner…just say no.
It is 4 o’clock on a Sunday.
The weather sucks. We have been cooped up in the much rained-upon house for 4 days. It has been raining for a month. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that since the day Prince died, it has rained nonstop.
Well played, sir.
But if I wanted to live in Seattle, I would move there.
Zoë is every bit of her 13 years today…quiet and withdrawn, reading a book in the corner of the sectional by herself.
I am on edge. It is too late for coffee, but too early for wine.
(I know, I just laughed out loud too. As if.)
But I am truly over it.
Just over it. Over the rain. Over the tweens. Over the autism. Over the cabin fever.
So if I feel this way, how must Zion feel?
He is out of control, and has been for weeks. If he is at his daily ABA therapy, he is defiant, has stripped himself naked, and is swearing loudly to get attention and get out of doing tasks he doesn’t like.
If he is at home, and does not have his face in the iPad, he is anxious, spitting on things, and breaking my dishes.
And right now from the other room, I can hear Zion starting to escalate.
He is making those anxiety-laden noises…the ones he starts emitting right before he loses it.
He is threatening to throw things and hit people. Then I hear him say, “I spit on the mama?”
Ohhhhhh boy. Here we go.
I hear a plate shatter in the kitchen.
I go to the kitchen to find a very scared-looking little boy. He points at me and says, “Mama is angry.”
I reply, “I’m not angry Zion, I’m sad. I’m disappointed. You can do better than this.”
He leaves the kitchen, throws himself down in the media room and cries hard for 15 minutes. A few minutes later I hear a loud clunk.
Zion walks back into the kitchen and says, “I throw the iPad.”
Come to find out, he had chucked the iPad at our 43″ LED television, and shattered the TV screen.
That’s the third TV he has shattered. (But who’s counting?)
I take the iPad and make sure he sees me throw it into the trash. I tell him it is gone for good.
Even then, I keep my composure until I can remove myself to my bedroom. It was only then that I drop to my knees and cry. And pray.
And cuss a little.
I have been with Zion as of today for 5 days straight with no respite, and none in sight until May 29.
We missed two events this weekend.
The first was a surprise birthday soiree for one of my dearest, long-time brothers.
The other was an outdoor barbecue Jimmy Buffet-style party, given by lifelong friends.
I wanted to go. Very honestly, I needed to go.
But Zion rarely, if ever, wants to go anywhere. And I think he knows that if he throws enough fits, that I will give in and stay home so I don’t have to deal with his public behaviors.
He has been without the iPad for a week now. And his behaviors actually seem to be decreasing.
It is exhausting parenting him without electronics. But I have to admit it is delightful to see him playing with blocks again, completing puzzles, planting and watering some cherry tomato plants.
I am tired. I mean really, truly sleep-for-10-hours-tired.
My parents and sister are all out of town. Papa is working 16 hour days.
It is apparent to me today how much I take my family and their help for granted.
Ask me again why I binge-eat. Ask me again why I drink.
Thank the sweet baby Jesus in a manger, my family is coming home today from Hilton Head Island.
Little do they know that when they pull into the driveway, I am going to press eject on Zion’s car seat, catapulting him up and out of the roof of the car, blowing kisses as I’m driving away and laughing maniacally.
But that’s how it feels today.
This weekend I had to cancel a much needed trip to Denver, Colorado to see a dear friend.
Life has taken us down a bumpy road the past month or so.
Zion’s behaviors have leveled out a bit…though he can still have emotional fits of sobbing one minute, extreme elation and squealing the next, to wild and uncontrollable fits of rage.
I mean sure, I can pull all of those off in less than 5 minutes.
But this isn’t behavior I’m used to anymore from my 11 year-old son.
The bonus is that the anxiety about the iPad has decreased. He is not constantly asking for it and needing it and wondering when he will have it again, because he thinks I threw it away.
Mwa ha haaaaaa…but alas, it is in the hall closet.
One of my more brilliant moves, really.
But I think we all know I am not going to be able to parent 14 hours a day forever.
The trick here I guess is finding that balance of knowing when to master the situation myself, and when to hand Zion off to a caregiver so my teenage daughter and I can still live our lives.
I may need to look into hiring someone.
There is guilt involved. And of course there is the stubbornness in me that wants to figure out how to melt Zion down and pour him into my little socially-acceptable mold.
But life doesn’t work that way, does it?
Sometimes we just have to accept people for who they are, and find solutions that work for everyone.
I mean think about all that kid is going through right now:
Puberty approaching. (dear GOD)
Change in daily routine.
His papa back in the picture.
Honestly, that’s a lot to process for anyone…but especially for a child with autism.
So my challenge is to get through this without losing my marbles.
We have spent this entire Memorial Day weekend by ourselves….just Zoe, Zion, and me.
And I’m not going to lie to you.
I miss my friends. I miss being social. My peeps, if you’re reading this, please don’t stop inviting us to things.
We will find a balance. And everything will fall into place again.