I’m still emotionally reeling from an encounter I had with someone who does not have kids about the cleanliness of my house. The messages I got was that she was wondering about my mental state because I couldn’t keep up with the housekeeping, and that she did not feel that the way I kept my house was acceptable and I needed to do better. Both of these were a slap in the face to me, especially because I do work hard on the house, but most people never see it. I have a sensory seeking autistic 6 year old boy who I nickname Wreck It and I have a 3 year old, so my house needs some sprucing up. I also own my own business and I supplement the schooling my son gets through his therapy with a little bit of homeschooling. In other words, I am working four jobs per week, and since Buddy’s therapy is so expensive, even with insurance, we are spinning our wheels just to be able to afford that (it’s basically another mortgage), forget hiring housekeeping! I think I’m allowed to let the housekeeping slide.
Before kids, I was very picky about how my DVDs and books were shelved. Having volunteered at a library in my youth, I even group my books by subject matter and then alphabetized them. Having my DVDs and books out of order is disturbing for me. And then I had kids.
This evening I was walking around the house with Buddy trailing me while streaming my amazing kids music station from Pandora. I managed to create a good balance of kindie bands like Laurie Berkner and TMBG with classics such as Puff the Magic Dragon and other kids songs. At the moment, “The Rainbow Connection” was playing, and Buddy stunned me by talking about rainbows while putting his arms over his head in an arch. I wondered where he’d learned that. But what he did next really floored me.
There’s been a change in Buddy that’s been going on too long now to be a phase. Used to be Buddy was so sensory seeking we had to get him outside, and often. Six hours a day was not unheard of (three hours in the morning, three in the evening). When most people talk about raising children with autism, they talk about how they have to stay in the house a lot and embarrassing temper tantrums in public. This was not my experience. Buddy needed to be outside, and often, and the only time I had problems with public tantruming was when he had a bad and persistent ear infection (and it happened at the ENT’s office, so everyone figured out what was happening and was sympathetic). Staying indoors led to problems because he’d have so much energy and would get bored and would start destroying the house. Our couches are trashed, for instance. The covers are ripped and there are holes in the couch where he would hide his toys. But we’re not replacing them until we’re 100% sure Buddy has completely out grown his Wreck It phase (even though we really would like nice things to sit on in the living room again).
As usual, I picked Buddy up from therapy in the afternoon. Since he has autism he has five hours of therapy a day, even in the summer. His coach came out and gave me a summation of his day, and when I made to leave, I was stopped from getting to the door because there was a crowd of coaches around another little boy who is a client there and his guardian.
It didn’t take long to figure out both the little boy and his guardian were upset. Apparently he had been bitten by another child there. The case manager made a comment that they would be calling the other boys mom and other such assurances.
As a mental health counselor, I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of self-care for parents. And until December of last year I was working with a stressful population where there’s a high rate of burn out among professionals in that field. While, for awhile, I enjoyed the change of routine from home to work, the fact that, at home I care for two children, and at work I take care of the emotional needs of people with severe mental disorders, it started to get wearing. I was ALWAYS taking care of someone. And, for the first time in my life, I even grew resentful of having my pets. Once the kids were in bed, they were just more people to take care of, and I just wanted some me time.
I’ve written before about realizing early on that Buddy was at risk for developing autism, and that I’d noticed the signs earlier than most parents likely would have. Because of this, when I sought early intervention for him, while a lot of the diagnosticians saw what I saw and were worried, the speech therapists, likely because they probably weren’t used to seeing children with mild autism at such a young age, kept telling me how he would grow out of it and would condescendingly tell me to do things I was already doing (such as reading to him) to help him grow out of it.
If only getting a child with autism to speak were as simple as reading to them every night!