Essay #13: Forty Is The New Two

I have been sharing personal essays on my journey with autism with my children, on mom life, grief and mental health. Most essays are from life in 2017 and 2018. WARNING: my essays contain cursing. Click on the Essays category to read previous ones.

So far my best idea for avoiding grief is to deny it. Gram’s death is nonexistent while I ignore it’s fact and imagine her at home watching tv, doing her crossword puzzle and sipping coffee. This ignorance sounds like a terrible, immature idea but I have to do what I have to do to get through my day right now. My kids can only see me cry so much even though I think it’s good for them to see real life and emotion. I’m sure my grief will keep punching me in the face over and over and I’ll let it. It makes me feel lost right now so I’ll continue to bury it for self preservation.

Olive is at a Girl Scout event and she screamed at me because she didn’t want to go. This is how it’s been with everything, fighting she doesn’t want to leave the house, even to go to school. It’s a daily morning struggle and man autistic kids are tough. I explain how and why we have to do these things and some are not a choice. I leave it at that and try not to feed into her outbursts. This Girl Scout event though, I know she didn’t want to go because of the social situation it presents and I basically dragged her there. Olive does better with adults versus kids her age, but the adults can be jerks too. I don’t mind listening, and listening a lot, about the details of her current autistic obsession, but other people don’t always want to. We are working on that with her, helping her understand the importance of a back and forth conversation. This is something we wouldn’t ever think about teaching our girls before, it is something that should naturally happen with kids, not Asperger’s kids. We are basically teaching her to pretend to care about other people’s interests. If she wants to have friends she needs to pretend to care even if she doesn’t really. Olive will also repeat something funny several times; if you laughed the first time she will say it a few more times to make you laugh more. We always went along with it but I have seen other adults tell her, “Ok, that’s enough.” And not in a nice way. I want to cry for her right now, hoping she is having some fun, then I want to cry for me, parenting is heart wrenching. My babies.

I have a meeting next week with the school SAT team for Olive and will need to leave work early for that. I’m not being the best preschool director or mom or wife. Everyone is getting pieces of me. Anyone else in my life has been put on the back burner. I haven’t been making time for friends and frankly I really don’t care right now. My self care has involved reading, writing and home improvement projects. I don’t want to hear about anyone else’s drama or kids. Frankly outside of my preschool and my own children I don’t want to be around kids at all. I’m allowing myself to be selfish right now. For date nights with Micheal, I try to pick out a restaurant or movie where there will be no children and where I won’t bump into anyone I know. Not gonna lie, I have asked to have our dinner table moved to one not near children because number one, I can’t ignore their cuteness and want to talk to them, but number two, I want to focus on my husband and have deep conversations without hearing children. I’m such a bitch.

Who am I kidding? We haven’t been on a date in forever. Michael’s job seems to get busier and busier, more and more patients and it takes a toll on him emotionally. Fuck cancer. I couldn’t imagine doing what he does. I’d cry all day. I don’t know what to do to help him other than listen. He doesn’t usually want to talk though, just wants to come home and be home, forget work. I think there should be regular therapy sessions for medical professionals who work a lot with life and death. Michael says there just isn’t enough time in the day to add that into his schedule. That’s the problem with this country, mental health isn’t a priority and it very well fucking should be. Especially for a cancer doctor. I have no shame in going to therapy and I have been making sure to tell more people that I go. It doesn’t need to be kept secret, I’m not at all ashamed to say I have to go and I love that I do. I have to just keep putting the bug in Micheal’s ear to go talk to someone.

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I heard back from Laurel’s teacher this week. The screening they did with her regarding her lack of talking warrants a full blown evaluation with the speech and language pathologist and school psychologist. We have to run a PPT meeting to discuss the evaluation to be done and I have to sign papers agreeing. The psychologist told me not to be surprised if Laurel warrants a spot on the autism spectrum. What?! Who? Why? Repeat that please? Holy shit. My babies. Do I have two kids on the autism spectrum and a year ago I had no idea? What?

Was I just floating around with unrealistic life expectations? Well yeah, my running commercial of happiness was certainly not real life, but I think I always knew that. Maybe I just believed in a life that was not real, believed I had a life that I didn’t actual have, I just saw what I wanted to and fit it into the happy real life mold. Well the mold is broken and shattered and cracking on the floor with everyone stepping on it and not knowing they are crushing it into tinier pieces. Along with my soul. It feels as though everything is plummeting. I keep saying that, but life is changing in a significantly different trajectory, I can hardly believe it. I’m astonished by the last year of my life with autism, death, running a business plus my household, being PTO president and a matron of honor in a wedding next month. I don’t even know what to say sometimes, how to write what I’m feeling and thinking. God, guide me to my strength and resilience, show me my strength. I have to be a stronghold and pillar for my family, they need me now more than ever. I’m so needful myself how can I be there for them?

One of the tools we use as a discipline technique in the preschool is redirection. The short attention spans of preschoolers allow us to get their minds off something they can’t have or away from someone they are bothering. It works quite well. I’ve been using that on my mid-life 40-year-old brain too. Feeling sad, redirect to this happy music playlist. Feeling grief washing over, watch this comedy. Feel like shit and your kids are home for yet another snow day, how about some online shopping. Forty is the new two.

I can be there for the all the people who need me by acting like a two-year-old during my self-care time. Sounds great.

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