We were discussing the act of walking in another person’s shoes and the difficulty factor involved when there are kids with special needs as part of the package.
I said that if the shoes you were made to walk in on another person’s journey were your own worn-in comfortable joggers – the walk would a lot more pleasant than if you were to walk the same path wearing unfamiliar and un-sturdy stilettos that pinched your feet every time you took a step.
And we agreed that as Mum’s of SN kids, we were often not given the option of footwear and were expected to sprint in heels regularly. But we’re not allowed to complain because this is our lot in life right? Somehow on some level we deserved to have more difficult children, or we were given them because “God” gives his toughest challenges to his strongest warriors (or insert any other cliché that SN mothers have been told to alleviate the speaker’s own feelings of guilt). But the thing is – none of us put our hands up for this. This is just the way it is.
Lately – I am frequently overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy. I constantly worry if I am doing enough to help Harley. I think about his future and wonder if he will be able to navigate adulthood or whether it will send him into frequent shut downs or worse – public meltdowns. And if he does shut or melt-down regularly – will he be able to hold down a job? A relationship? Friendships?
Last week was the school Easter Hat parade. Harley had told me in the morning that he didn’t want to go but I had a busy morning ahead of me so I made him go anyway. I turned up a few hours later to watch the parade and noticed during the event that Harley was dangerously close to losing it. As soon as it finished I went over to grab him to take him home early but knew by the look on his face that I was too late.
His class was the last one to walk around and he was on complete overload by the end. I walked him out of the auditorium and over towards his classroom when he turned to me and punched me in the stomach, he followed that up with a few kicks to my shins and some head butts for good measure. He was sobbing and moaning and clearly needed a safe place and I would have thrown him in the car if I could have found Lucas, but he had run off somewhere else and was somewhere amongst the throng of other parents and students.
I let go of Harley’s hand to take a phone call. It was Ella calling from over the other side of the school in the middle school area. She had somehow grabbed Lucas and was calling me to ask me to come get him because he was lost and looking for me. But by the time I had hung up from the call – Harley had taken of at full speed. I tried to follow him but he was too fast.
My phone rung a second time and it was Ella again telling me that she’d seen Harley run past her and she’d noticed that he was terrified and told me which direction he’d headed in.
I eventually found him cowering inside a tent inside one of the junior school classrooms. My joggers had become stilettos again and I turned and walked out of the classroom alone and burst into tears.
Somehow, someone had alerted the head of junior school and she had gone into talk to him. Once he came out again to me she asked him to apologise to me and I was floored?
In all these years, it has never occurred to me to ask him to say sorry for hurting me whilst in the midst of a meltdown.
I just told myself that it was part and parcel of having a child with special needs. I told myself that he wasn’t in control of his emotions so therefore he didn’t need to make amends. I usually just nurse my wounds and try to pretend that it didn’t really matter.
But she pointed out that whilst he may have been unable to control himself at that time, he still needed to say sorry to me once he was calm again. She asked me (rhetorically) how he would go in the workplace if he never apologised for his outbursts. (If they happened).
I knew she had a really great point and I wondered if I had been strapping on stilettos when I should have been able to stay in my joggers all along?
Have I made things harder for myself by “allowing” certain behaviours that I would never allow from a typical child all under the guise of “he can’t help it”. Have I permitted my child to push me into a corner by not requiring him to take ownership of his actions.
Yeah….I really think I have! And discovering this about myself has opened my eyes to a whole new way of parenting. I’m really not doing Harley any favours by not teaching him acceptable behaviour and if I continue to make excuses for him when he hurts me – how will he ever learn to treat other people the way they deserve to be treated?
It’s a tough question but one that I have had to eventually ask myself. I’m tired of running in heels.