Ok – I’m just going to lay it out there, friends – I’m stressed out. Wow – life can become overwhelming, even when it’s mostly good stuff. I’m dealing with balance (I know, who isn’t, right?) and kind of feel like I’m on a train that can’t stop. Crap. Worst of all, my kids are now starting to be affected, and so it’s time to make some hard choices. I don’t like Ada telling me “My Mom always has a meeting”. As much as I’m involved in a bunch of really cool things – it’s just too much.
Not surprisingly, I’ve felt this way before in April. I remember last April saying – never again will I sign on for that much – yet here I am. Sure – it’s all great stuff, but my youth is long gone, my kids need help with homework, and my cats need a lap to occasionally plop in (they might be more frustrated than my trio). Thankfully – April is coming to an end, and while it’s been a pretty amazing Autism Awareness Month, I need a nap.
It’s not just too many meetings – I’m struggling with a lot of anxiety about middle school transitions, IEP meetings, puberty, planning an appropriate but not too ambitious summer schedule for each child, and Ada’s therapy coming to an end – all in the next couple of weeks. Well, to be fair puberty will not be complete in 2 weeks, but I can wish it would.
While this is not a secret – I don’t do well with change. My kids & I share that trait, and I’ve always been that way. Risk averse, don’t change what’s working, discomfort with the unknown, etc. Most of the time, I just need time to freak out privately, and then move ahead – and almost always, things turn out fine – if not better. Believe me when I say that while my challenges with change may be different than Elliott’s, & I can mask my discomfort marginally better, I “get” his need to know exactly what route we’re going to take (without any deviation) when we go to Target. He’s had to work hard to overcome some of his need for sameness/routine, and it’s not been easy. I can relate in my own way.
So I’m dealing with a lot of change, and I’ve been overcommitted. Guess what, I’m more than a little unpleasant. The kids walk through the door from school and immediately give me that look like “you are generally unpleasant of late, you may want to think about washing your hair, and I’d rather not share with you that my clip was on take a break”.
I sensed my edginess on Sunday when the kids had their weekly swimming lessons at the Y. We’ve been taking lessons for a long while, and because our routine is quite well established, it’s generally a very successful experience. For whatever reason, there was a lifeguard on duty that day that we had not seen before, and for reasons I don’t understand, she just had it in for the E man. I sat on the bench, watching Henry and Ada during their lessons, while Elliott had free swim time. He was going from the slide pool to the lap pool (they keep one lane open just for lap swimming), and as he approached the lap lane, she brusquely told him he needed to swim laps and not horse around in that pool. All well and good – except that the teenage guy in the lane pool was doing handstands, stopping in the middle of the pool, dorking around, etc. She said nothing to him, but when E paused once, she lit into him. Soon, E left for the other pool, and a group of girls much younger than E got in the lane pool and began horsing around while an adult did his best to try to swim laps around them for 15 minutes. The lifeguard said nothing to them– until Elliott walked over. At that point, I was ticked, and so as she approached him, I interrupted her, and said “Ma’am, I’m taking care of this” – she gave me the wicked witch look and stomped off.
All week I’ve been thinking about this – why did it bother me so much? Was I being overprotective because he has autism? Should I have confronted her more directly or should I have just let the whole thing go? Would I have had the same feelings if this had happened to Henry, who does not have autism? Is this just a Mom thing, and does it even have anything to do with autism at all? Worse – am I becoming a helicopter Mom? There are a lot of jerks in the world, and life is often not fair & maybe that’s the lesson – wow, maybe I just have PMS?
In the end, I’m still mulling it over. I know it had an impact on E because he asked me if he could approach her and ask why she was so cranky (yes, I’m grateful he asked before just doing it – this is progress). I could tell he felt a little unsure about what he could and should be doing, and was just trying to have fun before his lesson. But I sensed that because I could feel myself getting angry, that I was likely not going to handle the situation in a way that would be beneficial, and even less likely – as a good role model for conflict resolution in front of my children, so I bit my tongue and went home.
Because I’m still thinking of it – something tells me if I see her again this Sunday – I’m going to choose to be proactive rather than reactive. I don’t like to out my buddy about his autism unless it becomes necessary and more and more, I feel like that’s his call. But I also don’t want to push a lifeguard into the pool in front of my children. Instead, I will chat with her upfront, and keep the ugly thoughts in my thinking bubble. At least – this is my plan.
Besides – Ada inspired me today, I feel the positive energy returning & I washed my hair. Ada aka “Batman” – who does not like pink, anything remotely girly and especially not Dora who she calls “Dorka” thanks to having older brothers – wore high heels today. And yes, it was her idea – with socks (of course) and a bun in her hair with a pink donut twist sticking out. This would be miracle enough – but there’s more. While watching an episode of that horrible show – “Annoying Orange”, she saw a commercial for the new American Girl Doll – “Saige” and shared with us “I would like Saige for my birthday”. Who is this child, and where did my Ada go?
While I kind of dig Ada’s independent spirit, and would not care if she always chose super heroes over Barbie (admittedly as a child I only used my Barbie RV to put my cat in and speed him across the floor), I am proud of her ability to consider and try change. True, “Saige” seems to be the most rugged of all the American Girl Dolls – but maybe that’s why she feels a connection. They are both tough broads. Or – maybe Batman will choose to wear heels with her cape? Either way, change is coming & I have a feeling we’re all going to be ok.