What I do know - FamilyEducation

What I do know

January 16,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Yesterday was a long, long day--one of those days when there is so much packed into it that you can't believe all of it happened in one day, instead of in two. There was work, and a doctor's appointment, and birthday-party-related errand-running, and too much driving in between. The kids were difficult to deal with--T. is tired from getting to sleep too late these days, and L. is having some major struggles at school that are spilling over into home life, big time. We've been having so many days lately where we felt simply overwhelmed, and all the confidence we once thought we had in ourselves as parents has washed away, and we sit around, pulling our hair out, wondering what we did or didn't do. It was one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days--where everything just doesn't go right, and you want to wish yourself to Australia. The cliche all parents are exposed to early on is, of course, that children don't come with any manuals or user guides. Children on the spectrum certainly don't come with instructions, either, and one friend once likened parenting a child with Asperger's (or any child with special needs) to driving in the dark--everything looks different, even street signs, and maps look like they were written in some strange language you only half understand. The letters might look familiar, but the words they form don't make sense, and you spend all your time trying to find the key to the code, the pattern. All parents deal with good days and bad days with their kids, but lately we've been dealing with more L.-related bad days than good days, and sometimes it's difficult to find something to smile about at the end of it all. Yesterday evening though, after that long, exhausting, I-don't-understand-anything-my-kid-does kind of day, after Scott headed off to a meeting, after I spent 20 minutes fussing at one child to get in the bathtub and at the other to get off the computer; after I lugged the vacuum cleaner downstairs with one hand, while balancing the laundry basket in the other, folded laundry on the bed while keeping an ear out for the one child in the bathtub, I went into L.'s room to put away fresh pajamas and socks, and found this: Confetti hole punch confetti ALL over his bedroom floor. Everywhere. I stared in wonder at it all, feeling despair wash over me at yet another mess to clean up--one more in a long, tiring, numbing string of them. But then, just as I was about to crumple up in a fit of last-straw frustration, I looked closer and saw order to the chaos: All's Quiet on the Western FrontOf course! A quiet battlefield strewn with confetti bullets and I couldn't help but smile. Because at the end of it all, at the mouth of that sometimes dark and winding tunnel, is your child--that beautiful, brilliant, quirky, complicated, take-your-breath-away, utterly amazing person you are so very lucky to have in your life. Happy Weekend!