Today, I was downstairs on my couch watching a movie with my husband and trying to encourage my kids to clean up their Christmas toys by placing all their new items in a box to condense the aftermath of the holidays. Our oldest daughter was attempting to open her toy box next to our TV when the lid flipped and knocked over a glass of water onto our DVR and my husbands gaming console. Our immediate reaction was, “go upstairs.” My youngest began to cry and protest she didn’t do anything while my oldest continued to apologize over and over again, as she does when she immediately realizes she made a mistake or is about to get in trouble for something. “Go upstairs!” Again, from my husband.
While I understood the accident, I also understood the brooding anger coming from my husband. I too have felt a fury deriving from something that we didn’t have much control over. At this moment, I stood by my husbands side and although I felt there should be explanation for such anger, this was not the time to play good cop. Kailyn was lying on the couch, tired and ready for a nap when all of this happened. I hurried to clean up what was left of the toys while my husband quickly checked to make sure nothing was broken. I then sat down, my daughter lied down on my lap, and I began to hum her a lullaby.
During the time I sat on our couch, I made myself think about why things like this are so frustrating for parents and their reactions equally disappointing to our children. I tried to considered all sides. Our children are just children, they will make mistakes. And no matter the care in which we enforce during specific instances, there will still be accidents because they don’t understand the “why” behind everything, and even when they do try to understand, mom and dad can only play 50 questions so long before becoming annoyed. We know they are still growing and learning to control their functions and emotions, not to mention the whole “we are only human” thing.
As for the parents, we place things in places we know our children can get to but then we are frustrated when the outcome is what we didn’t want to happen, yet knew was possible from the beginning. Like letting my girls paint there own nails then wanting to pull my hair out because there is nail polish on my carpet/walls. Yes, it’s happened.
I realized my patience, though better, is not perfect. My anxiety, though decreased, still has its moments. My children, though growing, aren’t perfect or willing to adapt to maturity as quickly as we’d like. But even if they did, we would be sad that they weren’t little and clumsy anymore. I concluded that we are always wishing for more in the moment and missing what we should really be focusing on. We let secondary emotions control us.
The better solution may have been to tell our children, “it’s okay. They are just things,” and allowed them to continue as they were while helping them understand why we need to be careful. But as we all know, we almost always think of what we should have said or done after something has happened rather than in the moment. Sometimes we get lucky and our brains stop us from the natural reaction to a situation where we can allow ourselves some time to sort a situation, but it’s most common that we don’t. However, we have to give ourselves some credit! We could have yelled and sought punishment for their error (which was an accident) and been angry, but we chose to have them go upstairs so we could sort our thoughts and emotions better in that moment. For that, I commend my husband. There have been times where we have reacted more quickly and less ideal. We are working on that every day. I like to believe we are getting better.
I was later able to explain this to my kids. I know they don’t fully understand but I felt they still deserved an explanation. And I do think they appreciated one.
So what does this have to do with anything autism? Many don’t understand that our family still has many of the typical struggles of any other family. It doesn’t have to be so difficult and complex all the time. Some days are just days and some are better than others. We aren’t better, we aren’t worse, we just are. I will say this though, we wouldn’t wish it any other way. We are so grateful for what we have, who we have to love us and to be so loved. We still have common ground with other families. I’d like to believe that gives us hope for the future and what’s to come for our children. With all mistakes and anomalies aside, we are your typical, not-so-typical family, if that makes sense. 😉