If we were having coffee together I would have to ask you “Has it really been a week already since our last coffee together?”
This week I have tried to make more time to read other blogs and interact with other bloggers here in the WordPress community; it is such a friendly and welcoming environment! One post that caught my eye and I really enjoyed was Sometimes on the Fabulous Fit Mamas blog here at http://www.ffmamas.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/sometimes/
I especially empathised with the lines ‘ Sometimes Supermom, Sometimes Stupid Mom’ because something happened in my week this week that made me feel a bit of a ‘Stupid Mom’ (well Stupid Mum actually since I am British 🙂 ).
I have always had a strong and close bond with my autistic son (who is now in his teenage years) and usually I am very instinctive in my parenting of him. Autistic or not, I think mother’s just have that intuitive ‘knowing’ with their own child/ren.
Anyway, normally I’m good at predicting what will or will not be an enjoyable activity for my son but this week I got it hopelessly wrong. My daughter was involved in a music workshop at our local Music Conservatory which culminated in an evening concert at the end of the week. The concert was held in a cave, part of a whole complex of underground tunnels that had at one time been used as a secret NATO HQ. The evening included a free guided tour of the tunnels. Now, my son has a passionate interest for anything related to the history of war, the military, and so on and immediately I thought that he would really enjoy taking this tour.
The evening was an all or nothing prospect. The tour of the tunnels led to the inner cave where the concert was being held. It was a case of joining in both parts of the evening or doing neither. I knew that the concert part of the evening was probably going to be challenging for him, because of sensory issues, but I weighed things up in my mind and decided that the enjoyment he would get from taking the tour outweighed the potential discomfort of sitting through the concert. So I went for it and signed us up for the evening. (Of course I also spoke with my son about the whole evening beforehand and asked if he would like to go.)
To cut a long story short, on this occasion I got it wrong, really quite wrong. I don’t know what it was, we’ve done similar excursions with my son before, but on this occasion he was very uncomfortable being on the tour and his anxiety was high. Once we had started on the tour, with one guide, there was no possibility of turning back. It ended up being an hour of my son being very agitated and me being very stressed hoping that I would be able to support him through his anxiety. And then of course we had to sit through the concert as well.
At that point I was playing a dual parent role; on the one hand I was there to enjoy watching my daughter perform and video her part in the performance, and on the other I was trying to minimise the sensory overload for my son. We were sat down on chairs for the concert and he had his head in my lap the whole time. I pulled the hood of his top up over his head and held my hands over his ears to try to buffer the noise for him (except for when I was videoing of course!)
The second the concert finished my son and I were amongst the first to find our way out of the tunnels! Once outside again the two of us were able to breath better and relax.
The point of my telling this story, aside from needing to share my ‘Stupid Mom’ moment guilt, is to make people aware of this kind of invisible stress that both people with autism and their families often experience. My son’s stress during the course of the evening presented itself in ways that I could pick up on (the gripping of my arm, the tapping of his fingers over and over on my arm, the mumbling to himself and so on) but which probably went largely unnoticed by everyone else there. Equally, my stress was running high because I needed to help my son through the evening and help make sure he didn’t get to the point of meltdown from sheer overload. Again, I doubt anyone else there was aware of how much stress and anxiety I was feeling. I’m not looking for sympathy here for either of us, but I do want people just to be aware that these invisible stresses exist in order to foster an understanding and encourage open mindedness.
In the end we both survived the evening, with me making a mental note not to do underground tours again! Hopefully by the time of our next weekend coffee share I can claim to be more ‘SuperMom than Stupid Mom’.
As always, thank you for listening.