Thursday, June 30, 2011

Outlasting the Tears

Our older son and I held an impromptu public service seminar today at our local science center: Special Needs Public Tantrums. It was a doozie.

He'll be ten years old next week, and after a decade of living in constant flight mode, he is a powerhouse. He is solid, and when you pair the adrenaline of autism behind his physique, it is nearly impossible to stop him. We used to have physical control over him, but as he turns from a little boy into a boy to a pre-teen, teen and beyond, we are learning that he is only going to get bigger, faster and stronger with each passing year.

Today, he did not want to be at the science center. He didn't want to be there despite the fact that he chose to go there. Where he actually wanted to go was an abandoned building on the other side of town that at one time housed the occupational therapy service provider he used when he was two and three years old. He wants to go back into that building. He even tries to unlock its door with my car keys.

I was too fried to take on that challenge today-again-so I enforced his choice of the science center. His brother was so excited!

Uuuuuggh! Why does he always have to cry at the top of his lungs?! Most kids at least start with whining or a whimper, but, nooooo, no our child. I told him from the start that the crying wasn't going to work, but I guess he was in the mood to test me.

On this particular day, I had conflicting interests of two children. Our younger son was truly having fun from the second we arrived, and he deserved to be able to enjoy that. Yet our older son insisted that we return to the car.

I stood my ground.

I stood my ground even when he hit me.

I stood my ground even when he pinched.

I stood my ground when he pushed and cried while other people pretended not to look but couldn't help but drink in the spectacle that was this mother and her child.

Some parents chose to remove their children from us. I don't blame them. Always, I am careful with my words so that those around us in addition to my son know that there is a method to the madness.

"This is not appropriate behavior." "I know that you are mad." "You need to use your words instead of pinching/hitting/pushing." "I love you but it is not your turn. You must wait for your brother." "Nice job trying to calm down." "I'm proud of how hard you are working."

It is SUCH A PROCESS. It takes time. He works himself up and then he must calm himself down. After the confrontation, he must pace and process. And, while he processes, he is still screaming at the top of his lungs.

But, I just can't give in. I thought about the scene we were making. I thought about how we were certainly ruining the experience for those around us, but I had to let it go. At the end of the day, the tantrum would be temporary, and my spectators would go back to their normal lives. Maybe they would learn something. Maybe they wouldn't. But, right now, my son needed me. BOTH sons needed me. I had to work through the tears and get to the other side.

The scene lasted 45 minutes and spanned two floors of the science center. Our younger son was able to run around and get in some recreation. Once our older son calmed, he even asked to do a couple favored activities.

As we were standing in line for one of those activities, he linked his arm in mine and started to play with my fingers.

"Ouch," I said, pointing to one of the bruises that was starting to form where he had pinched me. He then lifted my hand and kissed the bruise, then looked at me and smiled.

You know, he didn't ask to live this life. I'm sure he would love to have a body free of compulsions, one that had a properly functioning sensory system and speech capabilities. His coping skills are immature, to be sure, however, I'm not sure where mine would be if I were a ten-year-old facing all that he faces.

And, yet, he's able to smile.

For that and so much more, I will gladly help him outlast those tears.


  1. This took my breath away, it's a beautiful post. My cousin has a school for autistic children and I'm going to send her a link to your blog. She would love to read your posts.

  2. Langly, thank you! This is such a compliment coming from you--you are so talented. I would appreciate your passing on my link. I think that parents can be the greatest support for one another.

  3. I always enjoy reading your posts. I know that my experiences might be different from yours, but I always find something to relate to. I remember years ago, Bear having a huge scene at a playground in the city. It was a blazing hot day and there must have been over a hundred people there. We didn't have a diagnosis yet, but we knew there were issues...I remember working through it, but feeling the disapproval from the masses....and my own best friend informing me that I "don't beat my son enough". Riding through those behaviors is never easy...I applaud you!