Tuesday, October 18, 2011

GBE2 Challenge: Safe Haven

Our younger son wants a playdate. And, while that isn't so terrible a desire, he's killing me with it.

He follows me around, talking without periods to his sentences, his ideas running on and on and on. As it stands, he is planning three different playdates with a combination of a few different kids. One meets at a bowling alley. One meets at a playground. One is in our back yard.

He has notes for each playdate which serve as itineraries. And, for good measure, he created satisfaction sheets for his atendees to fill out upon the completion of each event.

Yes, I know that it is sweet that he wants to play with kids. Believe me, when I have one child who has very little interest in other kids around him, I get it. But, this is fraught with issues as well. Few eight-year-olds are going to want to play with a kid who makes them stick to an itinerary.

Last night, our younger son suggested to me that he thought he should even bring a whistle to one.

I WILL arrange some playdates for him, and I WILL guide him through them, but when he is in the planning stage, my gracious, this kid is relentless. He latches onto an idea, and he talks and he talks and he talks and he talks about it. He is oblivious to the climate of the household or whether I might be engrossed in some other fire involving his brother.

He's just REALLY into his idea.

Yesterday, our older son had a toileting accident between the kitchen and the bathroom. It was one of epic proportions, and I was scurring to get towels, bags, clean clothes, cleaner, etc., and, yep, guess who was following right along behind me?

"Mama?" he chattered. "I think it would be good if we supplied battery powered nerf guns for the playground playdate. I'll add that to my check list. And, have you contacted any mommies? I'm wondering how long everyone would be here? Two hours? Three? I'll plan for three. Ifweplanforthreethenweneedtoprovidedrinksbecausethenpeoplegetthristy...."

The words came at me so fast they blended together. My brain started swimming. My blood was boiling. Deep breathing failed me the second I saw that loose pile of stool glopped on my hard woods. I simply HAD to get away!

I'm remarkably resourceful when it comes to sneaking away to my Mom Cave. I can occupy those kids SO MUCH better than I do any other time of the day. This is because that cave is my Safe Haven. This is the place where my thoughts are my own. Truth be told, sure, I'm still shocked every time I see a pile of our son's BMs on my floor or running down his legs or ANYWHERE but in the toilet for that matter. However, OUT THERE, it is in their best interest that I not react. IN HERE, I can shed the veil and tell it like it is.

It's really gross.

OUT THERE, life comes at me so fast that I'm on duty nearly every minute of the day. IN HERE, I have the luxury of leisure, even if it is stolen. I love my Mom Cave. I don't even notice my husband's mess piled up around me. I am in ignorant bliss.

This makes me consider our kids, who drive me nuts, by the way. But, hey, I'm not arrogant enough to think that I don't drive them crazy as well. What is their safe haven?

I know a lot of parents that complain of not being able to tear their spectrum kids away from a bedroom, a computer room or a comfortable playroom in the basement. My husband and I have exactly the opposite problem. With overactive children, I'm realizing that their safe haven's are perhaps not as traditional as one would first think when they hear the term, but they are quite useful and, most importantly, they are portable!

Our little chatterbox of a son will talk incessantly in his normal life, but this increases with anxiety. Talking, planning and talking about his plans make him feel safe. He will obsess on these activities, doing them over and over and over again to the oblivion of
what's going on around him as a source of comfort. Talking about his interests is predictable. It is safe. It is his safe haven.

Our older son visits his safe haven in a way that is truly autistic: he tunes us out. He will ignore our words, and he will spin an object, sing a tune to drown us out or stare off into space. He is a master at becoming mentally unavailable. We have literally had conversations in front of him as to whether he was having an absent seizure or if he was just ignoring us when, of course, he was just ignoring us (and, I'm sure, thinking that we were all fools).

Part of working with children with autism is to teach them socially acceptable ways of channeling their anxieties/feelings of overload so that they function better in society. Yet, shed in this light, I can't help but wonder, why is my safe haven okay but theirs is not?

I'm sure there would be those that could argue that ducking into my husband's home office to ignore my kids for any given amount of time isn't solid parenting. Yet, it is my coping mechanism. Why isn't anyone calling me into behavioral therapy?

It's an interesting thought. I recognize that we all need to learn to meet somewhere in the middle, and that's what our sons' therapies are doing--- teaching a little less ignoring and a little less chattering when times get tough. Yet as parents we tend to get so caught up in diagnoses and labels that so far down the road you forget to think that some of this is less a behavior of a disability and more just human nature.

When life becomes overwhelming, I'm careful to allow our kids their time to process. They need their Mom Cave moment. They need their safe havens. And, while it is my job as their mom to help them deal with their disabilities so that the behaviors don't rule their lives, I also first have to help them deal with their lives.

"Let me guess," said our younger son yesterday. "You are on the computer again."

Okay. So he caught me working on this blog. That was my cue that I had been in here too long. Point well taken, my son. So I closed up shop and walked out of my Mom Cave to face the real world and more of his chatter about his upcoming social calendar.


  1. That boy just might make a spectacular professional event planner some day. No detail would be ignored, no possible guest request left unconsidered. It's not uncommon for us to grow up and simply be taller, tamer, more well-controlled versions of who we were when we were driving our parents nuts, so your little one might be the guy seeing to every minute detail of state dinners 25 years from now.

    As far as your escape versus theirs, you are so right. We've all got our little ways that we retreat when the stuff gets to be too much. Who's to say exactly where that line is that divides acceptable ways and those that are deemed problematic?

  2. Beth, I agree with you about him. He's always inventing/planning something. And, with so many engineers in his blood, I decided a couple summers ago that we should have him write things down in a notebood. I called them his blueprints. All inventors need blueprints. I'll admit to also hoping that his writing would lead to less talking, but, nope, that didn't happen. lol. It will be great to see what he does with that mind!

  3. I can so relate to you with the talking!! I swear it seems like my Bear never stops. It's a nonstop flurry of tv shows, computer games, and his latest creations and fascinations. And he's loud! We haven't yet gotten the hang of the 'inside voice' thing. Just like you and Beth said...I try to channel his energy in a way that might serve him well in the future. His newest hobby is cooking and he wants to invent a purple spaghetti sauce. Who knows? Maybe someday he'll be a famous chef :)

    We all have that need for a safe and appropriate place to get away. If we can manage to make it there in times of stress, I think we're pretty lucky, no matter where it is :)

  4. I breathe. I go to my mental happy place. I quickly regroup and try to re-engage. Frankly, it's tough. Talktalktalktalktalktalktalktalk. Uuuuugggghhhhh! A friend of mine sent me a video she made of her son talking about plankton. It is REALLY funny when it isn't happening to you!

  5. `I am reminded of my own childhood here. Your Mom Cave as an adult is not much different than my 'closet room' as a child. I escaped the real world, as do you, just to be me, as do you. It's a really good thing. Your boys do have safe havens and it doesn't matter if they are places or mental rooms, it only matters that they have them. If talkingandplanningandplanningandtalking are the little one's way, sorry for your nerves, it just might have to be there until one day he figures out a less aggravating way to retreat into safeness.
    As usual you just impress me with your Momness.

  6. I love your honesty. It is so good to talk about the goodthebadtheugly. Keep up going to your mom cave cuz its important....

  7. One thing I adore about the group of special ed moms that I have surrounding me is that we are honest about what happens in our lives and about how it makes us feel. The validation that most of our feelings about this life are normal and that the life itself is NOT normal...well...that's priceless.

    Thank you for letting me know that I've been able to bring some of that honesty to the Mom Cave. I really hope that someone may read my words and understand someone in their lives a little better because of them.

    Special needs are everywhere, after all.

    Thank you so much for reading! I appreciate you all so much!!

  8. Oh that honesty must be of such value to you Amy, in that group - there is all too little honesty about parenting, among parents.
    F is very similar in this respect to W - she is currently planning a playdate with potentially 5 guests (I'm trying not to think about it) and yes she talks to me (at me) quite relentlessly at times about what is required. Oh so wearying! But maybe that's also a bit of a safe haven/security thing for her.

  9. Maybe you need a play date in an outside area like a playground in the park. This way, your son can stick to his agenda while the other kid can do his thing if your son becomes too demanding.


  10. Hey, I am here if you need help with those playdates, ya know.....

  11. Andrea: no, I didn't know. Could you send me a message with your availability? THANKS!!!

  12. Your son reminds me of my niece when she was a child. She was quite the organizer of social functions. As an adult, she owns her own company, is smart and competent. I'd say your son is headed for greatness!

  13. I love that your little bear cub is a planner--I'm with Beth--he might make a great Wedding Planner or organize community events. How awesome.

    My 13yo daughter on the spectrum has a habit of stemming. Always in her peripheral vision. We've helped her to understand over the years that she needs to do this when she's alone in her room or out back swinging on the swings. It is her way to destress from an eventful day. I have family and a few friends say, "You shouldn't let her do that." and what they don't understand is that she's still processing her day. She's still trying to comprehend it all. Stemming helps her do that. It lasts a 1/2 hour, at home, where her friends and teachers and everyone else are not around to see it. Just because she's learned more socially acceptable behavior in public, does not mean she can't be herself at home. That is her safe haven.

    Great post. I love reading about your boys :) Cheers, Jenn.

  14. Thanks for sharing day in your life and I can totally understand why you need to sneak into your mom cave now and then. Your son's attention detail is remarkable and your patience and devotion to your children is amazing. I am so glad you have the outlet of blogging and a cave that is your safe place. ;)

  15. Such an interesting perspective, you all have your own 'mom cave' moments. You are so empathetic and insightful, I love reading what you write.

  16. Thank goodness you have a mom cave or I think the little men in the white coats would be coming to take you away to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time. You must be made of strong stuff, because if I were you I would already be there in my straitjacket drooling. Thank you for the glimpse into your daily life. It just upped my respect level for you another 100%!


  17. w o w whew......i am so hearing this..and wow, we do the same things (i do anyways) but not in this extreme; alpha an omega come to mind. See your humor btw the visual "clean ups" and all i can say is AMAZING GRACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! keep on writing that book...keep the written visuals and snap shots when appropriate..encouraging the other mom and dads.

    Sending forth the ANGELS you are; and knowing how you and your family are RIGHT IN HIS LAP!! Not many souls can rest here; you truly have found "the place" :0)