Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My wits end

Another summer is drawing to a close. I am not sure how I made it through in one piece. This was a very different summer in our house, very different from all the past summers. My kids were home with me most every day, and even though we had many activities going on, we still found plenty of time to get on each others nerves. We had a little too much "togetherness" I would say. I know quite a few teachers, between friends of mine who are teachers and family members. They all dread the end of the summer, and hate when I am counting down the days until school starts, so I apologize to them, but I don't know how much more of Katie I can take. The summer days were fine when we had something planned, something to do. My other daughters spent a lot of time playing thier sports, so we were always running to practices, games, or camps. Summer catechism also occupied a good 3 weeks of our time. Play dates with friends and cousins were also a blessing, something to look forward to. But the down time between all these things just about killed me. My other daughters have no problem with down time. In fact, since they are so busy most of the time, they look forward to some loafing off, watching TV or movies, reading books or magazines, playing on the computer or listening to thier music. Katie doesn't know how to loaf off though. She will maybe watch a little TV, maybe listen to some music, but sooner or later she will find me and follow me around. I personally don't have a lot of free time, even if my girls do. Since I work midnights, my day time when I am not working is spent catching up on chores, laundry, housekeeping, grocery shopping, the typical household things that keep moms busy. When the girls are in school it is no problem to get everything done. When they are home and I am running them around to their activities, the chores pile up. Then, when we do have "down time", I spend it frantically playing catch up. And they don't understand the responsibilites that moms have, and that those responsibilites don't stop for summer vacation. Katie will want to go for a bike ride, or plan a party, or any number of things that she will want me to do with her. I try to entertain her as much as I can, but there comes a point when I just need to get some work done. It is then that she decides to "help". I love that she wants to help, and I think it is important that she does some chores around the house, but all moms know that it is just easier sometimes to do it yourself. You can spend 3 times more effort fixing what they just "helped" you do. Katie also has a tendency to want to follow me around the house to "talk". It is very hard to explain how exhausting it actually is to talk to a child with autism. It can be entertaining, it can be heartwarming, but it's also mentally and physically draining at times. You may think, "how hard can it be to just talk to her?" Every conversation is a debate, every conversation is a negotiation, every conversation has already been had a million times before. When a child will not take "no" for an answer, when explaining the reasons to them only creates more drama, when tears and yelling are the results of what they don't want to hear, it is too much to handle. Katie may seem very entertaining to family and friends, but to parents, there is no getting away from the constant conversation. I can tell you all day about how hard it is to have a child with autism. I can write this blog, call you on the phone, cry on your shoulder. You can even spend time with Katie for awhile and see for yourself how she can be. But living it 24/7, spending the summer having her haunting my shadows, is a completley different story. She is a good kid. She is fun-loving and sweet, funny and entertaining. She is very low maintenance in most aspects. There are children that are much more difficult in every aspect, and I am very blessed to have her as my daughter. But I also have a frustration threshold that gets tested, especially at the end of every summer. My wits are at their end. I am ready for that school bus to come down the street. My brain is tired and my patience is gone. This summer our Adventures in Autism felt more like a punishment than a relaxing vacation.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Teenage Dreams

Well, it is official.  Katie is a teenager!  This milestone in her life is bittersweet for me, but so exciting for her.  She celebrated with her usual multiple parties, from simple family get togethers, to her official "friends" pool party.  I swore last year that it was going to be her last friends party, but somehow she talked me into another one. 

Now that she is a teenager, she thinks that she needs to be instantly independent of me.  Suddenly everything is, "MOM! I can do it myself!  I am a teenager!"  So I let her do as much as I can, even if that means I have to re-do things (without her knowing).  Her shirts sometimes end up backwards, her tank tops inside out, and her shoes might end up on the wrong feet, but she is trying.  The bathroom ends up with toothpaste all over the sink, water all over the counter, and the towel on the floor.  The pillow case is half off her pillow on her bed, and the sheets hanging out of the comforter, but if I ask her to make her bed, who am I to complain?  When I ask her to put her clothes away, the drawers are jammed shut, and the clothes crooked in the closet.  I think she secretly likes to do household chores, though, because it makes her feel grown up.

My least favorite part of this whole "teenager" business, is her attitude.  Now everything is done with a huff and a stomp of the feet, and a complaint.  I am convinced that she learned that directly from her older sister.  She has also taken to yelling at her sisters to leave her alone, or fighting with them over the TV and clothes.  Like I said, this is all bittersweet.  No mother in her right mind would wish for sibling rivalry, but to me it illustrates that she is right on track with other kids her age.  She is going through the same "stages" and experiences the same growing pains that teenagers everywhere are feeling.  So, lucky me, I now have 2 daughters in their teens. 

My oldest daughter said to me the other day, "I don't like Teenage Katie".  I know what she meant by it, because Katie used to be so docile and accommodating, and now she is somewhat surly and loud.  In private I am cherishing every minute of it, because I love it when she hits a milestone on time, and she can feel like she is just a regular teen living her life.  Every time I hear her stomping around and growling at someone, I secretly smile.  This probably sounds insane to some people who have "regular" teens that are driving them crazy, but for the longest time I did not know if Katie was going to be able to live a regular life, and experience all the things that other kids her age went through.  Like middle school and dances and detentions and having friends over and telephone calls and birthday parties and I-Pods and designer clothes and pizza and lockers and swim class and honor society and Pepsi and slumber parties and everything else that every other teen dreams of and lives every day of their lives.  And Katie has done it all. And I love it.

I know some people are reading this and thinking, "that doesn't sound like the happy Katie that I know".  I don't mean to paint a picture of a crabby, uncommunicative monster, because she is far from that.  She is still that most cheerful kid I know, and always has a smile and a hug for everyone.  She loves to dance to her favorite music and play on her I-Pod, and talk to her friends and hang out with her cousins.  There has just been a definite change in her demeanor over the last few months.  And I know that it is completely normal for a teenage girl.  I am not complaining about it in the least. Sometimes our Adventures in Autism are not so different from every other teenager.