And believe me it is no fun journey through northern California.
The other day a friend of mine mentioned that my blog posts about Maya were very positive and while I do try to find the positive in my experiences on this journey I also told this friend that it is not like I just get there. Anyone who knows me knows that I am one of the most cynical, judgy people alive, and am definitely not all smiles, rainbows and dotting-my-i's-with-hearts. I struggle plenty. But in dealing with Maya and trying to help her and process what parenting a kid on the autistic spectrum is like, I do try to find a positive spin. Not because I am such a ray of sunshine, but because looking at things in perspective helps me to help my daughter. My blog posts are sort of a journey in itself. They help me to navigate a sometimes difficult and extremely challenging (albeit no less loving and rewarding) world of parenting a kid with special needs.
To this friend I said that like anyone else I have my good days and bad days as a parent. And by the time I am sitting behind my laptop writing I have largely processed the topic I am posting about which makes it easier to find the positive spin. But it doesn't just happen. I have my bad days too and days when I am not a great parent. We all do but I try as hard as I can not to blame myself for that. I am human and prone to mistakes, blaming myself and carrying that around accomplishes nothing.
But still, this exchange with my friend caused me to think that maybe I should show more vulnerability and not be so spun all the time.
So, IMK, this is for you.........Whining. So much whine, I wish I had a good Camembert and some grapes!
Although I must say it has been a while since we have been here. This used to be a daily occurrence so in the grand scheme of things I am not complaining (only trying to ignore the whining by distracting myself with blogging so I don't go getting out a big can o' whoop ass).
I don't know what has been going on the past few days but since the weekend Maya has spilled more whine than Ernst and Julio Gallo. From getting up, brushing her teeth, brushing her hair, going to school, not going to school, eating, drinking, sleeping, playing, watching tv, going to bed, being with mom, being with dad and everything and anything in between.
As a parent, one of the hardest things for me to cope with is whining, it just goes through my head like a rusty nail. Many, if not most of the parents I know feel that way and like me, whining can be the one thing that really makes them lose their temper with their kids.
And to be honest, I don't think parents with kids on the spectrum really corner the market in this, unless of course their child has real issues with being able to express themselves with communication. They may have to put up with more whining and not be able to ignore it or yell at it or even punish it but I think whining grates no less on parents of kids not on the spectrum.
What is more difficult is that when you have a kid on the spectrum, not only do you have to put up with those high pitched squeals, the growls, the foot stomping and the throwing themselves on the floor or worse but you have to do your best imitation of Carnac the Magnificent (don't know who he is, first off, I hate you, second off, go ask your mom) and try to figure out what the whining is about. Sure your parent of a toddler has to do the same thing before your kid can communicate what the problem is and before you have a shot in hell of solving it, but when your kid is on the spectrum, I find that it is a continual guessing game to find out what the real problem is. Maya who is completely verbal has enormous difficulty expressing herself when she is whiny. She can whine, cry, stomp her feet and growl with the best of 'em (thank goodness the throwing herself on the floor is all but the rarest occurrence nowadays), but it is very difficult for her to tell me what the problem is. It's almost like her autistic characteristics (for lack of a better term) come out more when she is whining. Her communication is more severely impaired, she can't look me in the eye and she is unreachable. The thing with her and whining is that when she is whining it usually can last from a few days to a few weeks where everything is just a tragedy. It's Stratford-on-Avon and her ability to take things in stride, which is definitely an acquired taste for her just completely vanishes. And I have to fight not to get angry at her but also to try and figure out what is the source of this and what will turn it off. She is definitely patterned in it, she will be whining for the thing she wants but somewhere within her there is some root cause driving her to little tolerance. It's like she has a rock in her shoe all the time.
By all accounts this past week was great for her. She is doing very well at school and we went into the weekend enormously happy. She was very proud that she is riding a bike and we did a lot of fun little things during the weekend. The weather was great and she got to play outside a lot and we took out her little swimming pool and she had a ball. She even got to play with the little girl from next door quite a bit. If my mom were living she would at this point tell me that I am spoiling her. But on Sunday evening it started and today is Wednesday and it is still there. She has had about 30 separate whining episodes and I can't for the life of me figure out what is is. Between Sunday and last night I could only just try to avoid getting irritated and making everything worse (one of the by-products of parenting a kid on the spectrum, getting angry, yelling, punishing doesn't help at all -- this is one of those things that people who have not experienced raising an autistic child just do not get, including my mom). This isn't to say that she hasn't been sweet and cute in between, she has, but basically anything that doesn't go her way the last days has been a tragedy of epic proportion. At another point in time those same things wouldn't be a big deal to her. What's changed? Then last night and today I started really trying to think about what could it be and I have come to a few ideas:
1. Sleep. Since the weekend and the warm weather Maya is definitely sleeping less. She is not a child that needs a ton of sleep (9 hours will do her great) but because of the days off, because it is now not getting dark until nearly 10 PM and it is warm and she wants to play outside, she has not gone to sleep before 10.30 each night. This happens to her from time to time but usually then the next night she falls asleep earlier to compensate and everything balances out. For some reason this week, not at all.
2. Allergies. Maya has terrible allergies in the spring (so bad that we usually visit her allergist somewhere in May/June and he puts her on prednisone for 3 days to pull her completely out of it, to clear up her skin (she has excema which gets out of control easily in the spring). This year the allergies are so bad that I am even having horrible allergy attacks. Maya gets antihistamine every day but when it is very bad this is not enough to jumpstart her body. I, a hay fever sufferer have hardly suffered from allergies since moving away from the US but even this year my allergies are so bad I am taking over the counter antihistamine for it. This morning Maya woke up with her face and eyes a bit swollen. A dose of antihistamine did the trick but still, that can't be fun.
3. No stuffed animal at school. For the past few days we have been trying to relieve Maya from taking a stuffed animal to school. She's 7 now and while the habit of doing this doesn't bother me at all (the same way her having a pacifier at 3 did) I do think she is old enough and secure enough to not need it. Plus on her school bus she can sometimes in fun, throw the stuffed animal around which bothers the driver and the other kids. So together with the school Maya now gets a sticker every day without a stuffed animal and when she listens on the bus and when she gets 5 stickers she gets to pick out a book at school and cuddle with her teachers to read it. Maya is very happy and looks forward to getting her stickers.
Of course she doesn't whine about any of the 3 things I just mentioned, just EVERYTHING else. And it is up to me to try and figure it out or just try and ignore it until it passes.
I think B is the more realistic option.