Becoming the Parent Your Child Needs You to Be
The parent your child needs you to be.
Just like so many other people I had high hopes of becoming the best parent ever. My kids were going to eat only good food, watch minimal educational television programs, I was going to read to them for hours everyday. I wouldn't swear around them or yell. I was going to stay calm and ask about their feelings. I wouldn't spank them or punish them. I was going to be as close to perfect as I possibly could, then life happened.
My daughter began regressing shortly after her second birthday. I didn't know what I was doing wrong, the harder I tried the worse it got. Even our pediatrician believed it was a phase, he had never seen a child who hit every milestone on time or early, regress backwards so fast. We thought maybe it was due to my dad getting terminally ill, Lilly was very close to him so it seemed possible that this was some kind of rebellious angry phase. But deep down I knew it was more, I just never imagined it would be autism. Autism, I didn't even know what that meant. I started researching everything. I was beside myself, I had a 3 year old autistic daughter and an infant son, I didn't know what to do or how to do it.
Now that my dream of perfect parenting was crushed, I was just praying I could be a good parent. Most days that's not how i felt. I let my kids watch cartoons so i could have five minutes of not screaming in the house, my daughter who had eaten steam squash, zucchini, carrots and every other vegetable I could get her to eat, was now on her own diet of chicken nuggets and pizza. Bad parenting, maybe but I won't lie having a child screaming and hitting you because they are hungry and will only eat certain foods, it will drive you to the point of insanity and total guilt. Yelling and swearing were as common as talking to me these days. I had done the complete opposite of everything I said I would and would not do.
I'm not going to give excuses on why I failed as the parent i was going to be. I just could not handle my daughter who regressed into non-verbal autism. I had this sweet little girl and now she was a little monster most days. She would pull all her clothes out of her dresser, she would put holes in the walls and eat pieces of the drywall, she would paint full portraits on my walls with poop in a matter of seconds. By the time she was 4 she had given me 3 black eyes, not to mention countless bruises and bite marks up and down my arms. People at work seriously thought my husband was abusing me. She would sleep for 1-4 hours and wake up screaming, and continue to scream for 30 mins to 3 hours at a time, and yes this would wake her baby brother up so then I had 2 screaming kids to deal with. I was exhausted and at one point suicidal. I didn't want to live this life, this was not the life I signed up for.
Guilt, one of the many emotions but it was the one i felt the most. I knew this had to be my fault, I didn't catch it in time. My daughter lived off junk food instead of the good things she once ate and the only foods I planned on feeding my kids. I used cartoons to occupy her so I could get anything done and keep what little sanity i had left. I yelled and got angry, i didn't ask about her feelings, I smacked her hand and butt for eating drywall, and rocks, dirt and plenty of other non food items thanks to her new diagnosis of pica. The list of daily ups and downs goes on and on. But the point is I was losing it.
After many weeks of sleepless nights and screaming and crying from both me and the kids I made a decision, I was never going to be the parent i dreamed of being. After accepting this hard true I decided to focus on being the parent i needed to be. I wanted my kids to have that perfect caring mother, but I was far from it. I figured as long as they had a mom who loved them, and tried her best everyday and maintained a small amount of her sanity, it was way better than the mommy monster they currently had. I realized we didn't have a perfect life, but truthfully no one does. We all have to adjust ourselves to make it work.
I accepted this new life and learned how to work with my daughter. I spent all my free time researching autism and how to help kids with it. Actually that's still what I do with most of my free time. My acceptance and new found knowledge helped and still continues to help me be the parent my kids need. I still have days where I live on the brink of insanity, but I remind myself tomorrow will be better and it usually is. My daughter continues to make progress eveyday. No she's not your typical 10 year old but that's ok there is nothing typical about our family. Chicken nuggets and pizza are as common in our house as milk and bread. Yes I let my kids have candy and Powerade and plenty of other sugary foods that were not on my original list of foods. Yes popsicles are a common breakfast food for us. We watch the same you tube videos 600 times in row, we sing silly songs wherever and whenever. We line up our toys and sometimes won't leave the house without all 10 or 20 or how ever many the day requires. I've learned to choose my battles wisely.
In the end we all do what we have to do. I'm not the mom i wanted to be, but i thank God I'm not the mom i was once becoming. I'm the mom my kids need me to be. I will give in at times to avoid a fight or a meltdown, but will stand my ground if need be. The job of parent is to love and nurture their children, to do their best to raise them to be the most decent human being they can. Life throws a lot of curveballs. You can't always change the pitch but you can always try repositioningyourself for the hit.