Bad parents! No soup for you!

So the long-suffering Cabana Boy and myself conceived it would be a great idea to steal a date night for the two of us. What were we thinking?

We left the children with my daughter, who has five kids of her own, knowing they were in good hands, and headed to Erie–I know, not the fancy metropolis of fabulous entertainment, but we have pretty low standards. An hour, undisturbed by little voices at Barnes and Noble? Heaven. A meal at the Olive Garden, without constant nagging about table manners, courtesy of a friend who gave me a couple of gift cards? Nirvana. Telephone call from daughter indicating Captain Oblivious had broken his ankle?

Priceless?

Not exactly.

So we checked out at Target without buying the 32-inch LCD tv we were drooling over (probably a good thing, actually) and headed home. My daughter had said they thought it was sprained, till it swelled up and turned purple (ouch), so they called our mutual pediatrician. He said it was a three to five hour wait at the emergency room this evening, and they wouldn’t cast the thing till tomorrow anyway till it quit swelling, so not to bother going. So they kept up the ice on 20 minutes, off 20 minutes routine till he fell asleep shortly after we got home.

It doesn’t look nearly as bad as I’d pictured it–you know, it had been described as somewhat indigo-colored and size of a football. Not really. It’s a little puffy and maybe a bruise toward the heel. He won’t walk on it; but then C.O. is the kind of Aspie kid that when he makes up his mind about something, that’s what he does, no matter what the facts. We’ll probably take the run to the ER tomorrow, just to be sure, and keep our fingers crossed.

I can’t help but feel guilty, though. We haven’t had a night out like this in a couple months. Because all the extended family lives away, we don’t get weekends off or have family in town who routinely take the children. My daughter has her five, who range in age from 15 years to 8 months–I hardly ever ask her, she’s got her hands full! But it had just reached the point where it felt like there was a canyon between my husband and I, and we had to do something. So we rolled the dice, and got snake eyes. I’m sorry we weren’t here, son. I suppose we’ll think long and hard before leaving them again.

As Lionel Kauffman said: “Children are a great comfort in your old age – and they help you reach it faster, too.”

UPDATE:
After a three hour trip to the ER, turns out it’s “probably” a bad sprain but no one is sure, and if there IS a fracture, as the paperwork says, it’s on the growth plate. So we have to go see the orthopedist tomorrow. Sometime. And C.O. gets at least two days off school during my busy week. Bad BAD parents…. *sigh*

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This little light of mine

This week, I got an email from my mother-in-law, where my sister-in-law forwarded to HER this link. She thought it would be useful, apparently, because it was about Autism.

Now I appreciate the thought. But at this stage of the game, that article is pretty much useless to us. My son was diagnosed five years ago, my daughter, four. We’ve been through occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, hippotherapy, aquatherapy, TSS, BSC and autism support classes. We’re now looking at new therapies: music, art and mobile. We eat special mineral-packed vitamins daily and bathe in epsom salts regularly to detox. We make our own playdough with strong scent and textures to work on lingering sensory issues. We never go to the restroom in Panera; the acoustics echo. And the prime no-no of all time: self-flushing restrooms. Little Miss will hold it all day rather than drown in that overload of sound.

I’m far from being an expert on autism, of course, so I do look at articles people forward me, or books they recommend, and most times I manage to find something of use. I don’t know why it surprises me so much that people have no idea what we’re dealing with, even with the multitude of stories out there now on the issue. They’ve seen Rain Man, perhaps. (Not even close. Well, not close to the Rain Man behavior. This particular scene…maybe.) They’ve seen Amanda Baggs’ YouTube video. (Also not close, but still thought- provoking.) Lots of people think of us now whenever they run across something bearing the A-word, and by passing on what they find, they believe they help us. But they have no idea.

Our daily lives are steeped in nuance and prediction. Which child is riding in the car determines whether we can have the bass on in the stereo. Which child is in the kitchen determines whether food is being filched from the pantry. Which child has a substitute teacher predicts whether there will be a meltdown…or not. Which child we’re giving directions depends on how detailed they can be, at what level of language, and how many times we have to repeat them to get past the ADD. We have to know. Every minute, every day.

This particular sister-in-law is currently stated in our wills to be custodian of our children should anything happen to us. But she clearly has no idea what these children are like. She and my mother-in-law live in the same town in South Carolina. She has two sweet chubby-cheeked little girls who show no traces of the family’s genetic autism streak, who visit Memaw (the southern word for grandmother, apparently) every week and are the picture-perfect image of what grandchildren should be. If she ever gets our children, she’ll have to start from the beginning, and I think she could. But I wish she knew now. Just in case.

If people want to help in a meaningful way beyond sending the latest CNN headline, that would be great! Invite our kids over to play with yours so they can practice the social skills we drill into them. Have the kids for a weekend to give us respite from our constant hypervigilance, because we need to recharge, too. Learn about the therapies we’re using and come participate with the professionals. Offer to brainstorm with us for IEP meetings. Ask what we need and be willing to carry through. We’ll be grateful.

Albert Schweitzer said, “Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.” Parents need support, because raising children of any sort is a tough job. Raising these kids can be even harder because of the specialization of the spectrum. When you step up to help rekindle our flickering energy, find out whether you should bring a match, a lighter or a flame-thrower. It will make a world of difference.

Sweet child o’ mine

I’ve probably attended a dozen court hearings at which parents’ rights to their children were terminated. Some of these parents have been my clients. From an objective third-party point of view, the children may be better off. The children probably don’t think so; these are their parents, after all, for good or bad. Many abused kids still cling to the parent they know.

What amazes me, is something I’ve seen more in recent years: people whose personal agenda causes them to leave their children with someone else. Not even family.  Just…someone. A neighbor, a friend–the most recent was their child’s 16 year old babysitter’s mother.

What is so important that you just leave your toddler with this person you’ve never even met face to face? Eh. You need to find yourself and start over in a different state. You promise as soon as you get things together, you’ll be back. But you never come. Three years later, the family finally decides maybe they should adopt the child so that he won’t be ripped out of the existence he’s come to know when you do come back. So they have a court hearing to end your rights to the child–and you can’t even be bothered to call in.*

Very sad. Not as sad as the parent who left her child with a neighbor, who then absconded with the child across multiple state lines. Several years later, they found her. and also found that the girl had been subjected to physical and sexual abuse, since she didn’t really belong to that family. Even now that the child has been rescued, she can’t go home. She’s too damaged. All because at some point the parent felt too overwhelmed to care for the child, and found a sympathetic ear.

But how can you give your child away like a worn out pair of jeans?

I’m not talking about the heart-breaking choices some mothers make, to place their child for adoption, knowing they cannot provide for the child and unselfishly allowing the child to be matched with a family who has been screened and who will raise the child as their own. This is a special sort of love, well-reasoned and hopefully rewarded. I’m talking about something that is a bad decision from the get-go.

Even on days I am most desperate for eight hours of respite from issue-laden kids, it would never occur to me to leave the children with someone I didn’t know down to the last shoe size. We don’t go out much, because we have two adults, and two adults only, who are our regular sitters. They each have families, too, and we can’t always arrange time. But would I leave the children with the neighbors to go away for the weekend? No way in hell. First off, the neighbors would come hunt me down after they had my children for a couple of hours. But second…you just don’t.

Call me a rebel, but this is one trend I intend to ignore.

*details changed to protect parties