Lately, I have been reflecting on how much time our family has spent at home over the past two years. It has become such a routine that we hadn’t noticed how much time actually went by when we avoided going out.
Avoided placed where we would have to chase Ally or leave abruptly because of her behavior.
There was a time when we were always going to do things, before our daughter was born. That time feels like a long time ago, and maybe it was.
Sometimes parenting a child with additional needs feels like living in an underground bunker.
Not to get away from a natural disaster.
But to o hide from the world and their judgement.
And while the world moves on above us, we find ourselves stuck down here by choice.
It makes things easier. On us. On everyone else.
In our safe space.
But as you can imagine, the air gets stale and we want to come up for a breath of fresh air.
Whenever we find a step out of this autism bunker, we get pulled back down by something.
Ally started Extended School Year yesterday. In order to convince her to go, we told her it was a super-secret special Kindergarten class that only she and a few select other children received tickets to.
Yes, I had to lie and make it sound like an exclusive event because she doesn’t understand why she needs to be there. To make her feel in control.
Right now, in whatever phase we are in, she will consume or do anything associated with the words “super-secret.”
She loves daddy’s super-secret cookies.
Mommy’s super-secret lotion (and make-up).
Super-secret summer Kindergarten.
Maybe I forgot to label her summer babysitter a super-secret somebody. Not that it would entirely matter because no matter who her babysitter is, she eventually gets comfortable enough to treat them the way she treats me.
She calls them names.
Throws things, spits, and screams at them.
Her newest behavior is she locks herself in her bedroom or runs away after exiting the school bus.
The only thing my poor child doesn’t understand is that no everybody is going to provide her with the super-unconditional love that I do.
Not everyone else can shut off their emotional reactions to her words.
Or her aggressions.
Or her personality.
Yesterday after school, I used FaceTime from my desk and walked her through finding a snack.
Walked her through using nice words to her babysitter and friends at school.
Explained to her that locking herself in her room is not safe.
That she needs to be safe because I love her so much.
Daddy loves her. Grandparents love her. Everyone loves her so much.
I even tried bribing her with screen time for good behavior with the rest of the day.
But sometimes, despite every effort we make including the best of bribes, she can’t pull herself together.
And on those days, we need to go back inside our bunker until the storm passes and accept that we will need this safe space until sometime in the unforeseeable future. But we can dream about the sunny days and hope there comes a time when we won’t need to be here forever.