Door slams. Three seconds pass. Okay, I’m like, I guess he just shut the door really hard. Sometimes he does that. He doesn’t always get his pressures right. Door slams again. Two seconds pass. Door slams. One second passes. Door slams again and again. Each time louder and faster.
Okay, now I’m like what the heck is going on? Josh and I look at each other with our clueless look we always give one another when we don’t know what is wrong with him. I get up fast and furious. I take a deep breath and walk to his room quietly. I open the door cautiously and say, “Why are you slamming your door?” in my nice mommy voice.
What I really want to ask is “What the heck is wrong with you, and why do you keep slamming your door?” But I can’t say that. I must keep my cool and work around my words. I don’t want to upset him even more. I don’t want to be attacked with kicks and punches. I don’t want him going into what seems like convulsions on the floor screaming at the top of his lungs crying horrifically. This is thin glass I’m walking on. So, I open the door nicely and gently and watch my every word and his every movement. I’m on high alert making sure nothing comes flying across the room with full force in my direction. Anything I say right now could set this ticking time bomb off.
“Why are you slamming your door?” I ask.
“I’m mad!” he says.
My first reaction is oh my God you just told me what’s wrong and expressed yourself! My second reaction is I’m mad too! Why’s he mad? Why am I mad? I know why I’m mad. I’m mad because I have to deal with autism 24/7. I’m mad because my husband has been home since 4:00 p.m. and it’s 8:45 p.m. and I haven’t even had a decent conversation with him because you have required his attention since he came home.
I’m mad because we have had to hold you down three times since you got off the bus, so you won’t hurt us from kicking, scratching, and biting. I’m mad because your brother wanted to go outside on this nice sunny day, but you had a meltdown when we mentioned outside. We had to separate in pairs like usual. Jayden with daddy. Tate with mommy. I’m mad because 60 seconds ago we were all trying to play and have family time and then that got all jacked up when you left without warning and started slamming your door.
But this isn’t about me, right? This is about Jayden. This is about our five-year-old little boy with autism that’s mad.
“Can you tell mommy why you are mad so I can help you?” I say as I cautiously sit on the edge of his bed beside him with a good two feet distance between us.
“No!” he screams with a two-shuffle kidney kick to my lower back.
“Okay. Mommy can’t help you feel better if you don’t tell me why you are mad.”
“Zade likes One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” he says looking down, rubbing his thumb to his middle finger repeatedly without any snapping sound. That’s how he stims right now. He sometimes does it so much he rubs blisters on his little fingers.
“What’s wrong with that?” I question, lightly touching his leg.
“Get off me!” he says very agitated by my touch.
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I just forgot and touched him. I just went into typical child-mommy mode and forgot for a second he has autism. I was overwhelmed with the fact that he expressed how he felt and used his words. I moved my hand away quickly.
I want to touch him. I want to hold and squeeze him so tight, but I can’t. I think how rigid he is now. I think how I just want to show him my love. My face drops a little and I think how heartbroken I am with this thing called autism. I think how I want a meaningful relationship with Jayden.
I think how jealous I am of my husband’s bond with Jayden and how he can calm the storm. How he avoids the blows. How I’m always the target. Thoughts start racing and I feel so pressed for approval from Jayden. I must make it right for him. I have to make him un-mad and prevent a meltdown, but I feel so useless. I’m mad because autism.
“I like it too,” he says emotionless to the hurt on my face.
We are on a roll now—he even told me why he was mad, and I understood every word that came out of his mouth! Weekly speech sessions are helping! I go into this short spill about how it’s okay for more than one person to like the same thing. I even do a social story as an example. I’m so happy because I think I helped him. He jumps down from his bed with heavy feet and leaves the room with what sounds to me like forceful stomps and goes to daddy and says, “I’m mad!” very loudly.
I sit on the edge of his bed motionless, weightless, sore, and exhausted from another day of autism. I think about the moment of joy I just captured. I think how Jayden is improving with his social skills. I think how my toddler Tate was just forgotten about again while I tended to Jayden. I think about how Jayden must feel about fighting his battle every day. I think how heavy my husband must feel with the weight on his shoulders to take care of Jayden’s every need. I think, and I think, and I’m mad all over again.
This article was featured in Issue 93 – ASD Advice for Today and Tomorrow