My daughter had a colossal meltdown last night and I handled it badly.
My patience gave way after 40 minutes of defiance and my tone went from neutral to impatient, agitated and finally, about three-quarters of the way through, to angry.
There, I said it; I yelled at my autistic daughter.
I am a lousy mother, right? Who yells at their special needs kid?
Apparently, I do.
It’s been a difficult time for my daughter. New school year, new bus, new classroom, away from a lot of her friends. On top of that, being in the 5th grade means that she is with the older kids in school, a little more independence is expected, and the pecking order is different. My daughter has gone from the top of the totem pole to the bottom. She also has a new one-on-one aide this year and a new au pair at home.
It’s a lot of newness and although her routine is the same as before, it’s a lot to deal with.
My child is capable of a lot but when too much change is fired at her at once, her world feels out of control. Defiance and meltdowns are both her way to deal with so much chaos and sensory overload and her way to exercise some control over a world which is confusing.
I think my daughter must feel like she is standing in a batting cage and all these changes are being fired at her one after the other. Every 30 seconds that mechanical arm is pitching at her at warp speed. She’s standing at home plate, not quite able to figure out how to swing the bat and hit the ball, just trying to avoid being clobbered.
Things must be really bad if I am dragging out the sports metaphors.
They are, but I also know that I am not a perfect mother, that I am dealing with a lot, and that just like my daughter, I have good days and bad days. Luckily, just like her, I have learned how to have more good days than bad days. I understand that if I use perfection as my measuring stick, I will always feel like a failure and that children, even special needs children, mirror what they see.
I don’t want my daughter to set perfection as her goal, because perfection is unattainable. I want her to learn how to forgive herself for making mistakes and not drag every little imperfection around her like a cape weighing her down. I want her to acknowledge her failures and to learn from them and to keep doing better, step by step.
So, when I have a bad day or a #mommyfail moment, I look at it as just that, and not an indictment of me or my parenting. Because the truth of the matter is, despite all the happy posts and perfect pictures on Facebook, none of us get it right 100 percent of the time.
Carrying those mistakes around with you, beating yourself up for every mistake you make, doesn’t help anything, and it doesn’t do my child or me any good at all. The best thing as a mom that I can do is forgive myself for the mistakes I make, learn something, and move on. So, I acknowledge my mistakes and move on. I tell my daughter that I am sorry that I chose to yell at her and I am sorry my yelling made her cry. I tell her that just like her, I make mistakes too. And my daughter turns to me, strokes my arm and says, “I know you love me even when you’re angry at me.”
So, yes, I am a mother who at times yells at her autistic daughter, who doesn’t always choose the right tactic for dealing with what’s going on in her life.
I am a mother who gets it wrong some of the time. I acknowledge my imperfections but don’t let them define me. I am a mother that strives to be better, that tries to have the good days outnumber the bad ones, who wins at it most of the time.
That’s not so bad.