I’ve spent the last week talking to my husband, my best friend, and my mom about how I am failing my son.
“I’m losing it. I just keep messing up and I don’t even know how. Whatever I do is wrong, and it sets them off and it never stops.”
See, our world revolves around several basic routines because of A-Man’s autism. Most of the time that is just fine, but occasionally there are routines that he can’t explain. Those unspoken routines get messed up a lot. Usually by me.
This week I gave him the wrong colored bowl one morning at breakfast, even though he eats from multiple bowls on a regular basis. Somehow on that day he did not want that bowl. Meltdown.
Another day I re-filled his bowl and Baby M’s at the same time and couldn’t remember which bowl belonged to which kid. So I asked A-Man. Wrong choice. Asking him to pick a color isn’t part of the routine. Meltdown.
And another day I put milk in his cereal, which he likes, but again that day he apparently didn’t like milk. So I got him a new bowl of cereal without milk, looking to fix the routine and avoid the meltdown that I could feel building. Wrong again, apparently, because he wanted the old bowl (that was currently sitting in the sink waiting to be washed) to immediately be washed, dried, and filled with cereal but no milk.
We didn’t have time for that. I didn’t have time for that. And of course, meltdown.
He wanted milk, but he didn’t want milk. He wanted the old bowl, but he also wanted the new bowl. He was so overwhelmed. He couldn’t process that many changes so absolutely nothing became an acceptable solution.
I was failing my son and his routines that he couldn’t explain to me.
Failing My Son and the Routines He Can’t Explain
We Live Our Life By Routines
In this house, we live our life dictated by routines and rituals. Mondays we go to Nima’s house, then therapy, then Daddy B’s house. After lunch we have a rest time.
It isn’t as simple as rest time, though. After lunch A-Man must give hugs and kisses to every family member who is home and awake, then he goes in his room and waits for Baby M.
When Baby M is done with lunch and ready for rest time, they both go in their room and must have a cracker or a cookie. Then they “rest” which really means play in their room with the door closed so I
don’t go crazy can get work done.
We have routines for everything
- Leaving the house
- Getting home
- Getting dressed
- Putting on jammies
- Getting into the car
- Getting out of the car
- Going to the store
- Waking up
- Literally every process that our family does each day
Sometimes That Works Beautifully
I happen to be a big fan of routines. I get the same meal from whatever restaurant I go to, I get the same drink from every coffee stand, I take the same way to get home regardless of traffic.
I understand A-Man’s need for routines and rituals more than most people. So I do everything I can to make sure they happen, and I don’t like to mess up his routines.
When everything is going according to plan, things work beautifully.
We run into snags here and there like if we’re ready twenty minutes early, but we already put shoes on so we have to immediately leave. But I just take extra time getting wherever we’re going. It’s manageable when I know the routine, too.
But Sometimes I Don’t Even Know the Routine Exists
This is where we run into serious trouble. If I leave out a step of a routine that I didn’t know existed, we can pretty much call off the rest of the day and know that nothing else is getting done.
We face an extreme meltdown that can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 2-3 hours. Once I realize my grave mistake that I couldn’t possibly have known in advance, there is no going back to fix it. I’ve already messed up the routine and anything we do after that point is off-script.
The very worst part is that he screams for help. He begs me to make his world right again, and I can’t. No matter what I try I make it worse. All I can do is love him through it and continue to be his safe place. It’s hard, mamas. Really, freaking, hard.
The Days I Feel Like I’m Failing
While I’d love to say that every time I mess up a routine I didn’t know existed and A-Man has a meltdown I stay calm and help him through his meltdown patiently, there are plenty of days I just lose it.
It is hard to get screamed at for something that isn’t your fault every day for a month. It’s hard to get hit and kicked for something you didn’t even know you did wrong. It’s hard when all of the kids feed off of each other and soon three out of the four are screaming while you have a migraine.
Sometimes you’re going to snap. I’m not saying that’s good or that it should happen, but it’s reality. I want you to know that you are not a terrible mother because you had a terrible day. I am reminding myself of that still every day.
Call your best friend and cry on the phone, tell your husband that you need him to watch the kids while you go to Starbucks, get your parents to watch the kids so you can eat a meal without anyone screaming at you or pulling on you or interrupting your conversation. Take some time to rest and recharge, because all too soon you’ll be messing up another routine that you didn’t even know existed.
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Failing My Son and the Routines He Can’t Explain | This Outnumbered Mama
Everyday Accommodations & Strategies for Kids with Hyperlexia | And Next Comes L
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