I am the mom. I deal with (most of) the household chores, I have the sweet moments as well as the frustrating moments of motherhood. My house is battle scarred and worn. My spirit sometimes feels that way as well. As I sit here and type my son is listening to classical music and calming down only slightly from an hour long hissy fit that has involved using the "eat" sign" (he has food in front of him and he's threatened to throw it several times), banging on every surface within reach, wanting to hit or bite (clothing mostly, but his hand as well, and he looks at me as if I were a steak dinner. Precisely why I'm on the other end of the room, trying to remain calm and not escalate the battle; ignoring his tirade yet watching to see that he does not break anything nor harm himself).
I called my husband at work. I'm in this one alone, as he has to work. At the moment the battle has worn down to his shrieking now and again, trying to gain my attention. Resolutely I focus my eyes on the computer screen. His rants are fueled by frustration, anger and attention (the first two on both sides) so I've learned to simply monitor.
This storm has been brewing for a few days I fear. He's been mostly good but there have been signs. Signs I chose to ignore because he seemed to be doing so well. Yet the knowledge was there in the back of my mind, knowing a meltdown could occur. I try to keep his schedule as normal and predictable as possible, but life is never truly predictable. A meal is sometimes late, someone forgets to mention a doctor appointment, someone is wearing a fragrance that he doesn't like, or he hears a song that irritates him (J, the lover of music, is a critic. There aren't many genres, musicians, or songs that he detests, but protest he will when one happens along).
So, frustrated as I get when these things happen, why do I stay? Others have walked away, seemingly without a qualm, because they could not handle it. I'm not judging them, merely observing. I stay because, angry as I get, I love my husband and son. I also know what Jesus did for me. He suffered so much more than I could even begin to imagine. For my sake he did this. I know I've caused the Father much frustration in watching me make mistakes, yet he continues to be there, continues to love me. I stay because the joy my son gives me far outweighs the heartache and frustration. I may not like being on the frontlines alone day after day, but it happens. And I plan to take some R & R soon. It needs to happen so that I can continue to do what I do.
Battle Fatigue is real, and it happens in families with special needs (whatever they may be) just as it does with soldiers. Both need love and support, or things begin to fall apart. Speaking as the parent of a child with autism and a seizure disorder, friendships are vital. Understanding is needed. So what can you do? Be the support that can't always work online.
- Ask questions if you don't understand. Read. Don't assume the worst of a child who is loud or does something to startle you. Not all kids just need discipline to handle the situation.
- Offer to take the friend out for coffee or ice cream or just to talk. Better yet, offer to take the child for a half our or an hour or two, so the parents can clean or relax a bit.
- Putting a child in a home or a school away from the parents is not always the answer. Sometimes it is best for the child (as well as the parents) but I wonder if sometimes families go that route because of lack of support.
- Pray. Pray for the family, with the family.
- Just plain listen. If you can't help any other way, send a note, make a phone call, or be available to answer the phone.