Mornings typically go pretty smooth – and quick – in our home. Parker and I tend to glide through our morning routine together while Allison has her own routine that is a complete mystery to me but starts with me waking her up and ends with her gracefully walking up the stairs in record times, fully ready head to toe for a quick goodbye before taking off for school.
I’m pretty sure the latter, with Allison, is much more the “typical” morning routines of parents with teenagers but, as the mom of a 19 year old who requires assistance throughout his day – “typical” is something new that Allison is teaching me along the way.
For Parker and I, though, mornings are exactly the same every day: Parker wakes up, gets dressed, and turns on all of his inflatables, checks the sports scores on his iPad and his phone – just in case Rylee has text him then settles in to watch Power Rangers on his iPad with his headphones on so he doesn’t wake me (this took 18 years and I am ridiculously happy about it each morning – still!) and either waits until I wake up – or he has to go to the bathroom before yelling for me, whichever comes first. After I am awake, things move pretty fast and always in the same order:
1. Let Daisy outside to potty.
2. Feed the cats. Parker feeds them dry food and hands me the spoon and packet of wet food to be divided between the 3 cats as we tell the kitties “Good Morning”.
3. Let Daisy in and feed her.
4. Check the calendar and review the day.
5. Give Parker his meds.
6. Take my meds.
7. Fix Allison’s lunch (Parker and I split this job)
8. Deodorant and brushing teeth
9. Start Allison’s car and clean off any snow (say nothing about her being spoiled, this girl is my saving grace. If I can warm up her car and make her lunch – I will and not feel at all guilty about it. She has never asked me to and would happily do it on her own. This is what I choose to do.)
10. Birthdays (Facebook)
11. Pants (he gets dressed in shorts, pants are my requirement due to the fact that it is under 30 outside), socks, shoes.
12. Track Allison as she drives to school (some may call this stalking but we find it to be endless fun watching her icon move on the app that tracks her!)
13. Take Parker to school
All of this happens in about 20 minutes.
Now and then we hit bumps in our morning routine, Parker and I… we oversleep, we are out of cat food… but we tend to make up the time pretty quickly and move on with our day. So when this past Monday came with a meltdown, it threw us both for a loop.
There are a million reasons that could have been the reason for Monday’s before school meltdown.
· There were several tornadoes locally on Sunday which included our phones going off frequently with warnings, the sirens going off and our radio in the car being interrupted with updates (we were in the car during most of it and not close to the impacted areas). It was stressful.
· He decided he wanted to do laundry that morning and wash his Power Rangers shirt. He is in a rut of only wanting to wear either his Power Rangers shirt or his TMNT shirt and switching back and forth daily (or several times a day) at the moment. Despite having multiple of each, there is only one of each he will wear.
· His schedule for Tuesday had been changed. School was letting out early and his dad could not pick him up after school as he had to participate in the active shooter training at the school so I would be changing my Tuesday plans to pick up Parker at 11:30.
· We are still adjusting to the time change.
· It is holiday anxiety time. During the calendar check each morning, he goes over where he will be Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and other days we are celebrating and for how long each day, along with who will be at each gathering.
· He was low on Goldfish.
Who knows. The reality is we never will. We will never know if it was something that happened the day before or that might happen the day after that triggered the meltdown. We will never know if it was regret over washing the shirt and wanting to wear it now instead of the next day or if it was upcoming holidays or maybe a not so good night’s sleep. This is part of our life. When meltdowns happen, 90% of the time, it is a complete guessing game as to why.
When meltdowns were violent and frequent, every aspect of Parker’s day was documented. It was the only way we could truly attempt to figure it out – at home and school. Those days are part of our past now. Thankfully.
We are in a much better place. So this random meltdown, really threw me for a loop. I had plans that day to spend the day with my Grandma. Keeping to our schedule was crucial so I did not only keep Parker on track but also so I would not throw off my Grandma’s day. Parker knew I was spending the day with her as it was on the calendar.
Our morning had went beautifully, until Allison left. It was that moment when Parker announced he wasn’t going to school today. “I’m sorry.” followed by “I’m not doing it. I will go tomorrow.” He kept repeating “I’m scared.” and “I’m sorry.” My heart was breaking as I was trying to figure out why. Why would he say he was scared. I asked every question I wanted an answer to knowing he could not give me the answers. “Is someone hurting you at school?” “Is someone being mean to you?” “Did someone say something?” I hate that I do not know the answers to these questions, with every fiber of my being. It takes so much trust as a special needs parent to ever let your child out of your sight, but the reality is we have to. I can’t keep Parker by my side 24/7 – that is not good for either of us. And I won’t be here 24/7 to be by his side. I have to not only let him grow up but be sure he grows up and finds some independence so when the time comes that I am not here, he will be ok. I had to learn to trust others with him. To trust them that they will protect him while also teaching him independence. I have been picky with who works with him when that trust is taken from me. I won’t accept anyone who lies to me working with him, which is well documented.
As the minutes went by and I tried to re-direct him, it was clear he was holding his ground. It was now 8 am, the time I normally drop him off at school. Every minute from this point on was going to be cutting into the time I had before leaving for Grandma’s and there wasn’t much to work with.
At 8:05 I text his dad. Parker was done and getting incredibly agitated with me. My mind always goes back to the violent physical meltdowns that used to happen – sometimes multiple times a day – when he reaches this point. Even though it has been an incredibly long time since he has physically come at me, everything inside of me changes and prepares (braces) for it. I know it could happen and I know that as much as I don’t want him to feel my anxiety, this is the hardest time for me to keep my anxiety down. I am running late. He is running late. I don’t know if he is going to stay calm or lunge at me. In the past couple of years, when he lunges at me, he lunges with his fist tightened and arm raised, stopping just inches from me – holding back from physical contact. As soon as that happened, I knew I needed to step away. My anxiety was not helping either of us. When you read articles about PTSD and special needs parents, it is no joke. It took me years to admit it but I see it clearly now in myself and in others.
By 8:10, with Parker’s upset repetitive speech turning to “I don’t want to be tardy.” “I don’t want to be late” with the reminder of “I’m not going today” running high, I agreed to have his dad come. Trying to reason with Parker at this point only would make it worse. I know because I tried. I tried knowing it would not help but because in that one part of my mind, I can’t help but try still. I tried to change the topic while we waited for his dad. I didn’t have a choice, I needed to be leaving soon and sometimes that change in person makes all of the difference. His dad and I both know this. Sometimes the best thing we can do is call the other – or someone else – in while we step away. I let his teacher know what our situation was and discussed with her how she could help.
When Scott arrived, I walked away. The last thing we want is for Parker to feel ganged up on, I would not have been helpful, especially with my anxiety running high. It was time for me to step away and let his dad do his thing. He did and moments later, with an agreement to go back to his dad’s house, they left.
A short time later, after being at his dad’s house, he went to school. The rest of his day went beautifully. I love happy endings!
But, it wasn’t completely over. I wish our lives were that simple! The reality was, Parker had started a new routine. That quickly, without planning, he started a new morning routine and I knew it. It wouldn’t be the morning routine for his dad that he does once a week, it would be for my house because that is where this happened. Since this was his night at his dad’s, I had a full day to figure out what our new morning routine would be. My options were, do something new to create a new routine that I had control over or wait this out and see how far he was going to push his new morning routine. It sucks that it takes just ONE off day to change everything but I have lived this life long enough to know that is all it takes and that I was not having it.
My new plan was pretty simple and one I had already been discussing with Allison since she got her drivers license and car. Allison would take her brother to school with her. We had planned on doing this after the first of the year so we knew she was comfortable driving to and from school before adding in her brother. We were simply going to move that date up. The trick was, what would I tell Parker? Why would I not be able to drive him? This is where fate jumped in. In a rare occurrence, I had let the gas in my car get low enough that the “needs gas” light had come on the night before as I was taking Parker to basketball practice.
That was it. I could not take Parker to school because I did not have enough gas in my car! (Despite the fact that I filled the car up with gas after I dropped him off at practice 😉 ) While part of me was a bit surprised that he was good with this reason, part of me also knows how much he misses his friends driving him to school each day and that sense of “normalcy” that came with it. Getting to go with his sister was big! I mean, really, if you had the choice of your mom or sister taking you to school, you would likely choose your sister too, no matter how awesome your mom is.
So, that brings us to today. We did our routine, every step as we always have until it was time for Allison to leave. At that time, Parker jumped up, grabbed his backpack and together they left. I even snuck in a picture of my smiling boy before they left.
|Look at that smile!!|
And, to keep with our routine, after they left, I tracked them – on my own – to be sure they arrived safely.
|In the parking lot!|
|In the school!|
Ahhhh… our lives may be the furthest thing from “typical” but I would like to believe they have taught us so much more along the way.
New routine set, with a smile. Potential new routine from hell, gone before it even had a chance to start. This is, in our lives, success.