Picture the scene, a quiet playground full of parents enjoying the last 10 minutes of peace before they pick their delightful children up when an ear piercing scream breaks through it all. I wish I could say I was one of those parents who had had their peace and quiet shattered, but as always I’m the cause. I’m the parent that every set of eyes turns to look at in disgust as I enter the playground with a screaming monster (Moo) tucked under my arm, her arms and legs lashing out at me the whole time. As I hold my head up high, ignoring both the screaming and the glares from parents I make my way over to my friends, who full of concern ask if Moo is OK To hear her you would think she’d fallen over and broken a leg, when in actual fact the reason for the screaming was because I used the worst word in the world. That awful word that 3 year old children everywhere despise, I’d dared to use the word ‘NO’ and tell her that she wasn’t allowed to walk on a wall!
I know that it is perfectly normal for every child to push boundaries and have tantrums when they are told no, but for my children it being told they can’t do something that they want to can go deeper than that. Milly Moo, like many other people with autism have a need for control and order in their lives. In a world full of change and unpredictability, being able to control what goes on around her makes her feel calmer and settled, unfortunately life can’t always be that easy. As a parent it is my job to bring my children up to learn that they can’t get their own way all of the time, that they have to conform to rules and regulations whether it’s to keep them safe and healthy or just because they’re children and need to learn to follow some form of authority.
Trying to talk to her or distract her when she is like this is no good, as every word you say just makes her scream longer and louder. Experience has taught me that the best thing to do in this situation is let her scream it out until she starts to calm and let her barriers down, only then will she accept anybody talking to her. One parent was amazed at how calm I was and that the screaming wasn’t a) bothering me in the slightest – I can switch my ears off to it now, I’ve had that much practice and b) making me worried what other parents were thinking. This seems to be a common reaction in parents I know when their child is having a tantrum and it makes me sad. Not that they feel embarrassed but that they are MADE to feel that way by other people’s reactions. So what if a child is screaming, find me a child that has NEVER had a tantrum (and we all know that our little ‘angels’ have a habit of choosing the most public moment possible to have one) – believe me there isn’t one because if there was the parent of that child would be the richest person in the world. They would have written a best-selling toddler instruction manual which every parent would own a copy of (and probably a spare too – accidents happen)!
Anyway, after 20 minutes of screaming we were home and away from the judgemental playground parents (possibly the worst group of people a parent has to face) – until today when Poppy thought it was about time to join in on the public performance. I pick the girls up at 3 O’clock and they have a little play on the playground until Danny comes out at 3.15. Now I’m the first to admit that I’m quite strict and very neurotic so the girls are only allowed to play close to me (the thought of them being out of my sight makes me panicky and sick) so they have a rule that they are not allowed past the hopscotch. However Poppy was in a mood to break the rules (I have no idea who she has inherited this trait from, it’s not the type of thing I’d ever do *said with an angelic face*) and kept going past the hopscotch. I reminded her what the rule was twice and then gave her a final warning and told her that if she went past the hopscotch one more time she would have to stand and hold my hand. After hearing this she done nothing more than look at me (with the look of the devil I might add), laugh and go running past the hopscotch So sticking to the warning I had given her and following my threat through she was made to hold my hand.
This did not go down well… She screamed and cried and pinched and pulled, and once again I was subjected to the stares and the tuts and an occasional sympathetic smile. Just like with Milly, the screaming continued for the whole 15 minute waiting time and all the way out of the gates. The screaming was obviously not liked by some parents as I heard a muttered comment from an apparently ‘perfect’ mother behind me about how all the screaming was awful and that “some people shouldn’t be allowed to have children”. It is this type of comment that make me angry, who is she to judge my parenting skills? She doesn’t know me, she doesn’t know my children and she certainly doesn’t know my situation. I wonder if she would be as quick to judge my parenting skills if one of my children was in a wheelchair and screaming. Would she view the situation in the same way? Or would she just accept it as she could see the disability? People are very quick to judge what they see, but autism can’t be seen.
If it’s not parents like this then it is parents making snide comments when one of the kids is stimming. Stimming is a repetitive movement that stimulates one or more senses such as rocking, spinning, flapping their arms, jumping around, humming or repeating silly noises. It is very often mistaken as naughty behaviour or my inability as a parent to control my children. Once again the judgement is WRONG. My children need to stim in order to cope with situations they find stressful, it is a way for them find a release rather than have a build up of anxiety and pressure.
So no matter what I do with my children there will always be someone waiting in the wings to judge me. If I let them stim, then I’m a bad mother for not controlling them. If I let them have the power and control that they crave and need so desperately in their lives then I’m raising spoilt brats but if I dare to tell them off and punish them by making them hold my hand or leaving them cry rather than pander to their every whim then I’m not fit to have children.
Looks like I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t so I’ll carry on plodding along trying to do my best for my munchkins and hope they turn out happy.