Damned if I do and damned if I don’t…

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.

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17 thoughts on “Damned if I do and damned if I don’t…

    • I very rarely bite my tongue but didn’t think it was the time or place (school gates with all the kids with me) to get into an argument with somebody so ignorant. PLUS i had a 4 year old pinching me 😀

  1. hello, i feel your you. im in the same situation. usually it happens in a mall out of the blue. the stimming is tough to deal with when you here comments coming from the peanut gallery. I try to block it out the best i can. ya its not the easiet thing to do. i find when i let her go through it i usually pick the spot where i get her to do breathing exercises. amazing how that calms everything down so quickly. the main thing is as long as you have confidence in your ways of parenting it dont matter what anyone else says or thinks.

    • Thank you, it’s always nice to hear from people in the same boat 🙂

      I’ve never thought of trying breathing exercises, will have a little read up about them and give them a go x

  2. the breathing exercises i just thought of by accident. was having a really tough time with meltdown and just on a hunch thought i’d try it. now i have to say its not fool proof but 8 times out of 10 it seems to work for me.

  3. inspiring post as always kathryn, I am really enjoying learning more about autism (or at least some of the highs and lows of it) from your funny and real-life attitude to it all. you know my thoughts already on how well I think you cope but just in case, here they are again… you’re brilliant and those kids are lucky you are there to keep them safe and loved (even if they would rather be walking along walls or running past the hopscotch!) xxx

  4. My daughter is now well over 21 and has calmed down a bit but when she has a tantrum she HAS a tantrum – long, loud, unstoppable , kicking, angry tearing her tops no matter they are her favorite ones, tearing at my clothes if she can, but they tantrums are predictable if you have enough calm (from the siblings needs, lunch making etc) to observe her eyes and faial expression. You know your child’s every move and mood that you can tell from her jaw line, her expression that a tantrum may be brewing.

    What used to work instead of the hated “NO” , was talking around the No , using a different expression for it , such as,
    “This cannot be done”, “This is not good to do”
    A magic word frot some situations seemed to develop out of the circumscriptions , “LATER …. “, “perhaps we can do this later”, “we cannot do this now , but perhaps later … “.
    Perhaps try it. But with my daughter also, everything we say MUST be positive , not negative. In addition,
    I cannot just talk to my husband or teacher in her presence about things she does not understand and leaver her standing with us but EXCLUDED from the conversation. I now introduce her to friends , speak in simpler words , including her by saying , “S…, don’t you think so? ” , We slow down the rapid word exchange and speak less fast. I look at her AND my friend when I talk . I noticed many years ago as soon as S…. could understand many things that she hated not to be included and not to be greeted when we met someone…..
    It is really what we would normally do with other people. S…. wanted to have social inclusion from an early age on ( or whenever it dawned on me!)…
    I am just offering some of my experiences…. everyone is different … but perhaps some of this helps us figure out new ways of dealing with a situation and brings new techniques….

    • Thank you for your response, I really appreciate suggestions from other parents who have experience.

      I think we will try other words instead of no as looking back at things ‘no’ seems to trigger a horrendous response. Later works with the 2 eldest to a certain extent but not with the youngest as she can’t comprehend time and it seems to have the same response as no :s – children, who’d have them hey?! 🙂 x

    • Haha I love that post and have been in that kind of situation a few times myself. Im not normally a diplomatic person at all, just having a good day luckily for the other parent – or I’m getting old, I think we’ll go for good day!!! 🙂 x

  5. First, let me say that I found you via a comment you left on Lost & Tired… I am your newest follower!!!

    Second, I’da slapped that B****, so you have MUCH more self control than I would have!!! As a parent to a child with special needs (and a teenager…. if that isn’t a disability, I dont’ know what is!!! lol) I understand all to well the tantrums and dirty looks… My son has a social/emotional and behavioral issus, so dealing with tantrums is all too common in our house. So much so, that we’ve gotten noise complaints at 4 in the afternoon. (mostly from him crashing his cars, but I digress) It’s bad, I know, but parents like that SHOULD NOT have children… if they don’t know how to be understanding of another parents issues, HOW can they teach their child compassion and understanding? impossible!!!

    • Thank you for coming to follow me, hope you’ll enjoy being here as much as I do!

      I don’t normally have that much self control if I’m honest, I have a very sharp tongue and regularly use it, she was lucky she caught me on a very good day!!!

      noise complaints at 4 in the afternoon, some people are pathetic!!! Although since I’ve lived in this house both sets have neighbours have sold up and moved on so I am beginning to wonder if they’re trying to politely tell me something…hmmm another idea for a blog post 😀 At least you know that even if you’re son is a little bit loud (aren’t we all sometimes) that he will be compassionate and understanding rather than ignorant and judgemental x

  6. If they annoy you too much and it is the same parents over and over, then I would fix up a little card that explains a little bit about autism and hand it to them. You could also have on the card some things you are working on to help your child. So many people don’t have any idea what you are dealing with and immediately think your child is just a spoiled brat. Needless to say, that isn’t the case. It is fear of the unknown. It might even be a conversation starter for you. People don’t know so they say things before they realize you might be dealing with a completely different situation.
    As for the playground, I like your rules, but I would take a visual card along to remind her. If she continues to do it her way, then you need to have visual consequences.
    I used to use a card that had red and green choices on it. There is actually a website now that explains a little about how you use it. http://www.redandgreenchoices.com. I tweaked it for my own situation. I made a card for different situations. Ex. a park card, a lunchroom card, a playground card, etc. For older more advanced children, I used one card just for behavior. They had five green circles and at the end a reward (choice they had picked). Underneath were five red choices and a the reward at the end with a no symbol on it. I started out by rewarding real fast and built up their motivation for it, then started really implementing the red in with it. Hope this makes sense. I had real good luck with it. You have to mold it to your child.

  7. Still working on ignoring others. Worse comment I’ve received was being shouted at from a 2nd floor window that I should learn to control the kid I had before having another (I was 8 months pregnant). How I managed to carry my mid meltdown tall heavy 2 year old I’ll never know but I did because no matter how much it hurt me, I didn’t want my son hearing that.

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