I Hate Going to the Grocery Store – A Typical Day is Atypical

The idea of running into the grocery store for a few items or even stopping to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks makes my anxiety skyrocket.  That is, of course, when I have to do it with my two boys.  You would think, that at 5 and 8, this would be no problem. But when you throw in some psychiatric and developmental diagnoses, the picture changes.  Nothing is easy when it comes to ADHD, ODD, & Aspergers.

Ok, so picture me.  I HAVE to get milk.  My husband won’t be home for a few hours.  When he does come home, I have to run off to work.  The boys and I are in the car.  Let me just say that being in the car with both boys is hard enough, even when I don’t have to go anywhere in particular.  They fight. One of them starts with repetitive behaviors (usually noises or banging to a rhythm).  The other gets annoyed.  Usually crying, tantruming starts.  Would you feel like running into a store with this going on?  This could all take place within a 5 minute drive.

As we pull into the store parking lot, I go over the rules.  They both nod, agree, and can even recite them before I do.  This actually never seems to matter.  All hell breaks loose as soon as we step through the door.  As we head down the aisles, I am like a marine on a mission – ‘just get the items,’ I think to myself.  My facial expression is serious, tense.  The kids usually start by running.  I do my best to curtail it.  One of them may continue running… or flailing… or throwing himself onto the floor… or talk to someone inappropriately… or grab something he shouldn’t…  It could be anything.  I want to get the hell out of the store.  I grab the milk, the bread.  I may be sweating.  The checkout line is the WORST.  Both kids can’t stand still.  Ritalin may have worn off.  One child may start running out the door.  Great.  What do I do now?  I hope no one I know sees me.  You could see why I can’t be friends with the perfect people.  I can’t even manage the grocery store. 

What I am not describing is how I actually DO use all of the parenting and behavioral strategies to endure this experience.  The thousands upon thousands of dollars invested in therapy has seemed to pay off.  The hours sitting in the child psychologist and child psychiatrists offices.  I realize that for the sake of my boys I have to keep taking them to the grocery store, to Starbucks.  We need to work on how to behave in public, how to navigate the social world.  What I’ve described here is actually an improvement, even over how it was a year ago.  There is no way out – I have to keep going to the store… and wait for the smallest incremental changes to happen.   I need to do it for my boys.  I need to keep up the fight.

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My Area – Does Anyone Get it?

I hate where I live.  I can’t relate to the other moms.  There are two camps – the “perfect people” and the “special ed people” (who act like perfect people). 

First I will describe the perfect people.  The perfect people are first and foremost concerned about one thing:  their image.  These people have money, drive fancy cars, have “perfect” marriages, and above all — have perfect children.  To them, their children reflect them.  This is why such importance is placed on buying young kids the most expensive clothes, getting them the newest cell phone, having private tutoring, private sports coaching, private college advising.  They brag about their child’s grades, friends, sports, belongings, accomplishments, achievements, acceptance letters, honors.  Is life really so shallow?

I thought I might ‘fit’ better with the special ed parents.  For sure, they have kids like mine.  I went to various mom meetings at school, chatted with moms at pickup time, tried to connect with parents at birthday parties.  What struck me was — these people are the same as the perfect people.  They bragged about their child’s progress, their child’s achievements, their second homes, their home renovations, their perfect lives?!?!  I was confused by this.  How come no one spoke about the challenges, the difficulties, the setbacks, the roadblocks, the frustration, the sadness, the fear, the heartbreak?  Did no one else feel it?  Everyone was so content?  Really?

I would move if I could, but my town happens to have excellent special ed services within the schools.  This overrides my own dissatisfaction.  I want my kids to have the best shot at life.  Yeah, I’m angry that no one seems to be keeping it real.  I guess that’s why I have this blog.

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Summer Plans? Impossible?

As a mom who works full-time (although I do have a flexible schedule), I dread summer. I actually love summer (the season), but it is almost impossible to arrange childcare having an elementary school kid with Aspergers/ADHD and a kindergartener with ADHD/ODD.

“Normal” parents have their pick of camps – sleepaway camps, day camps, sports camps, nature camps, town rec camps. “Normal” parents can easily hire a babysitter. “Normal” camps and “Normal” babysitters are not an option for me.

This year, I did sign up my older son, John, for a regular camp. It’s actually an artsy/quirky camp. I obsess about things like:

Should I tell the camp about his disabilities beforehand? (on the application I WAS truthful)
Are they going to call after the first day or the first week to tell me he is being kicked out, that they are not the right “fit?”
Will he be a problem on the bus?
Will he be too wild at the camp?
Will he talk about random inappropriate things?
Will kids tease him?
Will I get a phone call while I’m at work telling me that I have to come pick him up?
The list goes on…

For my younger son (ADHD/ODD), despite googling, calling around, etc. I could not find a camp or program that would accept him. Get this… the camps specifically for kids with ADHD wouldn’t accept him. Why? Because he has had a history of behavioral problems. Ok, so help me better understand something… Don’t many kids with ADHD have a history of behavioral problems? And if your ADHD child DOESN’T have a history of behavioral problems, wouldn’t he be able to go to a “normal” camp?

I get it… the camps have to protect themselves. They do need to be the “right” fit. If I were a “normal” parent, would I want my kid to go to a camp where kids have major behavioral problems? No. I’m just angry that my life sucks in this way. For the record, we were able to hire a special ed teacher to watch my younger son all summer.

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Angry Autism Mom – Introduction

I have a son (elementary school age) with Aspergers and I’m angry.  I don’t see it as a “gift.”  I will never “accept” it.  I’m keeping it real about Autism.  On this blog, you will hear my unedited, real feelings. 

In my real life, I am a professional.  I live in a well-to-do area.  I put on my workclothes, go to my job, help with homework, bake cookies.  I smile.  I act cordial.  I’m pretending all the time.

No one knows (unless you are in this boat) what it is like to be a parent of a child with special needs.  Before I had kids, I never thought my kids would have a problem.  My husband and I are college educated.  We waited to have children until we were financially and emotionally ready.  I was not over age 35 (am now).  I took folic acid.  I didn’t drink or eat lunch meat during my pregnancy.  I breastfed for over one year (each child).   And now BOTH of my children ride the Special Ed bus (the fucking short bus).

My Older Son (Aspergers/ADHD):  I’ll call him John.  John has had problems since my pregnancy.  There were issues with his kidneys, heart, and brain.  I cried every day during my pregnancy – worrying whether he be born alive, whether he would need neurosurgery, whether he would be “normal.”  When he was born, all the doctors said he was fine.  His apgar scores were 10/10.  I mostly felt reassured… like I could breathe. 

My Younger Son (ADHD/ODD):  I’ll call him Alex.  Alex is going into Kindergarten (special ed classroom).  Alex has been a spitfire since birth.  As an infant, he was social, funny, made great eye contact.  BUT – he never slept, was very difficult to soothe, and cried all the time.  At age 1.5, he started headbanging.  I was in denial.  I thought, “I can’t have two sons with problems —  Alex has to be fine.”  The pediatrician said not to worry.  He didn’t talk until he was almost three.  He got kicked out of preschool – he couldn’t obey any rules. 

Ok, so you may be thinking that we: are bad parents, are overindulgent, don’t know how to set limits, have marital problems, didn’t get help early enough, are in denial, etc.  You couldn’t be more wrong.  I could list all the therapies we have tried, all the money we have spent, all the books we have read.  Maybe in a later blog I will.  

If you are a parent who IS in my shoes and you are offended in any way, don’t read this.  I COMMEND you if you don’t see things as I do.  If you have accepted your child’s disabilities, more power to you.

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