For whatever reason, the blog seems to help folks, those living with autism and those without. It also helps me, honestly. I process things and work through them best by writing. So, it serves kind of like a journal for me. I will still continue to remind you INCESSANTLY that I don't know the "right" answers (that is, in fact, a term that I refuse to believe exists). There's a little more to this resolution, but I'll get back to at in a minute.
I've made some strides here, and I'm feeling on a bit steadier ground. There are two main components to this.
First, I'm saying no a good bit more, not answering every call for lending a hand with PTA, school, Girl Scout projects, or every wonderful project or cause that comes down the pike. I do a lot in all of those areas as it is. I don't say that in a brag-y way but in an "I'm doing as much as I am capable here, I am helping, and someone else can have a turn." I know that if I always say yes, then I might be taking someone else's chance to say yes. This is laughable, those of you who volunteer know, because I don't think loads of folks are out there waiting around and dying to help but not having the chance. But, just because there's a need in these areas doesn't mean that I have to fill it. Not that I don't and won't help, but I will only help when/as much as it works for my family and my sanity.
If something comes on board, something has to go. So, for example, I am joining a women's group at my church in the spring. I want to. I need to. That's going to take up some of my time. I have to trade the time for this group with time that I'm already spending else where. Kind of like a budget cut, I suppose.
Here's the deal, friends. This is my time. I have the same amount of it as you or anyone else. I get to decide how I want to spend it. Those decisions are, of course, directed or filtered through my family and my faith, but they are decisions.
I think this concept alludes lots of folks. As in, "Well, I have to work, so I don't have time to do that." Or, as in, "Well, I already help with X, so I can't help with Y." Please be clear. These are choices. No one gets to tell you how to make them or judge you for why you make them. They are yours to make. But, they are choices, even when they feel like they aren't. Lord help me, I think my Dad was right...eek!...
Collaterally, I am no longer willing to fill the gap for others in my life who are capable of doing their share. 4Daddy, my children, other parents in my children's classes and activities. Now, this doesn't mean that I'm holier than thou and trying to set other's priorities for them or make their decisions. I am, however, being clear that where a group of folks shares a common goal or activity, then the work can and should be equitably distributed amongst them.
With regard to the other grownups in my life, I have realized that I chose to stay home and not earn a wage (even though we desperately need that wage to keep our head above the water with law school loans, get me more than two pairs of pants that fit, have more or better medical benefits, and afford all of the activities that our kids want to do), but that does NOT collaterally mean that I have decided to put in equity hours for others who have made the choice to earn a wage at this time in their lives.
With regard to my children, I have realized that they are, at times, overly needy because I have allowed them to depend on me too much. Why on earth would my 8 y/o Aspie wipe her own ass if I continue to do it for her (remember that she derives no social benefit--read lack of embarrassment or pride--in doing it herself)? How on earth is my incessantly thirsty and hungry 7 y/o going to pour his own drink if the jug is too heavy for him? This list goes on (and, in fact, feels never ending), but you get the drift.
The buck stops here on all fronts. If the folks and children in my life don't like that, it's actually too bad. Like I tell my children every solitary day, life is all about what you don't want or like or need. Get used to it now, and you'll be happier for it.
Secondly, I am making a concerted effort to keep my time and my family's time separate. When my children are awake, we are working on household responsibilities together AND (mostly, I hope) learning and intentionally having fun and helping others together. It's working much better for me this way. I don't feel so aggravated with them and their needs because it's their time (I'm not trying to usurp it), and we are working together on making them more self-reliant.
Of course, mommy breaks are still needed. I liken it to this. When you're making soup, you want to bring it to a boil before you simmer it. You wait and wait for it to boil. If you catch it at the right time, you can vent the lid and keep it from boiling over. If not, it boils over and makes a mess. I told you before. I hate to clean. I'm catching this soup of life before the shit boils over. I would prefer to vent the lid with breaks and coffee dates and time alone so that it doesn't boil over. However, at times, of course, my timing sucks and the damn thing boils over. Boiling over equals me yelling and saying stupid mother shit like, "If I have to get involved then you'll really have problems." Yelling, of course, is better than beating them, but it still doesn't make any of the five of us happy; it's still a mess that has to be cleaned up.
As an aside, I patently refuse to feel guilty about yelling; that's life. I try my best, but shit happens. I am very clear that I always, always love them, even when I yell. And, I know how to use the Yellow Pages (remember that thing?!) to find a therapist for them if they need it. So I should be able to make good on the bouts of yelling one day. Or not. Oh well. That's life. And, lots of people are going to yell at them in this life. They are going to have the opportunity to yell at lots of people in their lives. What I hope to teach them with my yelling is not that it solves problems (because it doesn't), but when it happens, you apologize and you try harder next time. Genuinely try harder. Meaning actually trying not to do it again (that "trying harder" concept needed definition for my Aspie, I learned). Better, of course, not to do it in the first place, but no one's perfect. When you screw up, own it and make it right.
This is, of course, what truly drives the blog decisions and life decisions. I thought and prayed about how much to divulge and in what way to divulge it. He and I are square. I plan to be a bit more heavy-handed in revealing His hand. However, I remain unwilling to be didactic about it; in my relationship with Him, He doesn't require that from me. A scriptural literalist or fundamentalist I am not. But, I do have a very active, reciprocal, loving, fun, hopeful, amazing, helpful, and honest relationship with my Buddy. I ask Him for guidance and help in everything that I do, especially my parenting. He knows I'm gloriously imperfect and trying my best to honor Him in this amazing life that He gave me. But, He and I have an agreement or a work-in-progress about discipleship. And, it does not include didacticism. More to come on this, I'm sure, but please rest assured that the purpose and content of this blog will remain mostly unchanged.
I'm hard at work over here on posts on empathy (for Aspie kids and NT kids like), making IEP decisions, and Aspie's conceptions of self.