One interesting factor that kind of crept up on me was the blame game that starts with having a son like, Monkey. Not the Jerry Springer version where I argue with the mother about how it is all her fault, and she throws a toaster while yelling at me about how it’s my genes and not hers. As productive as that would be I am referring to one that is more personal.
As the years progress you move through stages. Some are harder to cope with than others and some carefree and blissful like any other life. The initial stages for Monkey were simply moving from wondering if he had autism to wondering if or when he would finally speak, etc. These stages were all unique in their own way, but manageable. It wasn’t until Monkey got older though that I found myself slipping in to this self-imposed trap. He became more of a handful the older he got because he is quicker, smarter, and stronger. It’s still happening today. So it’s a pretty obvious reason for things to become busier and more difficult. Well, when things got busier that also brought with it an uneasiness from others about Monkey. As great as people can be in life there is a reality to who can and can’t watch him at this point. His younger brother Mater would be an easy sell. He’s self-sufficient, polite, helpful, and doesn’t really cause a stir (yet:). However, once you add Monkey to the list of kids to babysit it shuts things down more often than not.
When it comes to being a single parent there are many hurdles that you have to overcome initially and others that you deal with down the road. That being the case you find that employment is one area that definitely gets affected in both regards. If I am the only possible breadwinner in the house then I really can’t up and switch jobs or start a new career. Changing shifts and working longer hours isn’t possible. After all I’m running out of babysitters here. So finding a job that will fit very particular hours while still providing the pay I need is a big hurdle. Once I cleared that hurdle I naturally figured I was all set. Makes sense, right? Well, it turned out I didn’t plan on the future well enough. Despite my degrees and resume I can no longer fulfill the requirements of the titles I am qualified for when it comes to the schedule. So now that “just right” job and schedule doesn’t fit anymore. In addition the options for me in manufacturing are getting slimmer; the field that seemed logical years ago since I live in Michigan.
Now many people can afford childcare, but it isn’t just the money aspect. In the larger scope of things it is typically money, trust, and quality together. Now Monkey can’t talk nor is he potty trained. That brings hidden challenges. That adds the fourth category that kids without disabilities don’t bring to the table; whether or not someone is willing to watch them. Short of kids being rejected for behavior, at which point….. raise your kids better.
So I need to find someone who can stay patient with my son’s periods of aggression and hyperactivity on a daily basis, that I can trust, that is willing to watch him, and I can afford. Good one! Nothing like funny in a dark place, right!?
In the school setting it’s simpler. I can somewhat rely on the odds that come with a population of care takers and teachers. It keeps people honest. It isn’t quite the same when I am looking at bringing one individual in to my home, unattended, on a regular basis. Technology has made it better with cameras in the home but….yeah….I’m really busy, and the idea of watching 8 and 9 hour videos after I get home from my 8 or 9 hours at work, well that just isn’t realistic. My other son would be totally ignored and I still need to do all of that cooking, cleaning, and life stuff for my home and family. So though I am sure someone is doing this at night, it isn’t as practical as it sounds.
Oddly enough, all of this stuff isn’t the problem. Those issues were the self-imposed trap I was making for myself. Everything you just read is totally true too. I can’t find and/or afford sitters for him. So what to do? Well, you change your variables. You stop looking for better results from the same situations. Pretty simple too, but that trap– I tell ya — it was all too comfy and easy to fall into. Just calling out like that plant in Little Shop of Horrors…. Feed me Seymour–Feed me!
So basically I made it through one life trauma after another over a series of years to turn out to be Rick Moranis?!?!? Say it ain’t so!
Oh, it was so. That is a key point to make. I sincerely kept beating my head against the wall. I kept trying to force working production schedules while having a family at home that needs more focus than usual. Then one day I realized no one I worked with had my hurdles. They had tales of the weekend’s past that included fishing, golf, football games, and dune buggies. I don’t like any of those things… but they were things. Plans instead of reactions to the day. You have no idea how depressing it is to be envious of someone being able to join a league or club. Of any sort. To be able to say “yeah, I can do this thing that means nothing, every week”. Leisure like and everything!! My co-workers didn’t come in to work with bloodshot eyes because their son threw up all night in every room but the bathroom. They didn’t talk about not sleeping for weeks at a time because their kid has cycles of staying up at night for no apparent reason. They didn’t have those stories at all. Not once.
So how did I expect to have a lifestyle similar to those of the people I worked with? By being naive? To a degree yes, but there were other reasons as well. Like any parent, I am always adapting. It’s just at a higher rate and more intense regarding Monkey versus Mater. As a result you don’t suddenly end up with these restrictions. I worked hard to have a good job in a field with lots of options in my area. Over time though you get so involved it becomes like leveling dirt. If you don’t back away and take a look every once in a while you can go on quite a ways thinking you have everything where it needs to be. Then you back up and take a look at your day’s work only to see that one side doesn’t match the other. This imbalance makes room for nothing but puddles and more work.
I finally took a step back. Ten years into my plans and efforts and I had to take a step back and basically undo major portions of what I had accomplished. As a result I’m voluntarily making less and working harder. Yet, the stress is gone. No kidding! I don’t worry about childcare. I worry about money of course, but I don’t plan on looking back and being proud of how much my creditors appreciated my time and energy, so I’ll take it. In the end I stopped looking at everything I couldn’t do to keep my lifestyle, and focused on what lifestyle would best support what I need to do.
If there is one thing I would have to tell someone starting out on their road with autism it is to always make sure you take the time to evaluate your intentions versus your results. What worked yesterday or what you planned so much for could be irrelevant to your needs before you know it. Whatever you do, never allow yourself to make the excuse that life won’t let you get where you need to be. An autistic child can give you all the excuses you need to make that happen too. You can make a solid case for what you can’t do. However, in my experience that only becomes true when you allow yourself to rest in your own traps. Make changes, push yourself, and don’t allow autism to be a ball and chain for you when you need to save your energy for the one that actually has it.
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