Spectrum Survival Tip #2

Remember Who You Are

Life as a Spectrum Parent is extremely hard. I often struggle to even understand how my kids brains work and why they are doing the crazy stuff they do. It’s exhausting. Will I ever give up on my children? Never. Do I give up on myself? Often.

I’ve lived in many places in my life, but Seattle has always felt like home to me. But it has been six years since I’ve been back. In March, my husband used his vacation days so that I could fly home. I stayed with my best friend and we explored several of my favorite haunts to update notes on a writing project I’m working on. Then I’d drive over to my parents for dinner to help out for a while before returning back to my friend’s for the night.

The Sunday morning I had to fly home my friend woke up early to see me off. She asked me, “Are you ready to go home?”

“No,” I said, and started crying. “I don’t want to go back to reality.”

What I learned in those five days is that I had forgotten who I was as a person. I had been lost by being constantly on active mode, ready for emergencies, to stop fights, to help kids focus, to keep our house up and running, that I didn’t have time for me. While I was in Seattle I could eat the foods I enjoyed and not have to worry about the fact my kids won’t eat or will complain about my food. I didn’t have to cook. I didn’t have to clean up after anyone but myself.

I didn’t have to stop fights. I could wake up when my body was rested and go to sleep when I was tired. I could take time to read a book. If plans changed I didn’t have to deal with three different meltdowns. When we went to Pike’s Place Market I didn’t have to worry about having noise cancelling headphones, sensory backpacks, or an exit strategy for when the kids became sensory overloaded.

Do you know what I remembered about me while I was in Seattle?

– I love jazz music

– I love international foods with lots of flavor and seasoning

– I love being by the ocean

– I love the quirkiness of Seattle

– I love Cajun seafood

– I love going to my favorite places and taking loads of pictures

– I miss being with my best friend

– I love quiet times

– I love the decadence of reading a book for fun

– I love learning about history from places instead of books

– I love the sound of rain on the window

– I love letting go

– I love long walks in beautiful places and feeling rushed

Yes it was hard to come home. No I didn’t miss my family, but that was because I knew my husband had it covered and they were safe. But I was able to appreciate them more when I did come home. I was learned that when I am home it is alright to give myself permission to be me. I don’t have to be emergency ready mom.

I’m allowed to be me. I can quote movies from the 80s and I don’t have to care that no one gets my jokes. I can sign up and hobble through a 5K even though I’m not that healthy, because I actually enjoy it and the race gives me an hour of peace in nature to focus on something I enjoy. I give myself permission to not stress eat. I give myself permission to set out granola bars and apples for a meal and say “have at it” and be okay with the quirky looks that my family gives me. I give myself permission to listen to books on cd in the car for my pleasure (and not because it might be educational for the kids). I’m allowed to listen to jazz and classical music.

And once more, last week was an honestly horrendous week that included my moderate-functioning autistic son being brought home twice by the police. Then yesterday that same child came into the room with an automated toy car that was running and stuck it in my hair just to see what would happen. Do you know what happened? The car wheels grabbed my hair and pulled tighter and tighter until I was screaming in pain with tears streaking my cheeks. The only way to get the car out was to yank out my hair literally.

I made my son apologize, kiss my head better, and do two hours of miscellaneous chores around the house to earn back certain privileges. Then, when we went to pick my husband from the train station, I gave myself permission to hand off responsibility into my capable hands. I took a glorious shower, dressed-up and then took myself to the movies (which I can’t do with my children due to sensory issues) and say Guardians of the Galaxy 2 all by myself. Then I took a gift card I’d had in my purse for months and drove 30 minutes away to have a nice dinner at Cheesecake Factory where I tried Asian chicken lettuce tacos loaded with sumptuous vegetables and a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. And I gave myself permission to tip the waitress well because I was eating alone and enjoyed every single moment.

Now to make sure that I give my husband that same permission when he needs it as well.