Sometimes, my outer one is too. A story about losing your $h!t in 2020
How’s school going this year, momma?
Hey dad, best year ever…right?
I give that a resounding HELLLLLL No.
It took me exactly one day back-in-school to lose it and get a call from our school police officer after a temper tantrum I’ll admit was, ok, yeah…kinda bat shit crazy.
I bet you lasted longer and this blog really is just a love letter to all you parents like me out there. We’ll get through this. And, if you are close to–or already have–lost your marbles, you are not alone.
OK, so I’m not exactly going to call this my proudest moment, but here’s what happened. My son Abram, who is on the autism spectrum, started high school this year and this change was already enough to put me on the edge. But then, factor in COVID-19. For my school district that meant a split between live and virtual instruction, and also asking parents to drive kids instead of bus, if possible. Being a team player, I took a dose of “suck it up” and got on board.
Starting high school is a huge milestone for every kid, but for me this year, it’s a reminder that mine won’t have the normal experiences of driver’s licenses and girlfriends and football games. My expectations are always in adjustment, and I focus on the amazing strides he has made instead of how not typical he is. He takes math and several other classes at grade level, he marches with the band, and he is more independent than I frankly thought he’d be at this age. I’m proud of my guy!
But in the days leading up to the first day, my anxiety started to climb. I was hearing from new teachers about plans for my son. And those plans sounded like a huge step backward. Abram was spending more and more time in special education settings. Band is understandably in flux this year, but we’ve fought hard for this progress and it felt like it was being ripped away. Starting this summer I was in for a reprise of the momma bear role, with a grumble of angst voicing itself in my brain. I pushed back on all the teachers, back in the thick of fighting for Abram’s place in the world.
We came to a schedule I could live with, and I drove him to school hoping for the best. Dutifully, at the end of the day, I was parked in the pickup line. The minutes ticked by, and there was no sign of my boy. I tried calling in to the school, emailing the teacher, no answer. I was supposed to be at the middle school when it started to rain.
Rain. Abram absolutely despises rain–it’s a real trigger for him that leaves him feeling out of control. And, I had not packed a raincoat or an umbrella to help him with those feelings. Just my luck, as the drops start coming down in a downpour, my son appears with a teacher escort–a complete stranger to him. A high school kid with a teacher escort! It’s a gut shot, truly, to see a young man walked out like a child, and know that young man is on the verge of a breakdown due to rain.
“Get. Out. Get out! Go go go, anywhere but here!” said my own silent voice to my frazzled worried self.
My bones, or my soul, or a demonized version of the momma bear mantle I’d had to readopt… something deep down inside seemed to be commanding me. GO!
I put my car in reverse and got myself just enough room to U-turn. And look, I wasn’t the first to make this move and I did it carefully. But yet, I drove, against the carefully-planned pick-up traffic, toward the nearest exit. I was almost there when a man came toward my car, hand raised in authority. I rolled the window down.
“NO!” I said sharply, my inner monologue becoming very much my outer monologue. “I’m not turning around, I’m not getting in the line. I’m leaving. I’m getting outta here. NO!”
Completely inappropriate. So he steps toward the car.
I drove on the grass and grazed the sidewalk and went right around him, and recognized him. It wasn’t just a random teacher, it was the principal. I mean, of course it was, right?
I knew they recognized me, too. I went home, and felt just awful about it. In the moment, well–it was what it was. But in the days after, I was embarrassed and ashamed. I know I was wrong, it’s not what I want to teach my kids… all of this hit me hard. And sure enough a couple of days later after ample time for me to stew about it, the school resource officer called me. He talked about an “incident,” and I was apologetic. He called me irate, which I managed not to scoff at because that was several steps below “irate!” I actually did not get there! But still, I played adult and acquiesced. He said he would let me off with a warning and a stern talking to, and I decided to just let it go with a yielding thank you.
But man, you just snap. I had rolled my window down and put my hand out like, “you gotta put a ring on it!” But also, NO! I had my hand out the window so they knew, “stop, you gotta get out of my way. I’m leaving!” I know it was inappropriate, but this year…I think it’s something we all have to get real about dealing with.
We know our schools are doing the best they can, and so are we. We can see all the self care tips and supportive messages online, but those of us with a special needs child are already at attention. If you are putting that momma bear mantle back on, you’re ready for the fight. And sadly that fight might find you sooner rather than later. And if it does, let it be ok. The whole reason I’m recounting this embarrassing story? Because we are NOT ok, but we need a way back to being ok.
Sure, try not to lose it. But…you might. And if your gut instinct is get out, don’t let ‘that guy’ stop you.
If you get called out, just own it. Apologize. And move on.
Things are hard enough right now. Cut yourself some slack, and know you’re not alone!
For more back to school resources for your child with Autism, read “10 Reasons Homeschooling May Be the Best Choice for Your Child with Autism” and “Back-to-School Lessons in Self-Advocacy as an Autistic Parent.“