The oldest twin whom I will so lovingly refer to as "Rascal", had a major meltdown at the tail end of birthday celebration #4. Ok, back the bus up. The Rascals (my twins, both boys, age 7, both on the autistic spectrum, both amazing, wonderful, stinky little rascals) ended up having 4 celebrations this year for their birthday which was wonderful and fine by me and their father. Although, admittedly, by celebration #3 we were wondering how in the heck we were going to transition them out of getting gifts on an almost daily basis, I still have no regrets... Wait, maybe that's the ativan talking.
But I digress.
Any parent with an autistic child understands the meltdown and everything that comes with it. No definition needed. So I'm not going to define it here. Unless someone asks of course but it's 1242am and frankly, this is my blog, right? ;-) My poor son has already been pushed beyond, beyond, and he's been stimming on his favorite white trampoline for the last hour+ is now on all fours, face down, into the dirty carpet, crying his eyes out, rocking back and forth... my heart is breaking for him. I just need to get him out of there. I soothe and coax him off the floor. A friend of the family, who doesn't have any experience with autism, but has a very soft and tender heart, is talking loudly and faster than Rascal needs, requesting all types of distracting activities thinking this is going to help: "Hey, I'm sad to that we have to leave. So let's not leave at all!" ....oh dear Lord, that's not an option!!!! "Why don't you and I do an obstacle course and play and play and PLAY!!" ...oh no,..no nonononnoNONO!
Smiling, I say over my screaming, tortured child, "I've got this covered. Could you go to the other room now?" Thankfully he is a very bright and loving friend. He quickly exits this scene while his wife whispers something to the effect that this scenario is not like their parenting experiences with their neurotypical 6-year old daughter and to let me parent my Rascal. ...thank you sweet wife of said friend...
The meltdown continued for another hour and I'm being conservative. It was hardest on the drive home. Imagine the four of us: him, his father, myself, his twin brother all in the minivan, balloons and presents up the ying-yang, leftover party food, the sweet smell of sugary treats in the air, all tossed askew everywhere. If a stranger would have peeked in they would thought a bakery and Toys-R-Us had just vomited on the inside of my Kia. Of course this was in a crazy attempt to get everything and everyone in the car in the least amount of time to get home as quickly as possible because I knew that a bath would be the magic pill for my Rascal.
Aspects of autism makes a parent crazy and that's just honest. In the moment of knowing, that deep in the gut wrenching familiarity that the meltdown is imminent, that anxiety...my mind goes in 100 directions from what I'm feeling to what he's feeling to the 3rd, 4th, 5th step of problem solving redirection of it... to how do I handle all of these people around me... then back to my Rascal's needs right now and how can I get him to a totally quiet space in a space that doesn't have any of that for him... reassessing my stress level in this moment then in lightning speed back to what he needs once he's home... can I get him home safely...will he be safe in the car all the way home... and he's pleading with me to get him out of there and I'm trying baby, oh how mama is trying so, so hard I'm so sorry I can't whisk you out of here on a magic carpet and take all of this misery from you... and on...and on.. and on... as my mind continues to scream.
And no one is the wiser behind my smiles and thank you's as he's rocking and flapping and screaming, burying his face in me.
Sensory deprivation. He submerges himself almost completely except for his nose and mouth in the tub once we get home. That's the only things that remain above water level in the tub. He goes from hysteria, which is where he remained the entire half hour drive home and into the house, to calming down in the water, then submerges himself as he always does...
Something about water. He must get that from me. He hears the familiar sound of the water shooting through the pipes in the tub. Within seconds that child is naked and running into that bathroom! His father has to slow him down every single time he gets in. He has severe ADHD with his autism. Think hummingbird. That's my Rascal. Within minutes the crying ceases. By 10 minutes his scripting is almost gone. I feel the knots in my shoulders starting to ease up. Within 20 minutes he is quiet and has slipped under the water slowly, finding his quiet, sensory deprived space and is in his bliss. I listen and hear nothing. His twin is watching a TV show with the door shut and I revel in this one. singular. moment.
...quiet for my child...thank you Lord...
Somehow, that moment made everything okay again. He finished his bath and was back to himself again. He washed all of that junk off and was able to neutralize himself which rarely happens but wow -- what a gift! We played Pop the Pig -- one of his favorite toys right now, watched some AFV on youtube and then headed to bed, every one of us totally exhausted.
As I lie in bed last night thinking about how the day unfolded, I think about neurotypical families. Even typing that, I paused for minutes, staring blankly out into space. As much as I really don't like comparing my community to that community because I'm not sure if it helps or hinders, I wonder about the ease of many decisions that are made on a day to day basis. I also wonder about the reasonable expectation that whatever you plan has a fairly good chance that it's going to happen the way you intend. That is so not my life... I'm not complaining, it is what it is.
The day ended with both boys smelling yummy even though Rascal #2 likes to call everyone stinky :-), in bed, books read, nighttime routine kept and the boys only woke up twice in the night. Far better than I had anticipated and "normal" for us.
As they were drifting off, I lay snuggling them. Rascal asked, "Birfday tomorrow?" I said, "no baby. Next year". No reply. Silence, then soft snoring. Maybe the transition won't be so bad after all.
I remain hopeful as always.