Today was a rough day.
I was impatient and short with E when really all she needed was an extra measure of grace from me. The morning started off great; she’s always in such a superb mood that J & I often joke that aside from the autism she is our perfect child… like, God had to make sure to include special needs into her when creating her otherwise she would be too perfect. She had a great day at school, too, and was in an awesome mood when I picked her up after lunch. A teacher had french braided her hair into one long plait and she was excited to show me her “Elsa braid”, as she called it.
And then it happened. Sometime in the (literally) 5 minute drive home from school, one of her tiny Ugg boots fell off her feet and took her sock captive along with it. That wasn’t that big of a deal to her except that when we got home, I tried to convince her to just go into the house from our car without her sock on and just her shoe. She wasn’t feeling it; she reeeaaally wasn’t. And if you know anything about autism tantrums, they can often go from 0-100 in a blink of an eye. Before you know it, your child can go from mild whining to full on display of anger without enough time for you to even process what is happening.
That is what happened to us. Right there in our driveway, just 20 feet from our house, she had the biggest meltdown I’ve seen her give me in a L O N G time. I’m talking splayed out on the concrete, limbs flailing wildly,
screaming howling at the top of her lungs. May I remind you, this was in our driveway? Where all our neighbors can see and hear?
I could feel the red flush of embarrassment creep from my ears down to my neck. It would have been easy for me to just give her the grace and let her put her sock back on first but sinful stubbornness & pride won out and I NEEDED HER TO OBEY ME. NOW.
By the time I got her back into the house, I couldn’t control my anger. Or, rather, I probably could have with some prayer and calmness, but I chose not to. I disciplined her (which I shouldn’t have) and put her to bed for naptime by slamming her bedroom door shut to let her know that I meant business.
I sat down on the couch, my anger simmering and then giving way to my own hot, frustrated tears to match my daughter’s wailing sobs coming from her bed. Hers eventually quieted down as she cried herself to sleep and I forced myself to choke mine down since the therapist was due to arrive soon. It didn’t take very long for me to feel so completely terrible about everything that had happened.
Before she started her therapy session, I gently woke her up and apologized. She was so upset that she woke up with a start, the way someone only does when they’ve fallen asleep in a completely hysterical and upset mood. She was still feeling sour towards me. I tried to give her some of her favorite honey graham crackers and she threw them in the trash; I said, “Hi, E” to her to elicit some response and she glanced at me morosely and replied, “Bye.”
Her mood eventually lightened and she forgot what had transpired, as most kids are wont to do. I asked her for forgiveness a second time and this time she readily gave it. The “I love you’s” and kisses started flowing abundantly once again.
I’m not going to blame today’s situation on autism; at the root of it, the issue is sin – both mine and hers. Autism complicates it because of the communication barrier and E’s lack of ability to regulate herself & her moods. But if E didn’t have autism, I can’t say that we wouldn’t have had epic moments of sinful failure towards one another anyway (mainly my sinful failure towards her).
I like to say that God gave us E because He knew she would grow us in the areas we needed growth. I was reminded of that conviction so strongly today. As I look at her and see the need for me to give her grace, I’m pointed back to my own Heavenly parent who also looks at me and not only sees my need for grace but freely pours it out. As I see how easily she forgave my sinful display of anger towards her, I’m encouraged to just as easily give the same forgiveness to my husband or others around me.
I debated over whether or not I should write this post because on the surface it just looks like a written log of what a crappy parent I was today. I was so ashamed typing this out and seeing my sin written down so plain for anyone to read but this blog is raw and honest and I’m not perfect. (May that be an encouragement to you! None of us are!) I ultimately decided to publish this because I need it to stand as a reminder to myself -and all you other mamas out there (special needs or not)- that an extra dose of grace for ourselves and for our kids can go a long way. More than rules or “rightness”, we need to remember the gospel. I’m hoping today is a lesson that I won’t soon forget.