My daughter has been having some behavioral problems lately.
I am not sure what to make of them.
I definitely am not sure how to respond to them.
With all the books on parenting these days, I don't think there is a single one that tells you how to parent the seven-year-old son with autism who does not talk, but, yet, has a lot going on in that sneaky little head of his, while simultaneously parenting the aforementioned child's four-year-old sister who just started kindergarten, is growing up in a single-parent household, and has more emotions than she knows how to handle, despite having a vocabulary that rivals that of many adults.
Yep, I don't think I am going to find any help on the shelves of Barnes & Noble.
Not any time soon, anyway.
Hey, maybe I just found my job opportunity.
In the meantime ....
How do I respond to the four-year-old who throws herself on the floor at the mall because she does "not have the energy to try on shoes."
How do I parent the four-year-old who tells me, "WELL, I just need YOU to cooperate with ME," after I tell her that I would really appreciate her cooperation during the shoe-shopping-venture.
How do I respond to her when she tells me that she is "done with" me, simply because I tell her she cannot get a new toy at Wal-Mart?
Keep in mind that I don't have a lot of time to ponder these questions while on the scene, because my non-verbal seven-year-old is there, too, and I can't take my eyes off of him for a second.
Sometimes higher-level-parenting has to take a backseat to reality.
I have a child who requires so much. He is walking through life with the physical capabilities of a seven-year-old, but the linguistic capabilities of an infant.
He can twist open the lid to a child-resistant-jar in a second.
He can turn on all the faucets in a bathroom, stop up the sinks, and leave the scene.
He can rise in the morning without anyone hearing, open a box of Popsicles, and eat them all, while leaving a few scattered about so that I am left scrubbing neon purple spots with carpet cleaner in the hope that the stains might disappear.
And, speaking of disappearing ...
I live in fear of it.
He cannot disappear.
My heart couldn't take it.
And I don't want to deal with police involvement and the resulting investigation by child protective services.
My daughter does not receive the type of responses she deserves.
She is not on the receiving end of a well-thought-out-parenting-plan.
She is, instead, on the receiving end of the do-the-best-I-can-even-though-I-am-stressed-beyond-words-and-feel-so-guilty-about-it-mess-otherwise-known-as-my-current-parenting-plan.
She constantly hears the phrase "in a minute" and she constantly waits.
She doesn't get to go to gymnastics class -- even though I know she would love it -- because she already takes tap and ballet, and I only have the energy to take her brother to the local rec center ONE night a week.
Oh, my, doesn't that sound awful???
Yes, I admit it. To take my daughter to dance class doesn't merely involve getting her dressed and ready and delivered on time. It also means taking her brother along. And keeping him busy and entertained and happy while we wait ...
And, even though I have been dealing with autism for several years now .... even though my skin is a lot tougher than it once was ... even though I am able to look people in the eye and tell them that my son "has autism" when the occasion requires ....
There is only so much I can do before I feel like crawling home, closing the blinds, and locking the doors.
So, my daughter has some behavioral problems.
How could she not?
I do, too.
Give us a break, world.
All of us. My boy, my girl, and, me, too.
We are doing the best we can.