I’m reliving my past. When Yoshi was very young, we spent years searching for an answer (that we never found), Band-Aiding symptoms just to get through, and taking each day as it came. It was agonizing. The not knowing, the racing around, the endless stream of differing opinions.
All of that was on top of the regular “tough part” of parenting. The baby and toddler days: sleepless nights, potty training, temper tantrums. People constantly told me to cherish those days because they won’t be young forever, but “this too shall pass”. They told me it would get easier.
Now I wish for those days that I couldn’t wait to get through. To be fair, parts of this age are easier: They’re potty-trained. They can get food for themselves. They can tell me what they want and need.
It did get easier when we found Dr. Wood and got some actual answers. It was easier with a diagnosis for Yoshi, knowing that the doctor appointments were the right doctor appointments (even the ones that were four hours away) and the therapies were the right therapies. Our lives were still hectic, but we found our own kind of routine.
Then they grew. That’s when I learned the secret. The secret no parent tells you, because they have been busy saying that “it gets easier” when you are trying to get through sleepless nights and potty accidents. They left out the part about how it gets much, much harder when they get a little older.
Don’t get me wrong, I was warned about Yoshi. Puberty is extra hard with autism. But I’m pretty sure that’s not what’s going on yet. We’ve had a difficult year with Yoshi. He’s regressing. All of that is for another post—one I have been sitting on for a little while—and it’s coming, just not today.
They left out the part about how it gets much, much harder when they get a little older.
Today I’m thinking more about the other one. Any parent of any teenager will tell you that it’s a rocky road. I’m sure that we are not the only ones trying to find a reason (where maybe no reason exists) for his behavior. The difference between “every family” and families with special children is that our families have an extra layer of reasons. Is he acting out because of his brother?
Are we giving his brother too much attention? Does he resent his brother? Is he just frustrated with his living situation (sharing a house with an autistic brother who is only under control 75% of the time) and has finally reached his breaking point? Or is it just a regular teenager problem? I had a friend look me straight in the eye a few days ago and ask me if he is doing drugs.
The take away, no matter what, is why? We can hardly fix it if we don’t know what the problem is. And while you fervently search for that elusive “why”, you wring yourself out trying everything (and anything) to correct the problem. That problem that you can’t identify. We’re treating the symptoms, knowing there is a root cause that we haven’t found yet.
I’m reliving it: those years of not knowing what was wrong with Yoshi. We fought to control symptoms that had no apparent cause. No one could tell us why, and at some point, we stopped caring. Just make it stop. Who cares why he is bleeding? Just make it stop.
Yoshi’s future was obviously on the line. But somehow, this is harder. Now it’s Big Brother’s future that is at stake. Just like before, I am powerless. I can’t fix this. I can lead this horse to water. Hell, I can push his face into the trough. But if he doesn’t choose to drink, he will drown—unless I let go.
Parenting a big kid is a million billion times harder than a little one. I remember it being hard. I do. I don’t want to claim that it was “extra hard” with Yoshi, but I had plenty of people tell me that it was. Living it, I couldn’t tell. That was my life (still is.) It didn’t seem any harder than my friends who were struggling to get their kiddos to sleep through the night, wean from a pacifier, et cetera. Sure, we had a few troubles to handle that they didn’t, but they had a few things that we didn’t.
Looking back, it was easy compared to what was to come. This is on an entirely different level. Things matter now. Punishing isn’t easy like it was when time-out was a thing. (Judge me all you want, we were a spanking family.) We are always tight on time—or completely out of it. Everyone is always going in a different direction. Regular parenting troubles are harder than they were when the kids were small.
It’s worth repeating: Things matter now. What’s worse, the kids have to be responsible for some pieces of their lives and we just have to trust that they are handling it. (Hint: often, they’re not.) It matters, but the teachers don’t tell me anymore. They tell the kid and he has to be the one to tell me. But he doesn’t. Or, he doesn’t have to tell me. He just has to take care of it. But he doesn’t.
Irresponsibility is the name of the game, folks. Apathy. Disrespect. Complete and total lack of interest in his own future and well-being. Secrets. Lies. Did I mention that he doesn’t seem to care about his own future? How do you work with that?
This time, I’m pretty sure it’s not about his brother. This has been the year of Big Brother. We let Yoshi flounder because we (I) didn’t have enough mental capacity to handle both of their tremendous needs at the same time and I had to prioritize. I picked Big Brother. He got the attention.
It wasn’t enough. Now we’re in trouble and I don’t know how to get out. Just like years ago, I’m back to crying myself to sleep and feeling sick all the time. It’s hard to watch your kid in a bad situation and feel completely helpless.
We tried a carrot, we tried a dozen different sticks. We tried reasoning with his more logical side. We tried reasoning with his less logical side. We have offered help. We have tried therapy. We offered more carrots, then more sticks. I can’t make this horse drink.
When do I let go?
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