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Archive for the ‘meltdown (theirs and yours)’ Category

What’s that, you think you may have seen us the other night? Well, it’s hard to say.

We may or may not have left the school Christmas concert in the first five minutes because our six-year-old refused to perform with her choir, because she got there late, because in spite of an entire day’s worth of planning and organising on my part that included micro-managing the toddler’s nap, booking specialist appointments for a relative, driving a family home from school who don’t have a car, entertaining Bill’s parents, and having a roast dinner cooked by six it somehow got all fucked up.

And Bill may not have rung to let me know that actually he decided to work back at the office that evening and so wouldn’t be there like I expected to help with getting everyone fed and bathed and to the Christmas concert that night, and oh, sorry he didn’t let me know earlier.

And then we may or may not have run into Bill arriving even later at the school Christmas concert than we may have been ourselves, and just when everything was going to shit, and I may have been marching our howling daughter out of the concert with an enormously heavy two-year old on my hip at the time. Maybe.

And I may or may not have glared at Bill while whisper-yelling to him that we’re leaving can’t you see, thanks a bloody lot. I may or may not have been ever so slightly guilting our daughter out at the same time, too, like a shitty parent does – just once I would like to  see you perform in a school Christmas concert instead of trying to shush you while you have some kind of meltdown with everyone staring at me, and why can’t we be the normal family for once. Bill may or may not have helpfully said at precisely that moment well, you did get her here late, I’m just saying, it isn’t her fault and come to think of it, isn’t mine either.

And that may or may not have led to some angry words from me, in the carpark, right outside the school concert hall, while storming past some loser dad escaping to smoke pot with teenagers who didn’t even blink an eye at our possible row right there.  (Because when you are loser enough to be doing that shit on school grounds you may have participated in your share of domestic arguments before, I guess, but it may have also saved us from feeling like we were the most dysfunctional parents there that night).

So, maybe that was us you saw, maybe.

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You know, Lauca can be so mature and loving and brave and charming that sometimes I feel bad about describing her as ‘highly strung’. Even so, it is a term I use out of delicate politeness because ‘highly strung’ really does not cover it. When we’re in the thick of it, ’emotional basketcase’ might be more accurate – flailing, self-pitying, catastrophising, despairing, sobbing, angst-ing, complaining, hating, arguing, irrational-ising, blaming, and generally emotional-rollercoasting. And honestly, this kind of mood of hers can go on for hours without pause. It is quite something to endure. Cormac, who is only a year old blinks calmly through it for a while and then eventually starts attacking her in frustration, which does nothing to fix the problem but must feel fucking fantastic.

After we were once trapped in a car with Lauca like that during peak hour traffic Bill and I ended up naming it her ‘Courtney Love’ issue. She was wailing in a voice hoarse from crying, or maybe it was cigarettes, and cursing incoherently in the back seat with ratty blonde hair and tears all over her face and it really felt like we were stuck in a very small space (like a tour bus, for instance) with someone coming down off major drugs. Don’t get us wrong, we’re both big fans of Hole (and our daughter), but no-one has ever described the glorious Ms Love as even-tempered and easy-going. Lauca doesn’t like being called Courtney Love and I get that. I wouldn’t want my emotions to be nicknamed either, but it is ‘fight or flight’ for us; we make light of the situation because our heads are being done in and we are on the verge of losing it completely.

A close friend and I took our children to the art gallery this week. Lauca was having a Courtney Love day so it was utterly exhausting. And once all four children got tired and hungry enough to dial in to Lauca’s Courtney Love vibe it got quite unbearable for us. My friend ironically declared, we need drugs. I told her, you’re the doctor with the prescription pad, get us some fucking valium. But she only laughed.

By the way, this post was supposed to be just some innocent photo blogging for December..  so, apparently I need to get some stuff off my chest.

Cormac with thoughts of art or thoughts of Courtney Love, you be the judge?

It has been play-date/sleep-over central here. Lauca, being a die-hard co-sleeper has her own version of the sleep-over, which is to invite your friends over for the night and bunk down in your room, then to abandon them half way through to go and sleep with your parents and your baby brother. Let me state: quite a tiring arrangement for the parents.

Brief glimpses of intense sunshine has meant that I have occasionally been able to take Lauca and a friend over to the neighbor’s pool for a swim. It isn’t Christmas without some sunburn.

And I have also been taking the kids to the zoo. I am that good a mother.

(Such a good mother that I found a goddamn craft holiday hippy workshop for Lauca, and she loved it, and our house is now full of Xmas decorations fashioned out of recycled industrial materials).

Towards the end of one afternoon at the zoo, when I was surrounded by over-tired and over-stimulated children I noticed they were playing “What About Me?” over the intercom. I had to wonder: private joke for the parents?

Bill and I have started watching Deadwood again and I think my New Years Resolution this year might be to fuckin’ talk more like fuckin’ Deadwood. I love Calamity Jane.

There is no real ending to this post.

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I learnt of Autism and Oughtism following her inclusion in the most recent Down Under Feminists Carnival. The blog is a beautifully written and interesting account by an ex-university lecturer of life with two young sons, one neurotypical and one with autism.

Sanctimony in motherhood grates on me at the best of times but if you need any convincing that sanctimony is really not helpful then I suggest reading this thoughtful piece on Autism and Oughtism about her use of television as an aid for her son with autism. Interestingly, while my daughter is neurotypical she is quite highly strung and I have sometimes used television on play dates as a method for giving her time ‘alone’ to recharge in a way that won’t be too antisocial for her friends, so I get the restorative numbing possibilities of TV.

Also, you should read this post, which has me feeling exasperated with the world. Can we not learn to understand and accept, at the very fucking least, the different ways people with autism might have for exhibiting joy? Must we scare little kids with autism out of showing pleasure so they can better fit in with the rest of us?

The most upsetting attempt to curtail this socially undesirable behaviour happened at an ABA play-group for autistic preschoolers. ABA continues to be a controversial technique for dealing with autistic children, though it is gaining increasing mainstream acceptance. I found the ABA preschool group very useful in many ways, in particular it introduced me to other parents going through the same issues, it helped me better understand autism generally, and it gave me some useful methods for encouraging my son to interact with other people and his world. But their one main teaching that I could never feel OK about, was the efforts to completely stamp out my son’s stimming:

Once my son had relaxed enough to enjoy the group – he went from constant tantrums there to eventually actively enjoying the activities – he was happy enough to start stimming. For example, he would be listening to a book being read to everyone and he would start doing his happy dance in his chair. At the time I was so relieved to see him enjoying himself, and thought the ABA therapists there would be accepting of this typically autistic behaviour. Instead they would touch and hold him until he stopped stimming, and tell me to do the same. I was quite heart-broken and upset when it became clear what they intended to do each time, because he didn’t like being touched, and it distracted from what had made him happy, so it would either make him sad or even lead to a meltdown. It felt like he was being punished for being happy.

P.S. I will admit that I know less than nothing about ABA therapies so by selectively quoting above from that post I am not trying to mount any particular arguments against therapy, just that the goals of ‘fitting in’ might not be quite so critical for a child if we could make a little more effort as a community to embrace disability and difference.

P.P.S. If you’re looking for more feminist blogs about parenting children with disabilities then check here.

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Thanks to a comment from Nikola Ellis I was reminded of Jane Lazarre (author of well-known feminist motherhood memoirs Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons [1999] and The Mother Knot [1976]), and I found this interview with Lazarre over at The Mothers Movement Online.

The entire interview is just wonderful but this bit particularly stood out for me, particularly after this episode here concerning whether mothers complain too much and that episode over there concerning whether ‘mummy blogging’ is mindless.

We seem as determined as ever to live up to the impossible and tyrannical idea of the perfectly “good mother,” an idea that has proven itself to be literally maddening. In the 19th century, many women who were new mothers suffered breakdowns, were hospitalized for many years and in large numbers, because of the inability to live up to this false and destructive ideal in actual, ordinary life….

.. We can begin, as we always did, with our own stories, but if the stories and narratives that have gone before are not used, then we are truly sabotaging our own possibilities.This is not to say the effort is any easier now than it was a generation ago. There is nothing more threatening, for me at least, than telling the truth when it might hurt or anger someone I love, and there is no one I love more than my sons, or when it might provoke public criticism and contempt, as honest writing can often do. And we live now in a time of regression and reaction, so I do not mean to suggest any of this is, or ever was, easy. I do have faith, though, in the importance and potential transcendence of personal story telling — in private groups of like minded people, in intimate confessions, as an aspect of political organizing, and in works of art.

You see? Lazarre says fuck ’em.

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One of the best things about Mummy Blogs or mothers blogging or whatever you want to call it is the way in which women (and men) have started sharing their darkest moments of parenting online with each other. This article by the very wonderful Anne Lamott, calling for mothers to start talking about their moments of rage was written back in 1998 and I would hazard a guess that that silence has well and truly been broken now.

I once wrote about my own parenting meltdown but eventually changed it to a ‘private post’, mostly because it was written in the heat of a lot of emotion and was badly written. I am comfortable enough to admit to the facts of the meltdown here, which are that it was a very bad time for me, and that one morning I found I just couldn’t cope any longer, I couldn’t bear one more second of sadness and anxiety and responsibility and keeping-it-together so I shouted at my child terribly and then I locked myself in the bathroom. Lauca was two years old. She was distraught. The facts sound simple enough but it was ugly. To this day there is nothing Lauca hates more than to be forced apart from you, it sends her into a complete panic, and knowing this about her made my meltdown all the more awful. I knew how terrified she would be, and was.

I don’t punish myself over that meltdown, too much. I did something very smart after I unlocked the bathroom door. I picked Lauca up into my arms and I drove us both to a mother friend who was going through even worse than I was that year. She had told me about a meltdown or two of her own before, and she was the right person for me to tell. I told her everything. And she gave me real wisdom. She said every mother loses it and locks herself in the bathroom from time to time. That it happens. That children recover. That mothers are human beings with anger and sadness and everything else. That children can’t be protected from the human-ness of their mothers even it if was the right thing to do. That I wasn’t screwing my child up.

Some of my favourite posts ever on parenting blogs have been confessions of meltdowns. (Like this and this and this and this and this). Honesty between women, about our lives, especially when our lives are at their most difficult, is a profoundly feminist act.

Anne Lamott’s Mother rage:

A few mothers seem happy with their children all the time, as if they’re sailing through motherhood, entranced. However, up close and personal, you find that these moms tend to have tiny little unresolved issues: They exercise three hours a day or check their husband’s pockets every night looking for motel receipts. Because moms get very mad; and they also get bored. This is a closely guarded secret, as if the myth of maternal bliss is so sacrosanct that we can’t even admit these feelings to ourselves. But when you mention these feelings to other mothers, they all say, “Yes, yes!” You ask, “Are you ever mean to your children?” “Yes!” “Do you ever yell so that it scares you?” “Yes, yes!” “Do you ever want to throw yourself down the back stairs because you’re so bored with your child that you can hardly see straight?” “Yes, Lord, yes, thank you, thank you …”

So, let’s talk about this.

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This is Cormac when he saw snow for the first time. Just adorable.

How I love snow.

Oh it all looks so jingle bells, though in all honesty we had a lot more of these moments (see below) than those above.

Lauca and Cormac had the most dreadful simultaneous melt downs in the snow. Bill and I had a child each and we really struggled to keep up. God it was ugly. And lasted quite some time too. After a while we took them inside and dumped them on their aunts and uncles while we took a quiet ten minute walk together to decide if we wanted to be parents after all. We spent the first part of the walk slagging off our children and once we had that out of our systems we could hold hands and admire the view. Then we went back to collect our children because we loved them again.

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We’re racing. Are we ever not these days, I wonder. The toddler is strapped into the stroller, he won’t wait any longer. I have carried the five-year old’s bicycle down the steps. The picnic is packed. I remembered everyone’s water bottles. We’re due to meet the other mothers and babies in fifteen minutes. If we walk fast to the park we will be fine.

Put your shoes on, where is your bicycle helmet, I ask. The five-year old protests. Close to an emotional meltdown. Keep it together. Not just her, but me too. If I lose my patience now we’re sunk. Emotional meltdowns in highly strung five-year olds take too much time. I remember now, the helmet is on her father’s desk. I run inside to retrieve it and as I do I remember why it was there. The helmet has peeled apart and while it has lost none of its safety features it has lost all of its aesthetic ones. I dread showing it to her. She is at an age now where she can describe something as “too embarrassing”. She will dissolve into floods of tears and disappointment when she sees the helmet. But she will be just as disappointed to be told to walk instead.

Poker face on and I hand her the helmet. Daddy hasn’t had time to fix it yet, I say. And how old are you exactly, I wonder, too old to wear this monstrosity on your head? A moment passes. The toddler bucks against the restraints of his stroller reminding us that he is there. The five-year old shrugs and puts the helmet on. Ah, so you are still that young my sweet.

We’re on our way.

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