I could come up with a dozen different titles for this blog entry. I wonder if any of my old blogger friends will see this – I’ve poked my head in on this site a few times in the past year, but I haven’t been diligent about reading like I should…and I’ve clearly stopped writing for over a year.
As usual, I’m not sure where to begin. (I seem to start all my blog entries off that way.)
I mentioned my health issues from last year in my last journal entry – swallowing issues, colon cancer, etc. I took all of that as a sign that my body was telling me I needed to make changes. I was under a lot of stress. I think the swallowing issues are closely related to my stress levels.
I was not being a good mother to any of our children. I don’t feel I was being a good wife, either. I was finding any way to escape that I could.
So much I want to say here, but when I’ve looked online for women in similar situations, all I’ve found are throngs of posters discussing what horrible people they are for not only having negative feelings towards their special needs kiddo, but – God forbid – discussing those feelings publicly.
Maybe I just wasn’t meant to have three children, period. Forget the “step” and the “special needs” labeling – three children can be a handful. Many of you know this. I don’t know how some women do it alone. (I’m looking at you, Rose!!)
Late last year, I started asking myself the hardest questions of all: Can I do this forever? Can I continue living my life the way I have been? Can I get past the anger, frustration, anxiety and stress I feel as a mother of a child with special needs?
One morning – following an especially trying evening where Colin had peed on the floor in his room for no apparent reason – I lost my cool. I was exhausted. I was tired of being disrespected. I was still angry from the day before. A million excuses come to mind, but none of them is legitimate – none of them excusable. I grabbed Colin by the back of the neck, got in his face and yelled. I made him cry. The bus had just shown up and – without apologizing or trying to calm him or myself – I sent him on his way and slammed the door behind him, then burst into tears myself – right in front of the other two boys.
By that point, I realized I was just angry all the time. Just seemed like every day, something was setting me off.
Later that day, I got a call from CPS. When Colin got on the bus crying, they asked him what was wrong. He told them I choked him. (Not what happened, for the record – but I understand that “grabbed the back of my neck” isn’t a phrase that would spring to mind for him.)
We went through the CPS process – we were interviewed, Colin was interviewed, the other boys were spoken to and photographed. In the end, they agreed that this wasn’t an issue of a child in danger – this was a mom who had a bad day and knew she’d made a mistake.
Though, at that point, I was already considering leaving. I’d done some soul searching and wasn’t sure I could handle staying – this CPS incident scared me even more. What if one day I lost my cool with Colin and it cost me Ryan and Robbie as well? What if one day he pushed me so far that I did something I wouldn’t be able to take back?
But these are things we can’t discuss. These are thoughts you can’t even talk about with your psychologist.
My stomach is in knots sharing this, but I feel it needs to be said. How can someone get help if they’re not even allowed to discuss it?
I remember the first time I made Robbie cry. He was maybe a year old, sitting in my lap… he reached for something dangerous – hot coffee maybe? – and I raised my voice at him for the first time. It shocked him and he started crying. I felt like a monster making this poor baby cry! I held him and apologized.
Aside from the occasional hand pop as a toddler to keep him from touching something he shouldn’t, I never hit my child. Never hurt him intentionally.
When I moved in with Rick, I didn’t know how to handle older kids. I went from mom of a 4 year old to mom of a 4, 5 and 6 year old. I went from someone who had only a very loose understanding of autism and ADHD to someone who’s world seemed to revolve around these diagnoses.
A friend said to me recently, “I don’t think you really understood what you were getting yourself into.” I think he’s right. I thought I could swoop in with my patience and research abilities and find a way to “fix” things. I tried so many things, and while I believe I did a lot of good…there are some things that aren’t “fixable” – they need to be accepted. Maybe acceptance is where I’m struggling.
I’m not trying to blame everything on Colin. Or Autism. Or ADHD. Trying really hard not to blame myself – I was doing that for months. Still do.
At the end of the day, you have to understand your limits. I don’t know what the answers are, but I decided that leaving was what had to happen. Rick and I have separated. I signed a year lease at an apartment complex not too far away – I didn’t want to move Robbie around during the school year, no matter which way we decided to go in the end. Ryan comes and stays with us every other weekend, which I love – I’m so thankful that Rick agreed to that.
I’m not sure what the future holds. I’m not sure that we’ll ever be able to go back to the way we were. But I know that my son needs his mom to be happy and healthy. (I could/should write about how the whole situation was affecting him as well.) He needs the mom he remembers that loves snuggling and singing and playing games with him. Not the mom who is always angry or tired or stressed out.
I still worry about the selfishness of this decision. Rick thanked me at one point for acknowledging that I felt the way I do and for speaking up and leaving vs. bottling it up and/or becoming abusive. Leaving is never easy – doesn’t matter what the situation is. I’ve had people tell me I’m brave, but I feel like a quitter.