Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Conquering the Mommy Guilt

Attention Moms!!! IT CAN BE DONE!! Last night I was presented with the opportunity to exercise some control over the Mommy Guilt. I would truly appreciate any comments, thoughts, critiques, suggestions, that you, My Dear Reader, has after reading my "technique".

Home from work, finish SmallBoy's homework, t-ball practice for SmallBoy, softball practice for Girl, squeeze in some dinner, pick up kids from practice, fight over showers, make lunches, clean up after dinner, try to sneak in some laundry, and so on, and so on....Does this sound familiar to anyone? It sounds like a typical weekday evening in most households. In our house we factor in SmallBoy's Asperger's Syndrome which can magnify any one of those seemingly mundane, yet necessary, tasks. Last night was not so different from the every night, except that we were meeting up with my mother at the music store to upsize Girl's viola. Fortunately, Girl did not have softball practice last night, but SmallBoy did. The timing worked out beautifully and everyone got where they needed to be, picked up and home before the rain fell. We had a fend-for-yourself-dinner, quite popular at our house during sports seasons, and the evening proceeded on around that.

If you've been following along with my blog, you know that my sister is planning to get married at the end of the summer and that we are trying to find her the absolute perfect location. I convinced Mom to come by for a bit after we picked up the new viola, so that we could do some more research for my sister. The night went on and it was getting time for SmallBoy to get to bed and Mom was ready to go home. Under average circumstances, this is not such a big deal, but last night, SmallBoy was embroiled in a video game and was not ready to be told to turn it off and get ready for bed. He had a long day from start to finish yesterday and it had all caught up with him and overloaded his circuits. Needless to say, he started to melt when I had him make his lunch and quit the game. Then he found out that Grandma (GR) was leaving and that upset him some more. I managed to talk to him and get him through his funk long enough to see my mom off. I took a deep breath and relaxed. I told myself that this was going to be easy, I saw the meltdown coming and took steps to help keep it from running into the next stage. I was very proud of myself.

When I came back in the house I was met by a very upset LargeBoy. It seems that sometime between when I was seeing my mother off and SmallBoy was making his lunch, he must have gone back to his brother's room and tried to play with the Lego Milennium Falcon that Santa had brought for LargeBoy and PC, the Lego Milennium Falcon that took two long evenings on the hardwood floor to put together, the Lego Milennium Falcon with a gazillion little pieces. Well, you can guess what had happened. No, no, no...not that bad, he hadn't dropped it or shattered it, but he had broken off the top panels, the legs and a handful of other small pieces. This, in and of itself, was enough to have upset the LargeBoy. However, the previous night, LargeBoy had sat down to watch a couple of his DVDs and found them terribly scratched and unplayable...SmallBoy had been playing them in the laptop computer the day before that. I'm sure it's quite clear how LargeBoy was feeling. He was not amused.

LargeBoy is graduating from 8th grade in a few weeks and is finally starting to feel like he has his own place to hang out in his room. He has the basement to himself, complete with computer, foozball table, dartboard, bass guitar, tv, a couple of game systems that he purchased himself. He's got himself a nice little bachelor pad. He was busy cleaning and rearranging his room when all of this Milennium Falcon business happened. He had already realized that he was going to be up relatively late getting his room organized enough where it would be in a decent state before he went to sleep. When the crash of the Falcon happened, it automatically tacked on about 2 more hours in repair time before he could finish what he was doing, at least in his upset mind it did.

While LargeBoy was working on this new addition to his project, I took SmallBoy upstairs to get him ready for bed and to discuss what had happened. I am well aware of the fact that my older two sometimes feel that SmallBoy gets special treatment or different consequences due to his AS. They are very understanding and very loving and supportive, but they are also kids. I was feeling terrible and full of mommy guilt because I saw SmallBoy melting and didn't cave to him to have GR stay and put him to bed (but that was just what he wanted me to do, and no reason for mommy guilt) I was feeling terrible and full of mommy guilt at this point because I hadn't handled the situation with the DVDs right away, which may have prevented the destruction of the Falcon. The ironic part is that when we were discussing the DVDs we had mentioned that the worst thing would be if he got his hands on the Falcon. I was feeling horrible. I had a headache, was stressed by work, was stressed by the fact that the kids refuse to help with the housework and expect PC & me to do all of it.

STOP! I told myself to chill out, that none of those other pieces had anything to do with what I need to take care of right now. I told myself that I needed to address the issue at hand with SmallBoy and that he needed to be treated like his brother and sister would have, only with a little more explanation and discussion. I sat down with him in his room; that's his "safe" place, where he goes to feel better and calm down. I asked him questions about how he feels when others use his things without asking, how he feels when his things are returned to him broken, and how he thinks others feel when he does that to them. We repeatedly discussed how it feels to have your things taken and broken, until I was sure that he grasped this concept and before we moved on to what he needs to do in the future. We talked about how to ask before taking and that if the answer is "no" that he needs to do something else. We then moved on to consequences. We discussed the reason to have consequences. He was not happy with the plan we came up with, to use some of his First Communion money to replace the scratched DVDs, but he understood it. I made him go down and apologize to his brother and explain how he was planning to remedy the DVD situation. I had him practice asking to use something and handling his own reaction when told "no". We went back upstairs, did our bedtime ritual and that was that.

I talked with LargeBoy when all was said and done. I explained to him what I had talked about with his brother and asked if that solution was acceptable to him. Honestly, I think he was surprised that I came up with that. I helped him a bit with his room, more because I didn't want him up late since he had a rope climbing field trip today and needed sleep, than out of mommy guilt. I think the moral of the story is that by getting over the mommy guilt - regardless of whether or not I should have HAD mommy guilt -, I was able to deal with what needed to be done. I've also come to the conclusion that dealing with mommy guilt has to be done each time you feel it, instead of trying to wipe it out altogether. I'm feeling better about it today. I'm glad.


Bluegrass Mama said...

Good point! Mommy Guilt is ongoing, and sometimes it's hard to know when it's real and we need to deal with it and when it's imagined and we need to ignore it.

I think it's especially hard when you throw in a special needs child on top of it. My nephew is ADHD and at one point they thought he also had Asperger's, and I know it's extra tough on my sister.

Good luck, and I'll be back to read again!

mommyguilt said...

Thanks Bluegrass! I think all of us Mamas need to stick together and support each other, because sometimes it's only a Mama that can really and truly understand another Mama!