I am writing this post at L’s speech therapy appointment. For the first time, she is back with her speech therapist all by herself. She went back screaming.
The screaming is not new. Our last few appointments, be they speech or physical therapy, have been scream fests. It seems like my presence is holding L back. It’s not just therapy. We are experiencing massive tantrums all the time. As a matter of fact, it is Thursday and we are still recovering from the mother of all tantrums, which happened Sunday. Here’s the story:
D got married on Saturday. It was a beautiful, traditional wedding in New Orleans and so our faction of the family embarked on a road trip last Wednesday to go celebrate D and M’s nuptials. We drove into Baton Rouge Wednesday and had supper at D’s house. That trip was deceptively easy. We got on the road early, we didn’t encounter any hindrances on the way and the drive was shorter there than it would be on our way home from NOLA. Wednesday night was our best night, behaviorally.
We were really off schedule the whole trip. The rehearsal and wedding were both 7 pm events, which is about half an hour before bedtime. We were in a hotel room, and rental car, and didn’t have our regular comfort items, from toys, to food to general environment. You SN moms out there will know what this meant in terms of stress for L…routine is everything to your SN kid.
E babysat L the night of the rehearsal dinner. I made it through the salad course before I had to go back to the hotel because L was losing her mind. That was Thursday night. Friday night we went to dinner at a loud, crowded restaurant. L wasn’t having it. Way too much stimuli. Saturday night was the wedding. Despite a late nap and quiet dinner in the hotel room prior to the event, L hated her fancy dress and seemed agitated before we left. When we got to the prescribed location and walked into a crowd of a couple hundred milling about to clamorous organ music in the cavernous church, L decided she wanted no part of it. So she and I spent the following hour walking the sidewalk in front of the church, me in 4-inch heels and her crying the entire time, while A and E watched D get hitched inside the church. It was rough.
The next day was A’s birthday. His folks wanted to host a brunch for him before we left. We thought this would be no big deal, but as far as I can tell, time runs a little slower in the Big Easy. Our server, while nice, disappeared for long stretches. This resulted in us needing more time for checkout and leaving a bit later than we wanted. Then there were loose ends that needed tying up. A’s shaver was at a different hotel. No one had left instructions for what to do with his tux, which needed to be returned to a place in Metairie. So figuring those things out too awhile, too. Once we finally got on the road, we came upon a 4 car accident on I-10 in Baton Rouge. I thought we’d never cross the state line.
Despite my fears, cross the state line we did. We pulled over in Orange to change a poopy diaper. Our plan was to then stop in Beaumont for dinner at a Cracker Barrel. (We were first timers…we decided we had to eat at Cracker Barrel since they seem to be every couple of miles on the highway. It was sheer curiosity.) Beaumont presented itself at approximately 5:30 pm and we ate a hasty supper of what E considered soul food, demonstrating to me that I have not cooked E nearly enough soul food. We mounted up less than an hour later, and that was the beginning of Nuclear Lucy.
L got upset. She seemed tired, but wouldn’t go to sleep. She wouldn’t tolerate music. She wasn’t comforted by her Tinkerbell videos. She didn’t want books. She didn’t want me to sit next to her. She didn’t want snacks, drinks, toys…she wanted out of the car.
She screamed through Bay City. She screamed through Houston, Katy and Sealy. We stopped in Columbus for gas. While Allen yelled obscenities at the pump, I dug the Benadryl out of the luggage. Lucy screamed.
At some point in Houston I got into a contorted position over the car seat and nursed Lucy. I had to go to a super Zen place in my mind, since it was painful and interminable. Except for a break at the gas station, that lasted until La Grange, where she finally passed out. We drove the rest of the way to Austin in a shell-shocked silence. There has never been a family as happy to reach their house as our family was that day.
We had planned to keep Lucy home from school the next day, and she seemed completely unfazed by the previous day’s events. She was just a pleasure. We were still recovering.
Tuesday we had a speech therapy appointment. Lucy has gotten into the habit of screaming her head off when we get to our therapy office. So more screaming. It became apparent to me that we were dealing with two types of screaming. Genuine distress screaming, as was the case in the car on the way back from New Orleans, and tantrum screaming, as was the case at therapy.
Lucy has begun to develop the habit of screaming for whatever she wants, believing it is an effective method of communication. This is my fault.
See, when Eden was little I never would have tolerated tantrums as a form of communication. She didn’t have that option available to her. Obviously one major difference in her situation and Lucy’s is that Eden had speech and Lucy doesn’t. And Lucy has major sensory processing problems, making life in general overwhelming for her, and Eden didn’t. I guess because from the earliest time with Lucy I’ve known that she was different and some part of me felt sorry for her, I’ve treated her differently and frankly, cut her too much slack. I’ve accepted behavior from her that is unacceptable, special needs or not. Because of that, she’s developed inappropriate ways of coping with stress.
The longest car ride of my life taught me that I have a real problem on my hands, and it’s a parenting problem. I simply cannot feel sorry for Lucy and make excuses for her. Otherwise I will raise up an asshole with no one but myself to blame.
Thanks to our SLP, we are on a new track. We had an OT evaluation and are learning how to help Lucy modulate herself and are learning specific parenting techniques we can use to discipline her. They seem to be mostly the way I disciplined Eden.
Lucy may be “special”, but that just means she has to work harder, not that she gets out of the work. And I believe she can do it.
That is an important lesson, but not the most important lesson. Let me tell you a seemingly unrelated story to demonstrate my final point. It is about Courtney M.
Courtney M. is an account sales rep for BBVA Compass Bank. She called me about six weeks ago to find out if I was satisfied with the new Compass account I’d opened. I never actually wanted an account there…as a matter of fact I’d parted ways with Compass Bank as an unsatisfied customer years earlier. Despite my lack of interest in ever doing business with their institution again, Allen came across an offer for a free Kindle Fire with new accounts and as a current account holder he was ineligible and therefore talked me into opening an account in my name. I do not use e-readers, but I have a soft spot for him, so I did it conditionally with the understanding that I would not have to do ANYTHING other than open the account.
There were some requirements that had to be met, and A was careful to find out what they were and meet them in a timely fashion. Once they had been met, we waited for our Kindle but no Kindle appeared. Of course, not being the actual account holder, Allen could not pursue the issue. (Such a shame…we don’t call him Darth Nader, yes, Nader, in our family for no reason. I feel bad for any customer service rep on the end of a problem call with Allen.) So here I was already having to deal with an account I didn’t want. When Courtney M. called, I told her that as a matter of fact, I could not yet say that I was satisfied with my experience as a Compass customer since Compass had yet to meet their end of the bargain in our agreement. She clicked away on her computer and a few minutes later told me that indeed, we had met the requirement for the Kindle and should receive it in a couple of weeks and certainly by the end of that month. I asked her if I could contact her directly at the number she was calling from in case that didn’t happen. She said I could, and to call her if we didn’t receive it by month’s end.
You may have guessed already that the Kindle did not come by month’s end. What with some exciting happenings in our family that were a distraction from regular life, I hadn’t had time to address our missing device. Amazingly, my phone rang a couple of weeks ago and Courtney M’s number appeared. I was so happy that she was calling to update me. Alas, that was not her intention. She was calling to let me know it was the last day of some credit card deal that BBVA Compass was offering and did I want to take advantage of it before it was off the table?
I told her I didn’t and could she please find out what happened to my Kindle? She promised to look into it and call me back. Another week went by with no return call from Courtney M. I called her number. I got some one’s voicemail who was called Louisa. Not Courtney. And the voicemail did not identify this woman as a Compass employee. Still, I left an inquiry. The next day I called back and left a second voicemail. No one called me.
Now, I have been in customer service and let me tell you, if I gave someone my word, I kept it. I generally hold that as an important character trait for life in general. So you can imagine that I had some choice words in my head for Ms. M. (Who, to date, has not called back.) I was so mad at her mediocrity and lack of integrity…and just her general lack of give-a-shit. It really bothered me.
Here is the big lesson. As I was thinking about what a crap job she did with my case, I started thinking about my job. My job is being a mother. Am I doing that job perfectly? Obviously not. I have screwed around feeling sorry for my kid and not giving her the tools she needs to overcome her current obstacles and, thusly, any future obstacles. I have to build up her core strength. This means I have to not just be loving, but be tough. And get the hell out of the way of progress.
The big lesson is that every lesson is a lesson about me. Not Lucy. Not Courtney. Just me. If I get pissed or frustrated, or I don’t like the situation, I need to look at myself. That is all.
PS- It actually took me awhile to write this post and several thearapy appointments later, Lucy just had her first appointment alone with no crying, which reinforces my belief that she can do it and will do it if we let her.