On the heels of a wonderful birthday for Matthew yesterday, I should be glowing. But then again today it was back to real life, and the day ended with Matthew having a melt down and being put to bed by his dad. Real life at our house for sure.
One of the challenges of parenting a mostly non-verbal child like Matthew is that both Aaron and I have to work very hard to simply discern what our boy needs. I realize that this isn’t much different from what most parents deal with, but Matthew has been home over 2 ½ years how, and things haven’t gotten much better. In fact, in many ways they’ve gotten worse. And we can’t rely on the typical development of a healthy child in terms of how many more months it might be hard. That’s part of parenting a child with very unknown special needs.
Tonight I gave Matthew a bath and then asked his big sister to keep watch over him so I could go upstairs and get his room cleaned up and his pajamas ready for him. Under his sister’s watch, Matthew pooped in the bathtub. My husband rushed in and cleaned everything up, and then I stepped in to finish bath time. For some reason, Matthew was VERY upset when I took him out of the bath. Reflecting back, I think he was frustrated at my quick pace, as he loves to watch all the water go down the drain. Bu the doesn’t have words to tell me that, so I took him out and started drying him off, and he became inconsolably frustrated—tears, swipes towards my face, and loud wailing.
I tried to calm him down and get him in his pajamas, but he continued his crying and batting his hand toward my face . . . so I put him down, thinking he needed me space from me, but he started to cry even harder and grabbed me to pick him up.
Thank goodness for Aaron, who stepped in kindly and took Matthew. I was planning to read him one of his new birthday books, but when I reached to take him again, he shoved me away and clung to Aaron. I guess that was as clear of a message as any. At that point I was in tears—probably not doing my finest parenting, clearly—and so I let Aaron take him up and put him to bed.
Later, once I know he’s fast asleep, I’ll creep up to the attic and lay my body beside his. I’ll cover him with kisses and smell his Matthew smell, and by morning everything will be better.
But it’s frustrating for a mama sometimes.
There’s so much we learn about people when they can tell us what they need. Clearly Matthew needed something specific tonight, even though he was tired and grumpy, but had I done a better job of being in tune to his needs I truly believe the end to his evening would have been better than it was.
I don’t want to misrepresent life with Matthew—it isn’t always this hard. But sometimes it is, and no matter how hard we try, no matter how much heart and love and sensitivity we put into our parenting, it ends in tears and shambles.
One thing I will say for my boy: by tomorrow he’ll have forgotten about tonight and be back to his normal self, and he’ll likely LIKE his mama again. I can only hope for that, and be grateful for it when it happens.
But tonight as I sit here on the couch in a quiet living room, reflecting on this evening’s events, I also feel poignantly the extra challenge that we feel parenting a child who is not verbal—and I worry that he may never talk in a way that will express all that he’s feeling, all the while holding tenderly a hope that he will.