So I've just spent the last hour or so battling with my daughter. The 7 year old that is. It's amazing to me how often people comment to me how well-behaved she is, or how they can not believe that she has ASD... they never see what I see! I have to be honest, these comments can make me feel terrible. Perhaps everyone's child does this? Do I think I'm special, or that I have it harder than everyone? She's so perfect and delightful, what am I complaining about?
Friends of mine, some of whom I have not caught up with in perhaps a YEAR, invited me out for a glass of wine tonight. I was so stoked. It's amazing when you can just fall back in with friends... the kind of people who you don't see for months and months on end but when you bump into them there is no awkwardness or halted conversation, instead just bubbling conversation and laughter, old jokes brought up, and it's like the universe gives you a big warm soft melt-y hug. Thanks universe! And just like that, they're going out tonight, can I come? Seriously, friendships like these are like trees planted deep down in good soil, the kind of trees that are there already when you move in to a place, not the kind you plant with high hopes and false assumptions and expectations. More on friendships and botanical metaphors another time. I was invited out, I was excited.
But for some reason, an hour and a half of someone screaming at you, for you and then at you again can kinda wear a girl out. I send my apologies to my lovely friends. Catching up with them will have to wait. For now I have to restore the calm in my household. We're in full meltdown mode.
I know that I shouldn't be scared of her. I know I shouldn't have this tight ball of nerves in my stomach. I know I shouldn't be wondering whether she knows we love her, or whether I've made it clear enough how precious she is. And I know I know I know! I shouldn't be questioning how I've failed as a parent for her to scream the things that she screams. It's so so hard as a parent to not let their feelings affect your own, to keep your smile in place and your voice soft as you are kicked at and accused and manipulated. It sometimes just feels like I will never be enough for her, never be able to give her enough; that no matter how much time you spend with a small person during the day, listening to their secrets and silly jokes, holding their hand, surprising them with a treat or outing that they had wanted for EVER, it's never enough. Two small grapes on a plate can ruin all of that.
Two small grapes, with holes slightly larger than usual on the top where I pulled them off the stalk. Is it unacceptable to ask for a muesli bar? Of course not! Please dear child, eat your muesli bar! But first just finish those grapes. Pop them in your mouth. Those grapes which to me look absolutely identical to every other grape that was happily eaten. Both of those grapes? Could be gone in one mouthful. And then the muesli bar is all yours. Any of the muesli bars.They're not forbidden. They're not a naughty food. Just eat those teeny tiny little grapes with their minutely larger stalk holes, and boom! You're in muesli bar heaven!
And now, 90 minutes later, all is quiet. Vivaldi, recomposed by Max Richter, the notes swimming on the hot air. Three children finally sleeping, two with softened, clear faces, relaxed and offered up freely to their dreams. And one, damp with sweat on her brow, her hair impossibly tangled on her pillow. Her fists are clenched, her brow frowns slightly in a troubled state of half-dozing. The tears I feel are stuck inside my face, behind my eyes, and they feel so so heavy.
And two little grapes, grapes that have so innocently caused so much fury and anger, so much blinding hate, I tip the two little grapes down into the bin. And I wonder what, if anything, I should have done differently. And in what form will her fury take tomorrow.
Should I have just given her the bloody muesli bar?