by Jennifer Dyer
Have you recently had one of THOSE mornings? Around here some mornings go smoothly but others…not so much. Worse, Rachel’s autism tends to make THOSE mornings even more complicated, which was the case the other day.
Rachel has sleep issues; she always has. Lately, her pattern is to awake around 4 a.m. and crawl into bed with another family member. This wouldn’t be a problem if she went back to sleep and didn’t yell in our ears for juice and hot dogs. So, we had one of those long nights where she kept the rest of us up for hours then conked out around 6:30 a.m. Wonderful. Just in time for the rest of us to drag ourselves out of bed. And when Rachel decides to sleep, she is pretty insistent about staying asleep.
So, when it was almost time to leave for school, I began my wake-up ritual in earnest. I tried singing to her, coaxing her, patting her, and even tried to carry her to the car while she slept, but she was having none of it.
I made a desperate move. I called a neighbor to take eldest to school, but she was already gone. Time for a new plan–a tough plan. I took a deep breath and prepared for battle. Rachel used to be a small, frail child. Not anymore. Add to that Rachel’s pre-frontal cortex issues that come with autism (the fight or flight sense is often activated and she has difficulty regulating the amount of force she uses when fighting), and the situation becomes more complicated. In other words, she is really, really strong.
The battle began in a twin bed, which was good. She had less space to squirm away from me. I had her cornered and almost wrestled her to the stairs, but she broke away and hid under the covers of another bed. I pulled those covers off and made another dive, but she was too fast. We rolled around until she broke free and made a break for my bed, where she hid again. I followed and managed to get her down the stairs, only to have her get loose on a technicality–I tried to put on her dress. Back up the stairs she went.
I took a deep breath, said some prayers with eldest, and reminded myself that moms can have incredible strength when it comes to their kids. If moms can lift a car off their children then I could get this one into a car, right?
After another long match, we made it to the car, but she was not giving up. It was like trying to wrestle an angry octopus into a car–she had legs and arms in all directions. But I thought about the incredible mom stories again and hoisted her into the third row seats. With one arm I held the door shut and the other I opened the garage door. Then I jumped in the car and left my door open enough to keep my hand holding the back door closed as I backed out of the driveway and careened down the street.
Eldest was frantic that Rachel wasn’t strapped in. She worried that we’d get a ticket, to which I replied, “Good, then the officer can help me strap her in.”
We pulled over away a block from the house to get situated–I wanted to get far enough away from the house that Rachel wouldn’t try to get back into bed. I thought for sure she would give in at this point and strap in her seat, but no…
I took a deep breath, prayed some more, and remembered my RDI (Relationship Development Intervention). I moved into the middle row of the car and told Rachel to strap in, to which she kicked at me and fussed. But I wasn’t going anywhere until she put on her seatbelt. Fifteen minutes into our staring contest of wills she gave in. We drove in relative peace to her school…although she was naked. (I saved that battle for the school parking lot.)
After it was over I decided to look at the bright side. I’d already worked out for the day and the intensity had been so high that I could treat myself to a fattening drink from Starbucks. You know, my biceps are getting quite defined. Also, I’m thinking maybe Rachel and I could make a workout video for moms…