Sometimes Facebook makes you feel crappy, right? I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. You see pictures and status updates of all the cool stuff your friends are doing, or all the fabulous things that their kids are doing, and everyone you know just seems so perfectly happy and awesome.
Except for you. Maybe you are still wearing your pajamas at 2 pm, and have spent the day either cleaning up the bodily fluids of your children, or sitting in ridiculous traffic that made you unforgivably late, or learning bad news about the health of a loved one. Or maybe all of the above. And you are wondering why the hell your life isn’t anything like the perfect life all of your friends are obviously having and sharing with the world on Facebook. You probably already know the answer, and it’s simple: Your friends’ lives are just as difficult and stressful as yours. It’s just that they only share the good stuff on Facebook, and keep most of the crappy stuff to themselves.
I’ll admit that I was on Facebook a lot this week. That’s mostly because there was a ton of shit going on here! And a lot of it was good. For example, SB participated in a 5-day class for special needs children that teaches them how to ride a bike without training wheels. By Friday he was actually riding a 2-wheeled bike by himself, which was so great! (The program was fabulous – more on that in a future post.) Also, AB turned 7 on Friday, and birthdays are always good news! Even more exciting was that both guys tested for their Gold Belts in Tae Kwon Do, and they both passed. They will be receiving their new belts in a graduation ceremony next week. And even though SB had to make a trip to the doctor on Friday (more on that later as well), it was the most calm and cool he has ever been during a doctor visit, even staying calm and still enough to allow the nurse to actually get a blood pressure reading from him. (I swear to you, that has NEVER happened before! Doctor visits in the past have always been pure, anxiety-filled torture.)
All of this good news I shared on Facebook, and I always appreciated the “likes” and comments from friends. But here’s the thing – this past week was awfully crazy, and full of all kinds of bad crap mixed in with all the good. So here is my confession to you. This is the shit I DIDN’T put on Facebook:
Let’s start with the fact that my husband was sick all week with a nasty flu. Really, really sick. He missed 2 days of work, which is huge for him. He pretty much laid in bed and slept for the better part of 3 days. Even when he tried to get up and do something, like read email or just watch TV, he got nauseous and had to go back to bed. When Charlie is so sick that he can’t even watch TV, you KNOW it is bad! At one point I asked him to put away the groceries for me, and he is normally a pretty helpful guy, but he didn’t even think he could handle that. The daily after school routine was already feeling crunched, with the 75-minute bike class every afternoon. Now with Charlie completely down for the count, all household and parenting responsibilities fell to me, adding to the week’s nuttiness. As soon as he started to feel a little better and was able to get out of bed, it was time for him to host the district-wide Solo and Ensemble contest at his school, leaving him at work for long hours and we hardly saw him at all for 2 days straight. I also pretty quickly realized that there was absolutely no chance of me getting ahead on my final project due for my class on May 1. That would just have to wait until next week.
Although SB wasn’t sick, we still had to make a trip to the doctor. The spring pollen has been unusually bad this year, and it’s hit him pretty hard. He has an old man smoker’s cough that just won’t quit. On Thursday the school nurse called to tell me that he had to be removed from class because his cough was so bad, and that he couldn’t go back to class unless it improved. Now, I have no doubt that the pollen is bothering his system, but the little guy can also be REALLY dramatic about his coughing fits. So I had to miss work on Friday, which I really don’t like to do when there is a rehearsal, to take him to the doctor. Although we got him some meds, it is now 2 days later and I am still listening to his nasty, hacking cough in the next room. I fear we may have to go back again.
Also on my list this week was to prepare the details for AB’s birthday party on Sunday at the Tae Kwon Do studio where the guys take lessons. (I HIGHLY recommend hosting birthday parties for your children in locations other than your home. Not having to clean the house makes it so much less stressful!) Last Sunday, which was one week before the party, my husband and I panicked when we realized that we had only TWO responses from the invitations. All parents probably experience a little bit of this anxiety, but parents of kids with autism worry about this kind of thing excessively: What if no one comes to my kid’s party? What if nobody wants to come? What if all the other kids hate my kid? How will it make my kid feel if nobody comes to his party? I know, I know, it seems ridiculous to worry about such things, but I can’t help it. This is the kind of shit that runs through my head. I admit that I lost some sleep this week over this. I think the more realistic reason that we hadn’t heard back from very many party goers yet is that between spring break and Easter, most people had been out of town or busy with holiday obligations, and my child’s birthday party was not at the forefront of their minds. It turns out that all my worrying was for nothing, because we had a nice turnout for the party and I think the kids had a great time.
I saved the best one for last, my friends. It turns out that despite all my pictures and updates on Facebook, bike riding was not all smiles and rainbows and puppies this week. SB had such a great week at “I Can Bike,” the class to teach special needs children how to ride a bike without training wheels. On Friday, he was riding around the gym with tons of confidence. And most importantly, he was having a fabulous time! The Program Director talked to the parents at the graduation ceremony on Friday, stressing the importance of continuing to practice riding the bike every day, even if just for 15 minutes. This made perfect sense to me. So on Saturday morning, I put SB’s new bike in the van along with SB’s old bike with training wheels, which I was going to give to AB because AB’s old bike was really too small for him now. We drove over to their elementary school and took the bikes to the basketball courts, which are mostly (but not 100%) flat. I started pushing SB just like I had the day before, but he didn’t go. Why? He refused to take his hand off the brake. He refused to pedal. He yelled and screamed at me. “This bike is really bad! It’s too hard! I can’t turn! I can’t do it! I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t……”
I couldn’t believe it! Who was this kid? He was certainly not the same person who was confidently riding his bike around the gym all by himself less than 24 hours before! I was SO frustrated. It had seemed so easy in the class. He had happily participated every single day with no complaining. And now – I couldn’t get him to try ANYTHING. I tried reminding him how good he had been doing the day before. I tried walking with him slowly while holding the bike. I kept countering his “I can’ts” with “You cans!” But he had already decided that it was too hard, and that he absolutely could not do it. My blood started to boil, and I got madder and madder and madder until…
I completely lost my temper.
The boiling blood in my veins exploded into a voice that I didn’t even recognize coming out of my mouth. “WHAT IS WRONG??? WHY WON’T YOU EVEN TRY???? YOU WERE DOING IT YESTERDAY!!!!!!” And then the lip curled up, and the face turned red, and the sobbing started, and then I had utterly lost him.
Why do I yell at him? It never, ever helps. But I’m human, and sometimes I lose my cool.
At this point, the dad who had brought his daughter to ride her bike on the basketball courts as well packed up his kid and left. They had only been there about 3 minutes. All my fault, I know. I tried to salvage what I could out of the session by insisting that SB finish his 15 minutes. But he basically coasted on the bike without pedaling while I pushed it, me continually telling him to pedal, wasting my breath. After 15 minutes, I told him he had done the designated amount of time, and could stop.
All of this time, AB had been sitting on his bike, doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. Getting this kid to ride a bike even WITH training wheels has been a huge chore. For 2 years, we have been trying to encourage him to ride, but it always takes much enthusiasm and praise. So on Saturday, I turned to him and told him that now it was HIS turn to ride for 15 minutes. Then HE started with the complaining. “I hate this bike! I want my old bike back! This bike doesn’t work! I hate bike riding! It’s too hard!” Already on my last nerve, I decided not to give up, decided not to let him get by with not even trying, and so I looked at him and growled, “PEDAL!” I gave him a small push and walked alongside him while he biked and complained and barely pedaled at all. But I had said we were going to ride for 15 minutes, so dammit, we did!
I don’t know if I did the right thing, pushing them both to stay on their bikes for the designated amount of time, even though we were all miserable. I know from past experience with these guys that it’s usually the right thing to push through things that are hard. I definitely know that losing my temper wasn’t the right thing to do. I know for sure that when we were done, I felt like shit. I felt like crying. I definitely felt like strangling them both. I also felt like breaking open the bottle of chardonnay chilling in my fridge. But I don’t want to go to prison, and it was only 10 am, so I skipped the strangling and the wine and let them play games on their iPods when we got home so that I could collect myself and get through the rest of the day, which included a Tae Kwon Do class and then the Tae Kwon Do belt testing.
I’m pretty sure we all have “Shit We Don’t Put on Facebook.” Some weeks have more shit than others. But life is like that – good with bad, ups with downs. I’m thankful that I did have a lot of good things to share this week. I’m thankful that the upcoming week looks slightly less intimidating. I try to be thankful that these little guys continue to challenge me as a parent in ways I never could have imagined. (But sometimes that’s a hard one.) I have a lot of goals and dreams for these guys – like our family going on bike rides together, and like both boys continuing to be successful in Tae Kwon Do and eventually earning their black belts. Although bumpy, we made a little bit of progress on those goals this week. THAT is worth celebrating. With wine.