A letter in the car

Our vacation to Germany was wonderful. It seems to me to be one of the best vacations we've had. A great combination of exploration and discovery, but in a relaxed and easy manner. The kids really seemed to get along well on this trip, and seeing them laughing and playing together was good for my heart. There were no major meltdowns and no major problems. It was a typical family vacation and rejuvenated all of us. So, from me, there are no complaints.

However, on the way home, Kaeden had a meltdown. I'm not entirely sure from where it stemmed, other than the boys playing a game and rules changed, and then the game was thrown and from there it all went downhill. I asked Erwin to stop the car, and at the following exit we got off and parked in the driveway of a business. Though I wouldn't call this meltdown one of Kaeden's worse, it ended of fun vacation on a negative note. It's something we have learned to accept and anticipate when something changes (vacation is over, back to home and school), but nevertheless, it still comes as a shock, and still hits you with a blow. Here is the letter I wrote in the car, sitting in the backseat with my son, following our meltdown. I call it ours, because it is never just Kaeden involved, but us as a whole, a family with autism.

Just stopped. I am so angry. Had to get off the highway because my two wonderful kids can't stop fighting. And Kaeden can't keep his hands to himself in which Jari screams like a banshee. So, off the highway to change seats and get them away from each other. When am I going to learn? Even if they promise there will be no problems and beg to sit next to each other, don't do it. It is simply asking for trouble.

So, Kaeden flips out and the thing I was most nervous about was being by the busy road. Cars speeding by as he kicks and screams and hits- I was afrais he would run out there in front of a car. And his mouth- I can't stand listening to how he speaks to us, but most especially to Erwin. The names he calls him are so rude and disrespectful. I actually hate the way they speak to each other, neither of them is respectful, but in this case Kaeden was definitely at fault.

As he it the fence with his belt I demanded he forfeit it before getting back in the car. His tantrum continued and when I moved Jari's booster seat to the front seat and saw Jari just standing there on a rock, off to the side, observing the entire situation unfold. His hands clutched in his pockeets just watching. How do I feel? Sad, sad that at 8 years old this is the only life he has known. But even more so, sad that being this is the only life he's known he still hasn't figured out how to help prevent these scenarios. I don't blame him, not at all, but I can't understand why when he sees such an ocassion arising, he doesn't know enough to stop.

It's often, though not always, clear that Kaeden is ready to explode. Erwin also has difficulty with this, though in his case it is more that he believes Kaeden must obey and must succumb to the rules. I just don't know. For me, I'd rather enforce only when it's something important and forego the fights and meltdowns and the ensuing feeling of sadness and hurt which remains in my heart long after the tantrum has subsided. None of us is right or wrong, I suppose, as we all must do what we have to do to live with autism. In general, though, Kaeden is most calm with me. There are many factors that contribute to that. All I know is that autism is the culprit, and because autism is a part of who Kaeden is, he gets the blame. Should he? I'm not sure- sometimes yes, sometimes no- but even with autism he has to learn to live in the world according to the rules society sets forth. Or we as parents set forth. Or teachers set forth.

Kaeden seems somewhat more controlled when he has a meltdown compared to a couple of years ago, but they still happen, and when he is stilled, calm, and happy again 20 minutes later. my heart is still beating double time, my blood still pulsing hotly through my veins, the 20 minutes a lifetime, a mixture of fear, anger and pain, added to the guilt I feel that all my entire family must go through, each of us in our own way, as a result of autism.

Erwin let me handle things during this episode-he let me take care of business and get Kaeden calmed down so we could go, and for that I am grateful. As we continue on our way Jari is role-playing with his stuffed bear, Erwin driving us home, Kaeden watching a movie as he points out a hot air balloon he sees in the blue, sunny sky above us---and I? I just have tears hiding behind my eyes, knowing this won't be the last time, certainly wasn't the first time, and I once again curse autism as we head towards home, our family, vacation nearly ending, once again autism ending it in the way which is so typical, in the manner of which we have all become accustomed, a change on the horizon upon which autism cannot bear, but must. Life goes on----

And that is my take on our last autistic meltdown. And even so, it was a truly wonderful family vacation, one I will treasure forever, remembering my boys chasing around the playground, their laughter filling the silent air.


Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

"a change on the horizon upon which autism cannot bear, but must" - I love how you put this; that's it in a nutshell.

I'm sorry to hear that happened - meltdowns are so awful. It sounds like the writing helped. It does for me too. Sending hugs.

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios said...

Autism isn't an issue in our family, but I can relate to the pain of family dynamics, of different parenting styles, of feeling broken when you have to step between your child and your spouse. You capture that so well--the idea that neither you nor Ervin is "right" or "wrong" but that different ways of handling things divides the family and hurts everyone.