Well here I am, sitting at the dining room table on a Friday night. The kitchen is kind-of cleaned, Emma is sleeping, R. has a friend over and they’re gaming-out upstairs, Bob is watching a Letterman re-run, and friends, it’s COLD outside!
Being that this is a blog about my autistic daughter, I’m sure that you are wondering when I’ll tell you more of the juicy tidbits about having a developmentally disabled toddler during mass-insanity (aka: holidays). First, a little soapboxing: I don’t care anymore whether it’s my “autistic daughter” or “daughter with autism”. The whole people-first-speech thing really gets in the way of my brain flow. OF COURSE it’s my daughter first and her DSM-IV lable second. Give me a break. We’re nearing the second decade of the 21st century… honestly: autistic kids, or kids with autism; people that fear the disability will put their emotional impact on the autistic part no matter WHERE you put it in the sentence.
There. Phew. Thanks for lasting through that little rant, and now we’re on to the holiday…
Emma was in fine spirits. The excitement of the fresh, new meat to charm-to-death was nearly intoxicating. She was a butterfly on crack, and we all had a blast. The crescendo of the holiday week came on Thanksgiving day. I had been up past 3am the night before cooking apple pies, fresh rolls, and shelling those $#%^@* chestnuts for my dear husband’s only TDay wish (chestnut stuffing). That morning we were both tired and I foolishly told him that he could slip back to bed for a little bit. Somewhere around then is when hell started blowing, gently at first, and rising to some sort of full-gale around noon. Emma was a crying, head-banging, attention-needing, stubborn, dish-washing toddler. I was a solitary woman attempting to prepare a large thanksgiving dinner all on her own. It was a BAD, BAD combination. Somewhere along this path I managed to royally twerk a few of my relatives off, hence destroying the mood of the holiday for everyone. Ugh. It’s so hard to remain perfectly pleasant after struggling through the hours before.
Emma was wound very tight, no nap and picking up on the local tension. She refused to eat anything we put before her, and went on to scream hysterically (while we were sitting down trying to eat) because she wanted the pretty dress off, and the swimsuit she’d found ON. (I hide all the fairy dresses and swimsuits, and thought I’d thrown this one away. I have NO idea where she found it!) For the peace of mind of my guests, I finally just gave in. The size 18 months (she’s in size 4T) Dora swimsuit was donned. It dug in her flesh and barely covered her nipples, but it made her momentarily happy. We rejoined the dinner table. About 4 minutes later Emma wanted to sit on my lap. About 2 minutes later she wanted to sit on my dinner plate. (No, I’m not joking.) She wanted to sit on the table, plate or no plate, potatoes or no potatoes. She was screaming, I was holding her up a bit to prevent the mis-hap. Her swimsuited butt was pointed out at the entire lineup of guests across from us at the table, dangling dangerously toward my chestnut stuffing. I was a little red from embarrassment but couldn’t help giggling; the struggle went on and on as I attempted to convince her that she really should sit on my lap. This was all just a little bit too much; there was no negotiating or distracting. Finally I stood up and we struggled more as she turned into jelly girl, attempting to slip down through my arms like a puddle to the floor.
Emma went to bed and screamed while we finished our meal.
There were lots of dishes, leftovers, and still-strange currents from my early frustration. On a good note, later in the evening with Emma in bed, my dear husband and I had a heart to heart about family and ourselves, and how perspective helps in dealing with both. It was one of those times that left me feeling very close to him, a feeling that hasn’t been around very much lately. It was a beautiful end to an interesting day.