I was having one of those weeks in which regular day-to-day running of the house, managing therapy appointments, illness, dog bites, and evaluations for your nearlytypical (yes, that is what I’m calling it) son, is too much. And then…
Wednesday, snow day. Thursday, snow day. Friday, snow day.
I have sensory-seeking Pudding who is desperate to get outside in the snow and ice, and defensive Cubby who screams if it touches his skin. And me. Ragged, worn out, had enough, can’t take any more, me.
By Friday afternoon, even my indoorsy self was cabin feverish. I learned that both Monday and Tuesday were student holidays from school too, with more snow due on Tuesday night. I believe it is called a Godsmack over here. I hatched a plan. I would take the kids to the small indoor play/party venue close to our home. Pudding used to go to a music and movement class there when we were living here temporarily, pre-diagnosis. Though she hasn’t been there for over a year, she was excited by the suggestion. We bundled up, and though I struggled to find parking, we eventually got there. Turns out, the reason for no parking was that every family in the vicinity had the same idea. It was packed, hot, and claustrophobic.
Pudding had already begun to remove her boots, gloves, hat and coat, so I helped Cubby to do the same thing. Cubby was ready to play. Initially Pudding ran in the enclosed area too, then she froze. It was as though it suddenly hit her: the bright lights, noisy kids, crying babies, spinning fans, heat, people. She turned to me with a look of anguish on her face and screamed. I picked her up and moved to a corner and dropped to the ground. She cried and screamed. Her breathing came too fast. She alternately clung to me and tried to run away. I held on tight, stroked her hair, and repeated my mantra: Mummy’s here, Mummy’s here. She was unable to speak to tell me what was wrong, but I’d already figured out that everything was wrong, all at once.
I sat there on the floor as kids ran around us, wondering what to do next. Cubby was gone, climbing on some apparatus at the other side of the room. If I suggested we leave, he’d have this same reaction. And she was so worked up, how would I ever get her dressed warmly enough to go back out into the snow? She stopped screaming, but the sobbing continued. My so-tall girl, as big as some kids twice her age, and I still comforted her like I did when she was first born. Mummy’s here. Mummy doesn’t have a clue what to do, but Mummy’s here. Little has changed in four years, except her size.
Then I had the thought. The least useful thought that could possibly enter my head at that juncture. What do people think? I know, I know. But it was in my head. The thought that makes me tilt my chin down and look to the ground, lest I see what people think. But not on Friday. Not after this week, not after this day. I raised my head, and looked around. Some people were looking, most people weren’t. Some kids staring, some mothers gazing. I looked right back at every one of them. Then one woman smiled at me. I smiled back. She looked over at Cubby and nodded to me. Kind nonverbal code for don’t worry about the other kid, I’ve got your back.
I carried on my comforting litany: Mummy’s here, Mummy’s here. I really am here, I thought. We’re in it together kid. Her sobs quieted, and her breathing slowed, her body loosened and relaxed. Our foreheads touching so I didn’t know which one of us was sweating, couldn’t tell if they were her tears or mine. She got her words back: “I want to sit up there,” looking up at the wall that surrounded the play area. I lifted her up, and she surveyed the scene from up high. She took in every inch of the room, floor to ceiling, side to side. From this perspective, she assessed that the place wasn’t a threat. From ground level she was overwhelmed by the perceived danger. After a few minutes, she got down and tentatively joined her brother. We stayed until she’d had enough.
I’m trying to remind myself that I too need to get a little perspective. It is easy to feel overwhelmed at times with so much chaos going on. So many things out of my control. I might just need to sit this out for a little while until I’m ready to get back into play. She came up with her own coping strategy, I need to do the same.