Since when did trying to give and receive affection equal getting kicked in the face? Well, if you are an autism mommy like me, you may have had your fair share of fat lips and other injuries courtesy of your child. Lucky me, I get to add another one to the tally.
Prince Charming and I were hanging out in the living room enjoying a relatively calm moment in the house. He was playing with Lincoln Logs, following the picture examples inside the box to create little structures. The best part was, of course, knocking it all over when he was done. I was sitting next to him, quietly watching and making some mental observations about his play.
In the span of about 10 minutes he had built and destroyed 3 houses and was beginning to build his favorite one yet again. He doesn’t typically like anyone to touch his stuff while he plays, so I was surprised when he invited me to help him place a piece or two on his creation. He was very rigid in the way he wanted me to participate, so I tried to gently challenge him by doing something a little bit different than he expected. He objected, which was not a shock. I did this a few times and he corrected me each time.
Finally we completed the building and then I teased him about how I was going to knock it down before he could. He got excited and started to watch me carefully, and we timed our movements together, knocking the building down and sending pieces tumbling all the way across the room. After tons of laughter and searching under the couch for some of the pieces, I told him that I had fun playing with him and that I would like a hug.
He immediately bolted from the room. I sat still, waiting for him to come back. I knew that he would expect me to give chase, so I wanted to see how long it would take for him to come back and see why I didn’t. When he finally came back into the room, he looked at me sheepishly, like he was ready to jump out of the way should I attempt to reach out to try to touch him. I remained completely still, hoping he would come closer to me. Like any sly mom, my intent was to reach out and scoop him into a hug. It’s hard to get affection from him and I often go long periods of time without any hugs or kisses. For a mommy who needs this kind of affection regularly, it’s hard to go without.
So, we played this game several times and whenever I made the slightest movement he took off like a shot. Finally I had an opportune moment and I seized it. I was able to grab him by the hand. He put himself on the floor and began to position himself defensively so he could kick me away. I am used to him posturing like this, so I can typically work myself around his flailing legs without incident. And, I can usually get in a few good tickles in the process! After a few moments, he decided he no longer wanted to play the “mommy wants a hug” game and he started getting really aggressive. His attitude changed so quickly that I didn’t catch on fast enough that he wanted to stop. I got too close to him and WHAM-O! I took a solid kick to the face. I fell backward, half from the force of the kick and half from the shock and immediate pain.
On a good day Prince Charming acts like a bull in a china shop. He needs constant, intense input on his body. He may only be 5, but he’s a big kid (after all his dad is 6’8”) and he’s solid muscle. With his needs for proprioception, you can imagine what he might be like when he is intentionally trying to leverage his body to get away from something he doesn’t want or like.
Well, my face caught the brunt of it yet again.
I quickly removed myself from the room and found an icepack. I was angry at him, even though I knew I probably shouldn’t be. After I saw blood on the icepack and went to look in the mirror, I saw my lip was split open. My face and lips were swelling up from the trauma. When I finally sat down to catch my breath and focus on applying the ice to my face, that’s when the tears started to flow.
Was it always going to be this hard just to get a hug from my son? I began blaming myself for what happened. It was my persistence that caused the injury. I felt ridiculous. Prince Charming has always been very reactive. He can have meltdowns at the drop of a hat and Lord knows he’s been violent before. Luckily these things are getting better over time. But, we’re not “there” yet. I should know by now that with a kid like mine, I can’t push too hard without the potential for unexpected and negative consequences.
When my husband re-entered the room and saw me holding an icepack to my face he got up to speed and went to talk with my son who was continuing to play with his toys. No surprise there. I could hear Titan asking Prince Charming if he knew that I was crying. I heard him say, “no” in response. Right after it happened I told him three times very calmly that he kicked me in the face and that it hurt me. Despite this, he really had no idea there was a problem. After prompting from my husband, he walked in to verify that I was indeed crying and then he turned around and left the room. That broke my heart just a little bit more. I heard Titan say, “You hurt Mommy. That’s why she’s crying.” He said, “Okay,” and kept playing.
A half-hour after the incident, Titan went back to him after my tears had dried up and suggested that he give me a hug to make me feel better. He came in and gave me a cursory hug because Titan had told him to. There was no feeling or understanding of why it was important. I accepted the hug because I knew it would be all I got from him for the day, so I had to take it when I could get it.
I know it won’t be the last time I get injured from one of my boys. I hope someday to no longer worry about things like this, but for now it’s part of my “normal” experience and is an occupational hazard of raising my boys with autism and SPD.