Any parent of a child with FASD will tell you that “calm” is like a mythical unicorn.
A few weeks ago, a Saturday morning in the playground started off well enough.
Then a little girl with her grandmother came over to the slide and T didn’t want to share it.
I reminded T the slide is for everyone. Irritated, T said, “Do you want me to go home and get something sharp?”
The look on the grandmother’s face was priceless.
The situation escalated as he piled sand atop the bottom of the slide and I told him to stop.
Huge meltdown. I had to carry him home screaming.
Finding the calm in the chaos is a journey of trial and error.
There is no one standard formula, because every child and parent-child dynamic are different.
What I continue to struggle with is that even the best laid plans that align with routines and anticipate triggers can still go belly up.
The pandemic years have had truly hard moments. Some days felt like I was at the breaking point.
Somehow, we made it through each storm, whether it directly or indirectly involved T.
The calm after each storm provides moments for reflection of lessons learned and relearned.
Brain Not Behaviour
I try to remember “brain not behaviour” and that T struggles with emotional regulation, impulsivity and hyperactivity.
It’s hard to practice this during a storm – like when he sprayed bug spray in my mouth during our camping trip and refused to take responsibility.
I was livid. In hindsight, I know his brain just can’t help touching every object that catches his eye.
Self Care Is Vital
I believe in carving out time for myself, no matter how limited, to exercise, cook, read, blog, sleep – and other things that nourish my spirit.
I don’t believe in suffering in silence and believe in seeking out help. This includes connecting with FASD professionals, finding online communities and continuing to get counseling.
The pandemic reinforced the importance of setting boundaries to protect my family’s wellbeing.
Create Joyful Experiences
As one of T’s teachers diplomatically put it, there’s never a dull moment with T.
The truth is, as frustrating as this kid can be, we love him to pieces and our positive moments outweigh the challenging ones.
We create regular plans – big or small, local or away from home – to create anticipation and memories that lift us through the harder moments.
Celebrate the Victories
When I’m in the trenches with T, like frequent battles to do his school work, it feels soul sucking and at the worst of times, soul crushing.
These moments make the wins that we do experience so incredibly satisfying – and we go all out with celebrating them.
It’s not just for us as his parents but it is important for T to know, think and feel that he is very capable – and will get to where he needs to.
Be Kind to Yourself
The wonderful thing about kids like T is that every day is a new day.
But while T can quickly move on, the emotional debris left behind from his stormy moments takes longer to process as an adult.
You feel it all – anger, frustration, anxiety, stress, regret, guilt, doubt, defeat, sleeplessness, exhaustion. I remind myself to feel these emotions, because the alternative is to turn my heart into unfeeling ice.
Then I try my best to move on and, as T teaches us, tomorrow is a new day to try again.
Enjoy the Calm
When we got home from the park that Saturday morning, T was still crying and disregulated.
I left him with the hubby and went to the home office for quiet time.
I felt livid, embarrassed and frustrated as to why these moments still happen.
Those feelings soon turned into guilt, self doubt and regret as I wondered how I could’ve handled the situation differently.
An hour or so later, I heard a knock on the door and when I opened it, I found a group of T’s favourite “pets” on the floor.
He didn’t need to say sorry for me to know how he was feeling.
I looked for him in his room, gave him a quiet hug and we lied down on his bed and enjoyed the calm silence for the next few minutes.