Today was a hard day. I felt like a complete failure of a mother to my kids. Maybe I was a complete failure. It was meant to be a mummy daycare day for Jeremiah, but the twins were so needy that I didn’t give him much time. I wanted to, but the babies were crying, screaming and frantic most of the day. I kept my calm, but I wanted to join them. My heart broke for my boy who was waiting for his mummy time.
Today broke me… I cried. I couldn’t fix things. I realised I am one person and I can’t be everything to everyone. Well, I’ve always known this fact, but today it was blatantly obvious.
The day started so well. After a terrible night, Lorelai had been up crying until past 9.30pm. She just wouldn’t sleep. I eventually got her to sleep, and then got some of my work done. Finally crawling into bed just past midnight. Longing for a good sleep, but up every hour or so to do that pregnancy pee. And Then Jeremiah woke at the fresh time of 5.15am and was ready for the day. Out of desperation he watched my phone, playing kids YouTube videos.
We all eventually got up and got ready for the day/for work, and the twins slept until 9.30. That has never, ever happened before. They are usually up bright and early. I wish I had found a way to have some solo Jeremiah time before they woke up, but I was feeding the dogs, getting things sorted for the day, getting him breakfast, getting dressed etc and then as we were sitting down together to build and play trains, the twins woke up. Because they both slept so long, they had very full nappies and both had pooed. Justin had soaked through, and the bed was wet. He needed a shower and so did Lorelai. Not complaining, I expected this after such a long sleep, however, it meant that the morning was full blast from 9.30am. Non-stop. Full on. Pulled in three directions at once. While dealing with one child (changing, washing etc), then having two others who are desperate for my attention – one being a twin baby that would be crying, and one being Jeremiah who kept saying “Mum, play with me.”
Twin parenting is so different to having a singleton. With one baby, I could sit and play with Jeremiah while entertaining one baby. I can’t do that with two clingy babies, both demanding my attention, pushing each other off of my lap to try claim sole ownership of their mother. Yes, they literally both do this. Don’t be fooled by Lorelai’s adorable and innocent looking face. She pushes Justin hard and kicks him to get off of my lap so I can be only hers. He then does the same back to her. We would make a really great reality TV show sometimes (maybe we could make a living that way hahaha – just kidding). I think about this concept and imagine viewers laughing that belly laugh at us and saying, “no! no way! It can’t possibly get any wor—- what?! It got worse!” and laughing so hard.
And then there’s Jeremiah. “Mum, play with me” still rings out in my ears. My heart aches. I want to, my love, but I also have to adult. I have to clean the babies, wash them, dry them, dress them, get the babies breakfast. They are not more important than you, but they also have needs that I have to meet. And I haven’t had breakfast yet myself, but that’s not your problem, Jeremiah.
The day went from great to bad to worse. The twins got clingier, they hurt themselves as they do, they needed me. Jeremiah tried so hard to play and interact with them. And the more he tried to play, the more it became even more obvious to me that my beautiful, sensitive, neurodiverse child does not understand how to interact with the babies, and I don’t know if he ever will. We have tried so hard to teach him. His idea of interaction with them means that I have to supervise so closely that everything, I mean everything else has to wait. I cannot leave them alone for a 1 minute pee break, or to go get food for the babies or him. I need to have such close supervision, because the interactions are not always safe. What he thinks is play, is often upsetting to Lorelai who cannot see well, or to Justin who plays rough and tumble. Or what he intends as love, like a beautiful hug, is so tight that it hurts the babies. His intentions are so beautiful and pure, but the actions don’t correlate. It must feel so horrible to constantly be trying to show your love for your siblings and have your mother telling you to let go or to stop holding or touching or squeezing them. (Or worse when others do this who just don’t understand you and reprimand you for simply trying to show love in the only way you know how to do.)
The entire day was micromanaging every interaction possible. At one point I was holding Jeremiah because he had been too rough and needed to be held back, and as I was doing that Lorelai fell off the couch. I couldn’t get to her in time to catch her because I was trying to stop an altercation from my older boy. Failure. Yeah, it sucks. I felt like I sucked. I should have been able to catch her, I was so close, but I was attending to my older boy, trying to protect everyone.
This is the side of Autism that many people don’t see. Many even see his loud, full-on behaviour as ‘naughty’ – a word I absolutely hate.
Worse still, many view the child as naughty. And this couldn’t be further from the truth.
My boy is trying so hard to interact with two siblings that he adores. And I am asking him to leave them alone. That must feel pretty horrible. To have your mum asking you to please leave your brother and sister alone when all you want to do is play with them.
Yeah – total failure.
My heart is so broken for my boy. I am teaching him, and trying and it will take time. But it isn’t his fault. I have to find ways to help him understand better.
The babies (I should probably call them toddlers now, but we still refer to them as the babies in our household) didn’t have their morning sleep which is when we would usually have Mummy Daycare time – just him and me time. He gets me all to himself. Not today, it was full on. Until the twins finally went down at 2pm. But then it was time for my boy to have his rest. When he wakes up so early he needs his rest or the remainder of the day goes from bad to worse.
So it was time after a few minutes of play to begin the wind down process for him to have a rest. He finally fell asleep at 2.50pm. I drifted off to sleep beside him. My favourite times are sleeping beside my boy, knowing he’s safe in my arms and everything is okay. And we have that peace, that calmness that we just don’t get during the awake hours. It is bliss, and I can breathe in my precious boy who I prayed for so hard for, for those 7 long years.
At 3pm the twins woke up. So that meant I dozed for about 5 minutes… life of a mum with children especially those with special needs… we learn to sleep during our sneezes and be ready to go again… well almost.
I carefully tiptoed out of the room to go get the twins up. They thought it was hilarious to keep playing on the only remaining chair in their area. I was stuck between two crying babies and two babies crying to climb the couch that they keep falling off. Stuck.
Jeremiah went off to dancing with his dad and again, I was still stuck. Could not leave these two babies alone for a few minutes. They kept hitting each other and making each other cry while the other laughed.
Twins – oh but twins are so cute. It must be so incredible having twins! (Well yes, it is, but it is also so incredibly challenging! Blessed beyond measure, exhausting beyond comprehension, too.)
The afternoon continued much the same way. This rollercoaster derailing faster and faster. I couldn’t stop it. Nothing worked. Yeah, failure.
The bedding I had washed from the night leakage, still sitting in the machine, waiting for me to hang it out. The dinner still sitting from lunchtime waiting to be put away.
Failure. Surely things can only get better from here.
Jeremiah’s behaviour was spiraling.
Dinner time, let’s get these kids fed and to bed as fast as we can.
Finally, the twins were in bed and starting to sleep. Finally, I could pull Jeremiah aside for that time he so desperately wanted, that he needed. His spiralling behaviour was his needs not being met by me. And that broke my heart. His spiralling behaviour is more of a reflection of my inability to micromanage his environment around him perfectly than any reflection of him. I hadn’t set his day up for success. I had tried, but I hadn’t succeeded today. Despite all of my effort.
Finally, we planted some bean seeds together for our experiment, played some learning games together, and then after a while his behaviour became destructive again. His needs were being met. His structure and routine were being followed, albeit at 7.30pm at night rather than during the day. So this contributed to his spiralling again.
And then finally, it was time to lie down together so that he could drift off to sleep with me beside him. I could apologise for failing as his mum today. For not giving him the attention, he so desperately wanted and needed. Where I could whisper in his ear just how much I absolutely love him. Where he could hold on to me so tight, the way he does every night, where his routine is the same and predictable and he can feel safe. And once again he can forgive this mum for not being the mum he needed today.
The washing still isn’t hung up. Failure as a wife too. The food still not put away. The dogs yet to be fed, and given their attention that they need. I’m yet to shower and get ready for work tomorrow, and daycare bags are yet to be prepared. Daycare lunches are yet to be made.
What a day. Yes, we all have them, but today broke my heart a little as I realised a little more that our boy is never going to find things easy. He can’t just interact with others. He has to be explicitly taught. And then taught this over and over again. Given the opportunity to practice. And then the babies have to be the ones to give him this practice which means that they get hurt too.
He has to work so hard to be like everyone else. It doesn’t come naturally. I have to work so hard to protect everyone. And I am drained. Nothing left, and still I must go on and get this stuff done, past midnight again. But instead I pour my heart out here as a release, but also for awareness (people who have no direct interaction on a daily basis with autism don’t see or understand this), and also to be real. To show that I don’t have it all together – ain’t that obvious! I am human. I fail. I hurt, but I will keep trying with every ounce of my being.
I also share this so that my children can see me for me. For all of my flaws. One day I want them to know that I was just doing my best. That when they have kids and are having hard days, they can look back and see that their mother struggled too, that no one is perfect and that we all fail at things. And that is okay. We can pick up and try again. They can pick up and try again. And if one day I am not here to say this to them, they have this all recorded for them. And I can reflect if I become so far removed that I forget how hard it is raising a young family with diverse needs.
Failure. It’s okay, we can grow and learn from our failures. It gives us opportunities to be real, to connect, to strip everything back and build again. I am thankful for days like this. It makes the better days seem like a dream, but it also makes me realise things. I get to see that my boy is trying so hard, all of the time. Even when it seems like he is not. He is. And he is my little hero. He will always be my hero. He has far greater resilience than I do. He forgives his mummy day in and day out. He keeps trying to interact with his siblings when they push him away so much and cry. He’s constantly dealing with rejection from them in a way. He’s brave, he’s strong, he tries. He is my world.
Tomorrow will be better. We will all try again.
(Editing to add, this was written a few weeks ago but I’ve only had a chance to upload it now. 😂)