Contrast=The difference between who I am being in the moment, and who I want to be.
So we’d been waiting for this clay class. It’s at a local art studio, and the Thursday afternoon class is just for homeschoolers. There are only five in the class. A great way for Riley to meet other kids who are also homeschooling. A way to possibly make some friends, and feel like she’s not alone in all this homeschooling business. She hates being the odd one out.
Just five in the class. Managable. I told the teacher a little about Riley beforehand, and that I’d be staying, just in case, but with only five students, it should be okay.
Seth wound up being sick yesterday, and not quite ready to go back to school today. Still, I decided to go to clay, since it is the first class of the session and Riley hates feeling like she’s behind. It would not be good to start out that way next week. So I brought both kids and set Seth up in the corner with headphones and a portable DVD player. The other kids were nice and friendly. The teacher was too. It should be good.
Fifteen minutes in, Riley noticed the other kids were way ahead of her. You see, while it was the first class of the session, these kids have been taking sessions all along. They already know what they are doing. She didn’t.
She hid under the table shrieking and then ran from the room screaming and crying, down a long hallway. I followed her, leaving Seth by himself, in a room full of strangers who had no idea why his sister was screaming her head off.
Such hopes I had for this class. Hopes for play dates and connections with other homeschoolers. Social opportunities on a smaller scale, without all the pressure and social politics of school. I felt those opportunities go spiraling down the drain the longer she screamed. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t normally care what most people think if she has a meltdown, but I had a lot riding on this class.
She wouldn’t stop. It went on and on.
Do I leave? Do I just pack up all our stuff? The damn DVD player, and the books? Do I try to talk her through?
I try to talk her through to no avail.
Seth has this fear of being left. He gets really scared.
“Riley it doesn’t matter. These kids have been doing this a long time. The teacher will help you.You are just learning. You don’t have to be the expert.”
Anger bubbles up and spews out of me.
“You are embarrassing me,” I tell her.
She wails louder.
They are going to think she’s a freak.
“You are never going to have any friends if you act this way,” I seethe.
She starts hitting herself in the head, in the face.
“I’m so bad! I’m so bad! I’m such a bad person.”
I don’t stop her. Let her get a couple hits in for me.
She wails louder.
I can’t take it. I start to cry.
“Stop it Riley. You need to stop,” I say.
What the fuck more do I have to do for this kid?
Nothing is ever going to help. My nerves are shot.
“Shut up,” I whisper yell.
I swear to God I can’t take it.
I leave her in a heap on the floor in the hallway, and head toward the room to check on Seth. I wipe my eyes, gulp a few times and dig my fingernails into my opposite palm until it hurts to distract myself and stop my tears before entering the room. I march over to Seth and whisper, “I will never leave you. I’ll be back. I’m just down the hall.”
He looks up at me. He understands.
As I head back out the door the teacher, or possibly another parent asks, “are you okay?”
I can’t deal with kindness. It might kill me. I ignore her and keep walking down the hall.
I take Riley in my lap and sit on a couch with her, cradling her like a baby. I think I’ve only cried in front of her twice before. I can’t take it though. I don’t know what has come over me. I’m wrecked. I can’t stop.
After a while I walk her back down the hall, thinking we are going to get our coats and call it a wash, but the teacher comes out and somehow talks her back into the classroom. I stand with my back to the teacher, imagining what she thinks. Crazy mom who cries every time her daughter with autism has a meltdown?
Who gives a shit what she thinks.
Riley winds up staying and finishing the project, creativity at full-throttle.
I wonder what kind of damage I did, telling her she embarrassed me. Telling her she will never have friends. Telling her to shut up.
I wonder what possessed me to do so.
I wonder when I’m going to stop having expectations, because they always bite me in the ass.
Things cook along so nicely and then I’m blindsided.
We come home. I make dinner like a zombie. Feed them. Let them play with their DSIs and don’t start the timer. Play until your eyeballs pop out. I don’t care.
She’s happy, all smiles, playing with her brother. Whatever it was moved through her and she’s fine now.
My body refuses to let things go so easily. I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.
90 minutes to play the role of loving mommy before I can put them to bed.