“Coronavirus gave me my son back.
Two months ago, I found myself sitting on the floor of my living room, sobbing, while the Kangaroo sat in my lap, also sobbing. Only his sobs were different than mine. His were high pitched and keening. They were interspersed with screams and each scream was accompanied by him throwing his head back into my sternum as hard as he could. Over and over and over.
Two months ago, I didn’t know how to help him be happy.
Our days were filled with tantrums, meltdowns, physical aggression, and heartbreak. I would pick him up from school at noon and his teacher would report that he had a great day; seemed so happy and enjoyed his morning. Or I would pick him up from his dad’s house and his dad would tell me that he smiled all afternoon; they giggled on the couch and had so much fun together. I would hear these reports and compare them with the hour-long screaming meltdowns I saw. The head butting, the face scratching, the eye gouging was reserved just for me. I was so envious of how much fun everyone around me was having with my son. I gave him everything I had, and nothing stopped the meltdowns and the aggression. I would go into each day so optimistic, ready to be a whole new mom. A happy mom who doesn’t get frustrated, who never raises her voice, and who is able to help hold a safe space until the meltdown ended. But each day I found my voice getting louder and louder, more and more shrill. I found myself using a tone of voice that I was ashamed of and swore I would never use toward another human.
I have spent many years as an educator, specifically working with infants and toddlers with disabilities. I have explained this type of behavior to countless parents. I’ve told more moms than I can count why it is that their children’s behavior is worse for them. Clinically, I understand it. Kids let their guard down with the people they trust the most. Mama is the safe space where you can let go and not have to hold it all in anymore. It’s a good thing. It’s reaffirming how strong your attachment is and is demonstrating the bond you have with your child. But in the heat of the moment none of that means shit. When you’re the one who is trying to make the nosebleed stop it’s hard to remember that your child head butted you because of how much they love you. It’s hard to sit patiently and quietly next to a very strong, very angry toddler who is determined to bite your thighs or claw your arms.
And then Coronavirus happened, and the world went into isolation. The Kangaroo stopped going to school. We stopped going to play dates, playgrounds, playgroups. We started doing the same thing every single day. We stayed home, in our very carefully curated space, that is clean and calm, with minimal lighting and empty surfaces. The Kangaroo got unimpeded access to his most favorite comfort objects and stimmy toys, 24/7. He and I spent hours and hours playing the same games, repeating the same motions and movements. We moved into the backyard, taking those favorite items with us and played the same games out there, letting the sunshine work its magic on us. When he seemed overwhelmed or overstimulated, we loaded up into the van and drove for hours, anywhere we felt like going, just driving. He would cuddle up with his blanket, pacifier, and favorite taco truck and watch a DVD while I listened to an audio book in the front seat. We drove to the next city, the next state; we drove twirly back roads, over one-lane bridges, and around horse fields. We talked about his movie, the trucks on the road next to us, the water in the river, the clouds in the sky. And after a few hours when his body was calm, we would head back home and continue on with our day.
It wasn’t until about two weeks ago when I was on the phone with my mom when I realized that the Kangaroo hadn’t tried to hurt me all day. In fact, he had gone several days without trying to hurt me. He was happy and had been smiling all day. Since then, every day has been better than the day before. I’m not saying that every single moment is peaceful. Let’s be honest, I’m raising an autistic three-year-old who has strong opinions and is smarter than I am. But even the difficult moments are different than they used to be. Less intense, less targeted at me. Somehow this time together at home has reset his little brain and brought us peace together. I feel like this huge weight is lifted and I can enjoy my son again! The calmer and more relaxed I feel when I am with him the more, he blossoms. I see him growing and changing every single day, right in front of my eyes. His language is exploding, his play skills are growing in leaps and bounds. His problem solving and critical thinking are so far ahead of where they were. He is more patient and resilient, and his frustration level has gone way down. I love every little hair on his head, but right now I *like* them all too. There were so many days where I knew that it was my love for him that kept me going, because I sure didn’t like him right then.
Coronavirus is awful. Of course, it is. People are sick and dying, the economy is tanking, everything is falling apart. Medical practitioners are being asked to work too many hours, with too little protection, for too little pay. People are having to choose between going to work to feed their families or staying home and staying healthy. If I had a magic lamp of course I would ask the Genie to turn back time and keep us all safe. But since this is the reality, we are facing I am going to embrace this gift of time with my son. I feel like I am learning all about a whole new child who looks and sounds just like mine but isn’t. This is the happy, engaging, loving, sweet, funny little boy that I hear stories about, not the angry, aggressive one that I have been living with. It is such a joy to wake up and be happy to see his little face. I used to dread mornings. I would hear him wake up, calling for me or crying my name and literally not have the energy to face one more day with him. And now when he wakes up, we cuddle, he says sweet things, and then we slowly make our way into the living room to start the day.
Coronavirus gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my son and to start over, and I am doing everything I can to make the most of it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Anna Wersan. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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