I need to share a less than stellar experience I had today with Gilbert. Which involved pain, crying and public spectacle – and that’s just describing my part in the experience!
Today, I lost it as a special needs parent and I’m not proud of it. It was all my own doing and all I can do now is learn from my own mistakes and do better by my son, and me, in future.
Gilbert was invited to the birthday party of one his old ASPECT classmates which was an awesome opportunity to catch up with all the kids and their parents after the first week back.
I knew we were going to be pushing things with Gilbert even before we left for the party. He had a massive first week in mainstream (which he handled BEAUTIFULLY – another post to follow about that) and needed some time to rest and recover.
But the opportunity for him to meet up with his friends and for me to check-in with the parents was too good to miss – so we went along and hoped for the best.
Things were okay when we arrived. Gilbert found his friends and started playing with them while I caught up with some of the parents and began comparing notes.
I kept a watchful eye on my son to make sure he didn’t get too overcome with excitement and at first all seemed well.
But then I started noticing some niggling between him and one particular boy which led to pushing and pulling and hitting and kicking.
I tried to redirect Gilbert and encourage him to spend time with his other friends instead. But the niggling continued on and off all afternoon.
Other things started to bother him too. No, he didn’t want a sausage bun for lunch. No, he wasn’t interested in watching the magician show. No, he couldn’t wait for a drink, instead he needed to interrupt the magician’s show in order to reach the drink table.
But still we stayed, although I was not relishing having to constantly monitor his behaviour and began to stress more and more that he would ultimately burst.
It was the pinata that proved the final straw. First up Gilbert demanded to be the first one to have a go at hitting the pinata and pushed in front of the birthday boy to achieve this goal. Then he got upset when he didn’t break open the pinata and had to be restrained so he didn’t get in the way of the other kids having their turn.
When the pinata finally broke open he joined the throng in scooping up the loot. Except he became more focused on the fact the boy he had been niggling with all day had more loot than he. So I became focused on moving Gilbert away before he launched right into him.
I am not strong enough to restrain him anymore. I knew it was a futile effort but I persisted and was rewarded with a headbut to the jaw. It hurt, God it hurt. I was reduced to tears and no longer had the necessary patience to help calm him down.
I confess I yelled at him, full of pain and frustration and pent-up stress from the week before. His continued tirade against this boy just made me lose it even more.
Instead of remaining calm and possibly salvaging the situation, all I could do was sob out my frustration and plead with him to stay still and try to calm down. He kept trying to break away and every tug seemed to hurt my jaw even more.
I don’t think I have ever felt so out of control nor so angry nor so bitterly disappointed nor so helpless in all my life.
Some wonderful, wonderful people noticed our distress and came to my aid, distracting Gilbert enough so I could gather our things and say our goodbyes to the hosts.
At this stage nothing could calm him down and he found fresh angst when he discovered there was not a second Freddo frog in his party bag. I had nothing left, all I could do was drag him to the car where a friend stopped him from running onto the road.
I cried the whole way home. I was mortified at the spectacle I had made of myself and him. I was frustrated that I couldn’t keep my cool. I resented the fact that we had to leave in such a way. I felt that I had failed him in not being able to calm him down.
I was disappointed in him for his attitude to this boy but even more disappointed in myself for not acting earlier and taking him home when I knew he was struggling with the situation.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?
Anyway, I proved today that I do not have the patience of a saint and that I need to work on strategies that will really help Gilbert in these instances rather than inflame things further.
I know none of us are perfect and we can’t do everything well all the time.
But I do want to do better by myself and my son. And I never want to be put in such a difficult situation ever again.