Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why we can't do the morning rush at our house

Mornings at our house are much like mornings in the homes of working parents everywhere: We're scrambling to get out the door. But when you're raising a kid with special needs, there are times when it's just not possible to rush.

Max usually wakes up first. Sometimes, he'll come into our room and politely ask Dave to get out of bed, by which I mean he shouts "EH UH!" ["GET UP!"] Then Dave will plop Max down and he'll watch Disney Jr. for a bit. Sabrina gets dressed on her own—or, rather, she puts on one outfit, then another, then another. Next she brushes her hair, tries eleventy billion hair accessories and rejects them all. Then she chooses another outfit. Meanwhile, Dave and I jump in the shower. When I come out and look at the clock, it's suddenly clear that we're running late.

Every single morning, it's like we have never done this before.

We can get Max dressed pretty fast—he's not yet up to putting shirts or pants on himself—but getting on the braces and shoes on takes a good five minutes. He settles down to eat breakfast, steel-cut oatmeal with cinnamon. When he was a tot, I couldn't imagine him feeding himself: He wasn't able to grasp a spoon, plus most of the food dribbled out of his mouth and I'd have to spoon it back in. Now he eats really well on his own, so we can leave him to it as we run around like headless chickens shouting things like "Where are my house keys?!" (me) and "Honey, I am going to be home late tonight because I have to take a client to dinner!" (Dave) and "Why can't you do more working lunches?!" (me).

Meanwhile our sitter, L, shows up; she's been with us for 11 years, and she is the closest human entity to a saint I have ever met.

The other morning was the usual scene. "Sabrina! I have to catch my train! We have to leave sooooooooon!" I shouted up the stairs, because she'd gone off to brush her hair again.

"Two minutes, Mommy!" she promised.

"Hi, Ohmmy!" Max said when I walked by the table.

"Hi, Max!" I said.

"No!" said Max. "Ire-ann!"

I'd forgotten: He only wants to be addressed as "Fireman Max."

"OK, hi Fireman Max!" I said.

"Hi, Ohmmy!" he answered, and returned to eating his oatmeal.

Several minutes later, he announced "I aaahn ooh eee a ire-ann!" ("I want be a fireman!"), just in case I'd forgotten from when he said it a few minutes before.

"Yes! You're going to be a fireman!" I said, anxiously watching the clock.

Then he said something to our sitter that neither of us understood.

"Honey, can you say it again?" I asked.

Max repeated it. We looked perplexed. He repeated it again.

"Ice-cream?!" L guessed.

"No!" said Max.

"Water?" I said to him.

"No!" said Max.

"Sabrina! We have to go now!" I shouted.

"Coming!" she said and clattered down the stairs. Dave headed out to the car.

I really had to go catch my train to work. Only Max wanted me to understand something, and I couldn't just take off. There has to be time not just for dressing and eating but for understanding.

One of the hardest lessons I've learned as a special needs parent is that there's no rushing things along. You can't make biggie developments like walking, speech and comprehension happen any sooner than they are meant to, no matter how hard you try or how many tears you cry. You can't press a child to pick up toys with both hands, kick a ball or walk up stairs until his muscles and coordination are up to it, whatever his age. You can't coax a child who's fearful of noise and crowds go to birthday parties or unfamiliar restaurants, because he just won't be able to deal until (and if) his sensory issues abate. You can't hurry a child to learn to say "I love you." You can't get a child to potty train until he's truly ready. You can't speed up reading or doing math. Our kids are on their own timelines, and all we can do is get them as much therapy and as many resources as possible, guide them, cheer on their inchstones and encourage them to keep trying as best they can. (And then find a healthy outlet for letting out our fears and frustrations, plus maybe eat too much smoked Gouda cheese late at night.)

I pulled Max's iPad out of his backpack. He typed two letters on his Proloquo2Go speech app: Dr.

Aha! "Max! You want L to be a doctor when she gets older?" I asked. Besides figuring out his own job aspirations, lately Max has been giving other people career advice.

"Eee-yah!" Max said, happily. He looked at me: "Leeese!"

I knew what he was saying: "Oh, and I'm going to be a policewoman?"

"Eee-yah!" Max says. (For the record, Sabrina is going to be a chef and Dave is going to be an astronaut).

"OK! Right now, buddy, I've got to go get my train," I said, kissed him and ran out the door.

"Bye, Fireman Max!"

"Eye, Ohmmy!"

Photo: Flickr/Arielle Nadel


  1. Your paragraph on not being able to rush things... I saw it one someone's Facebook post. It'd be ideal if we could have this same approach with all children. All children are developing at their own pace. Most will cluster around the top of the bell curve, but they are all on their own schedule. We can't trust that "average" will suit everyone's needs.

    Having information about what's typical helps us address issues early, which is great. But sometimes our interpretations become too rigid, even for "normally developing" kids.

    There is a lot that can be learned from parenting an atypical kid.

  2. Why not have Sabrina and Max get up, say, 30 min earlier every morning? Would that not fix the morning OMG-we're-running-late-every-single morning issue?

    I agree it's impossible to rush skills in a kid with special needs (and often in a kid without special needs; there's a surprizingly broad age range in which even "typical" kids learn to talk/eat cereal/button their own pants)... but the weekday morning rush doesn't necessarily need to be among them.

    1. That would seem to be the solution, right? But I prefer to let the kids get up on their own time clocks so their bodies get the sleep they naturally need. They both tend to be groggy and grumpy when we've tried an alarm.

    2. Make bedtime 30 min earlier, so wake up time is 30 min earlier, thus avoiding alarms and grumpy kids?

      (There are sooo many unavoidable things that cause stress, thus I'm a big fan of doing whatever's necessary to rid my life of the limited number of 100% avoidable ones).

  3. Great post Ellen! It's like it is! And believe me with a kid on the spectrum we do things the exact same way every day :) way to embrace it!

  4. A great and necessary reminder. One of the few ... let's say "weaknesses" ... of my parents in raising me as a disabled child is that my Dad would often intervene to do things for me, partially or maybe mostly because he reasoned it was more efficient that way. He was never ever unkind or impatient about it, but there were self-care tasks like dressing myself that I probably started doing for myself a couple of years later than necessary.

    At some point, though, it becomes important to identify areas where you aren't going to get more capable, and then need to consider embracing more help and adaptive tools. Eventually, one hopefully becomes capable of deciding when taking your time to do things at your own pace is the way to go, and when going for convenient shortcuts is the better value.

  5. Great post. My mom-guilt is high when I cut my son off mid-sentence. His speech takes soooo long, and we are so short on time. It's so hard to stop and listen 24/7. Thanks for the reminder that I'm not the only one.

  6. I still can't ride a bike, but I can rock climb.

  7. Anonymous, I think that's where my son will be. He can't walk without his walker, but he climbs the couch faster than a neurotypical child.

  8. You put it so well, Ellen! Sometimes we just have to meet kids where they are, instead of pushing them to meet us where we are. It is one of the hardest things to do day-in and day-out. You're doing great, though. I'm glad you took the time to listen to his ideas of what you and his babysitter should be when you grow up. That was so sweet! Thanks for sharing! --Elise Hopkins, Kids Included Together


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...