Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unplugging the Guilt

Written by Angela

I am a mother of four children.  Our eldest child, Doran, lives with autism.  This means the family lives with autism, and all of the unpredictability, and differentness that brings.  Doran’s spirit is as beautiful as any child’s, but it would be dishonest to say that autism does not change my parenting, our family, or affect how we approach the world.  My child, who is charming and blessed with a wicked sense of humor, can also bring my husband and me to our knees.  After a full-bodied tantrum, the whole family is exhausted.   I am left wondering yet again how much his behaviors stressed the other children, and whether Doran will ever have any relief from his struggles.  
I was guilt-ridden about all of the attention my husband and I pay to Doran to keep his moods and behaviors in balance.  I felt guilty about how much time was taken up with appointments and how much the other children couldn’t do because of Autism.  As a result, my husband and I overcompensated on weekends.  We would take daytrips on Saturdays and Sundays, make sure our eldest daughter got to her ballet class, and any other thing we could think of to make the weekend “fun”.  We were gone so much household chores were often neglected and put off until they became overwhelming.  Helena, my oldest girl, started to complain about “always going somewhere”.  It was all too much in the name of fun and relaxation.
Then came Unplugged Sundays.  At first, even though I was excited about Unplugged Sundays and wanted to include them in our family tradition, I worried that I was adding on something else-overcompensating yet again.  What I have found is that the opposite happened.  Because we are unplugged no child is competing with electronics for our attention or for attention from each other.  On Sundays our time stretches out more without the computer or a video buzzing away in the background.  Our children are more attentive to us, to each other.  Things have slowed; we are no longer “always going somewhere”.  
My guilt is unplugged.  I don’t worry about compensating for Autism so much now.  I know I have time to be present with each child because our calendar is cleared and roomy for at least one day.  I know that no matter how challenging the week has been with behaviors and appointments, we all have time to just be with each other.  This makes for happier parents, happier children and a cleaner house.

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