I remember my Mother “choosing her battles” a lot when I was growing up. Whether it was with my brother, my father, or me, one of us got off the hook with something so she could keep her sanity. She was the quintessential SUPER MOM that always seemed to have it together and made parenting appear easy, but I truly believe now it’s because she picked her battles in life. She tried to always find silver linings in every hardship and tried to stay as positive as possible.
I am so thankful that she instilled that in me, especially with the challenges I have faced over the years in her absence. Like, right now…I have chosen to find ways to stay positive in this last month of pregnancy by focusing on how scrumptious this little munchkin in my belly is going to be instead of literally allowing myself to dwell on the fact that his insane growth is about to shatter my hips and is causing me night after night of sleeplessness. Not to mention, I am becoming more and more worried about what his arrival is going to do to my Nico. I’m trying so hard to not be a miserable cow balled up with anxiety, but it’s becoming darn near impossible.
I have also realized more and more that I pick and choose my battles with my son. Nico is a tremendous kiddo and truly…we are blessed because he is a manageable child despite his struggles with Autism; however, I wonder if it’s also because I don’t and won’t focus on all the difficult aspects of his Autism. Like, for example, Nico will sometimes get really upset and combative if he is not ready or willing to take a bath or brush his teeth. He will negotiate another “five minutes” as his way of getting out of it and when pushed to finally take the bath or brush his teeth he can then become obstinate and physical. Our therapists have taught us how to handle him when he gets physical (ignore and redirect him), but honestly….all I wanna do sometimes is spank his little hand or butt because who the heck does he think he is hitting his mother; however, that does not work. So, I sometimes just say the hell with it and he gets a pass on bath time/brushing his teeth. Another instance is when Nico is being loud and being very echolalic. It can rattle nerves, but I don’t want to just quiet him down or tell him to relax because I feel like he is working so hard at that moment to possibly communicate or use his language to the best of his ability so, much to my husband’s chagrin, I allow it and get frustrated if my husband wants it to stop. This then brings up the issue of, “are we on the same page with parenting?” and “we can’t cancel each other out because Nico will pick up on that.”
Now, I know this sounds typical for many children and so it may seem as if our circumstances aren’t much different than those of a parent raising a neurotypical child, but believe me they are. Every bit of parenting we do with our son can make or break a moment, a day, a positive trend of progression. Plus, when you’re exhausted already from a day of battles that you did choose to fight because Nico must be taught how to function appropriately in the world, while also managing how I handle the battle and how my husband handles the battle (which can be two totally different approaches), all I want to do is just throw in the towel. I don’t want to be that mother that harps on everything, says “no” or “don’t do that” more than I embrace all that Nico is doing well, but it’s tough when then it seems like I’m giving in to Nico.
I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot as I count down to Baby Boy #2. Will I become even more accommodating to Nico because of this second baby? Become even more overprotective of him so as to not cause any setbacks in Nico’s progress. I remember my Mom being fiercely overprotective of me. Not allowing my father to gripe or yell or get inpatient with me (only she could…ha), especially once my brother came along. I wonder if it was because she had the same concerns; she didn’t want me to feel less loved or cared for now that there was another child in her life. She really wanted us to get positive reinforcement and not be knit-picked for everything we did and I see myself being like that with Nico.
And, I keep thinking…is it because I don’t want Nico’s life to be harder than it already is? Or, am I just babying him because he is my “baby boy?” I certainly do not want my son to grow up to be incapable of handling struggles or hardships or criticism, but maybe it’s just the power of perspective taking hold of me and what others may see as areas in Nico that need to be corrected, I see a little boy just being a little boy….with Autism. And my little boy works too damn hard everyday, from the moment he wakes up until he practically goes to bed, to not get a break.
Autism displays itself in all sorts of ways with Nico and it really changes day by day. Sometimes he is more overactive and loud, other days he’s stimming a ton and appears to be in his own world. I never know what behaviors he is going to display and when. Some days he is moody and combative and other days I look at him and think, “wow….he is really evolving! I don’t even see the Autism today!”
But, when he is overactive or more combative and it’s difficult to plan our day or get him to focus and listen, I find myself choosing the path of least resistance. Canceling plans, staying at home, letting him just be in his comfort zone and I’m just not sure if I’m making the best choice anymore considering it just makes our life seem a bit boring and secluded. We don’t want to have to leave an event abruptly because of Nico so instead we choose to just not even go.
And now I am worried because I don’t know what we have in store with this next child. I have willed myself away from thinking that this next baby boy will have Autism or any other conditions because I just want to live in the land of optimism, but what if I am up against an even bigger battle? We won’t ever leave the house and that will certainly not be fair or realistic for any of us. Despite all of its wonderment and beauty, Autism has controlled so much of our life already. Motivated us to avoid certain situations that could cause Nico to struggle or open him up to stares and mistreatment from other children who don’t understand him, and, at times, interfered in my husband’s and my ability to co-parent when I want to handle it one way and he wants to handle it another. The struggle between “babying,” disciplining, and just knit-picking is real!
Now, we have chosen to bring another child into our lives which means we have ultimately chosen a path that may lead to more battles we will have to pick and choose to fight or not. We know this, but I am hoping that unconsciously I decided to move forward with this second child because I am not going to “baby” Nico and give in to him for the sake of not making things more difficult for him. How will bringing a second child into my son’s life not be difficult in some way? Here is a little boy who has had free reign of most everything and everyone he loves for the last 6 years. He is someone who thrives on routine and is very rigid in his expectations of how things should go. Well, good luck with that when a new baby is about to take up a ton of your mom’s attention and time and take over your comfort zone in more ways than one.
I seriously wish I could be one of those people who takes life in stride. A person who doesn’t over analyze or try to control so much. Maybe that’s why I am more empathetic towards Nico’s needs; I put myself in his shoes and envision how I would handle the same situation. I think many of us parents do that though, right? Either way, I’m in a place right now where I am about to turn Nico’s world upside down and maybe I’m feeling guilty about that. I just hope that he knows how much I love him, advocate for him, care for him, and will always protect him.
Whatever happens once we welcome this second child into our world, I just want Nico to know that he will always be my first baby boy and I am his staunchest advocate in life. And, I will probably want to choose the path of least resistance for him for the rest of his life because I’m his mom, his protector. Period. However, I know my kiddo will be able to hold his own in the end because I definitely haven’t forgone every battle with him. Let’s just hope that the benefits of growing our family, which have grounded my husband and me in this decision, allow for amazing growth in our Nico. And, hell, if nothing else…my husband gets full parenting reign of one and I get full parenting reign of the other…ha!