December 17, 2010

The Faint Light At the End of the Tunnel

Originally written for Hopeful Parents, where I contribute on the 14th of every month.

We’ve been having a tough time at home. I’ve been hearing this a lot from parents lately, most attributing it to the hectic times of the holidays, with schedules interrupted, different people coming and going, and busy places to visit. My son’s teacher said that this time of year is always challenging because the kids have been in school a long time without any significant breaks.

Whatever the reason, my son Moe, has been having a lot more temper tantrums and meltdowns. He’s become sometimes sensitive to light, insisting on playing alone in his room with the door closed and lights off, piling his toys and books into his crib and burying himself under the covers. When he’s not in his boy cave (the three year old equivalent to a man cave), he’s over stimulated, chewing everything, spinning on a chair, splashing wildly in the bath. I spend a lot of time managing the extremes and trying to keep some level of calm in our house.

I am physically and emotionally exhausted. I feel like I did when I had a newborn in the house, tired, forgetful and distracted. When Moe was first born, the one thought that got me through that overwhelming time was “it will get easier.” I knew that I had to get through it, survive for a few months, but I was assured there would be a time when things would get easier. And sure enough, those feedings stretched out, Moe started sleeping through the night, and things did get easier.

But it was still hard. Everything was more challenging, even just getting in the car to go to the grocery store. Will he fall asleep in the car, jeopardizing an afternoon nap? Did he eat enough at the last feeding so I won't have to find a spot to nurse? Do I have everything I need in the diaper bag? But time passed, and once again, things did get easier. Then I had a second child and it started all over again. Now I had sleepless nights and a toddler. I had to learn all over again how to accomplish these same simple tasks, with new challenges like getting two kids in and out of the car, one of whom was (and still is) a toddler who would dash across a parking lot if I wasn’t holding securely to his hand. And then Moe wasn't talking, and there were doctor's appointments and assessments, and finally an autism diagnosis. I remembered how hard I thought it was when I had only one happy little baby. And I realized, that was the easy time. And it's over.

I recently wrote a post about a particularly rough day. Fellow bloggers and parents assured me that things will get better. I survive each day with this in mind. I tell myself that we will someday look back at these early years as the most challenging times of our lives. We just have to slog through it. But now I’m not sure. What if Moe’s behaviors don’t improve but he just gets bigger? What if this is the easy time?

I wish I could conclude on an optimistic note. I want to say that if this is the easy time, I will learn to enjoy it now, and then, if things do get better (which they probably will), I’ll be pleasantly surprised. But if things don’t improve, I’ve learned how to enjoy the moment we’re in. But honestly, I’m not sure how to do that. So right now, I’m just trying to survive, a day or even an hour at a time, believing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, however faint.


  1. Oh Jen. A big group hug from your posse! Hope is what keeps us going however faint. Funny how I was so overwhelmed in the first few months too. Now as I read your post I realize that was the easy bit.

  2. @ggop - Thanks. Maybe for those of us with real little ones, it gets harder for a while before it gets easier?

  3. I was at a gathering of special needs kids for a christmas party and although all of those kids did have issues, they were a happier lot, much more in control of their bodies and able to handle the environment to a large extent and there I was with my 32 month old jumping on us, shouting nad I realised that age does really play a imp role.
    I am not going to say that those kids or their parents dont have issues, but their issues seemed to be different than my daughters.
    So while I know what you are going through, since I have that feeling day in and day out too, I hope and so it seems that the issues change with age. (Not sure if they get easier or difficult)

  4. I am pretty sure I've mentioned this to you before, but with my son we go through phases. Many, many phases. Now we have been through enough for me to know that any really challenging behaviors will go in time. We have gone through saying no to everything, saying whatever the opposite was, talking like a baby, hitting his brother in the head, crawling, spinning, spitting, telling everyone he hated them, etc. I could go on and on. And most last a few weeks or a few months tops. So I just try my hardest to get through the phase and now we will get to the other side of the tunnel (I know you like how I just totally fit that last sentence into the title of your post!).

  5. I love the term toddler cave, we’re getting a lot of that here lately too. Maybe it is the time of year, not just the holidays but also the long nights. I have that same worry, what if the same behaviors stay and she just gets bigger? I think that the sensory seeking and tantrums may always be a problem to some extent, but the nature of it will change. Do you think Moe’s behavior is exactly the same as a year ago, or is it just similar? I think my daughter is better at seeking out specific activities to get the sensory input she needs. Even the tantrums are different, still unpleasant to say the least, but different.
    I wish I had a magic answer or a working crystal ball, but know you are not alone.

  6. Sorry to hear you're going through a tough time! I think having a toddler and a baby would be a tough combo for anybody! Add autism into the mix and it's much harder still! I'm sure it will get better! Make sure you have a good baby sitter and take some "me" time! You need it!

  7. K's been going through some of the same stuff! I feel ya! =( So sorry it's been rough lately. I guess I see it as there will be some days in the future that will be worse, but also some much better... and I've got to just push through to see it! lol In bootcamp they told us to get through it "chow to chow". When K was little I used the same mantra, "just live nap to nap". ...if their is one! ;) Otherwise the pic picture is too daunting sometimes!


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