My time or yours?
One of the biggest struggles in raising a high-needs child is allotting time for each of us to get our needs met. You'd think that when said child starts school it would get easier, & it does... somewhat. But what I've found is that days when B is not in school- weekends, school breaks- tend to be easier on both of us. I think it's because the home-time on schooldays is often very intense. We have a specific amount of time in the morning to get dressed, eat, & (if B does well) play a bit before hopping in the car. I try to keep this time pretty rigid routine-wise because he functions better without surprises. The after school routine starts out pretty regular, too, with snack & homework leading off. Because the pre-dinner hours tend to be very difficult for B we try to get anything essential done right after school. Some days, like today, B sees his psychiatrist or psychologist, which pushes the routine closer to dinner time, but B seems to handle this pretty well because the time is structured. Other days B either finishes his homework & rushes off to do something he's been waiting to do all day, in which case I don't see him again until dinner time, or is low-energy & just wants to watch TV. TV watching time has been a tradition since B was in kindergarten. He has never been very good at self-regulating, & ever since B gave up naps (just a few weeks after his 4th birthday) he's needed "forced-downtime" in order to make it through the day without melting down completely. So I got in the habit of sitting down with him to watch tv somewhere around 4:00 pm, even calling him in from playing outside, for TV time (although it made me feel like the "mom from hell"). Once B was settled in front of PBS or a dvd/tape I could usually slip out to get dinner ready. Over time B has needed me less & less during TV time, although I still always watch new shows with him, in case he has questions or something is scary.
Some days, though, after school time is not quite so simple. Once the OCD symptoms began, B's needs for downtime became much more variable. B also started to need me more than he had for quite a while. Sometimes he'll be in the middle of a lego or other project & ask for me to come sit with him because "he can think better" when I'm there. I've come to believe that C's or my presence can help B keep the OCD thoughts at bay somewhat, especially when he's low-energy or in the pre-dinner state of mind. All of this leads to rather a dilemma for me- what can I plan to do after school? I do try to get any of my essential stuff done while B is in school, since it's only reasonable & logical. I'll be honest & say that I don't always get my needs met while he's at school **sigh** For example, today I didn't get the sewing done that I meant to do, but I did make up for it by not only ordering our birthday cake (C & I have birthdays coming up next week), but while I was in a phone mood, I also made an eye appointment for me (because i think I need new bifocals-again) & the orthodontists appointment for B that I've been meaning to make for at least a month. We can't help but have a clash of competing needs some days ... on the days B really needs me to be in the same room as he is all afternoon & into dinner-making time... on the afternoons where I need to start dinner earlier than usual... on the days when he wants me to play games with him but I'm too emotionally exhausted to have patience with games... or when he has a cool idea but needs my help to realise it. Then, there are the days when I have some energy & he absolutely doesn't need or want me around... for a while. And just as I get into a project he comes in & wants attention/intervention. Some afternoons I find myself hanging around the house waiting for the summons that doesn't come. When I am in a good state of mind, I try to have little projects in mind to keep me busy & out of trouble :)
Sometimes I wonder if parents with kids without special needs face this too. I know my neighbour is sometimes driven to distraction by her non-disabled son's aversion to doing homework (but she has two younger kids as well to add into the mix). I certainly feel bad when B needs me & my heart just isn't into the game or project he wants to do. I have friends who seem to spend every possible moment at their kids' beck & call, which leads me to wonder when they get their needs met... My head tells me that it's good for B to see the human being his mom is, & to understand that she has limitations too, just like everybody on this earth. I do enjoy a lot of our time together, & I it hate when I push myself to do what he wants, but my heart isn't into it & I'm a sourpuss as a result. In those situations I try to explain my parameters to him (time- or energy-wise) & then we brainstorm solutions. Maybe we do one thing he wants to do & then I get a break. Maybe we decide to watch TV together until I have to cook. Maybe we agree that we'll do something together after dinner instead. When he needs me in the room with him it can be difficult, but we can fall back on TV time (especially if we can agree on what to watch :). My hope is that he's getting a realistic sense of the give & take of life & living with others, so that he'll find it easier to to live & adapt to living with others someday (although he says he's either going to spend the rest of his life living with us or get his own apartment across the street :). Although I feel some guilt about it, perhaps my less-than-perfect ability to accomodate his every need will also help him become a bit more resourceful, too. What I've especially learned is that, if I take care of myself & make sure I have enough time to myself, I don't begrudge the times when B is in crisis & really needs me. So... for now, I have a bunch of little otedama (Japanese bean-bags) cut out & ready for hand-stitching on the afternoons when B doesn't seem to need me. Right now, he's upstairs racing his new spybot around his room & perhaps he'll be happy doing that till dinner time, but if not, I think I'm prepared... this time.