I think when most parents take their kids out somewhere they hope the children will be ‘on their best behaviour’. But, thinking about it and being truly honest, I’m also ‘on my best behaviour’.
Since we moved we’re in much closer proximity to other people. If we were out in the garden at my parents’ you couldn’t hear someone else at the other side of the garden let alone neighbours. Here, you have the noise from at least the closest six gardens wafting around as you hang out the washing.
I have noticed it makes me more aware of the people around me and the fact if I can hear them they can hear me. They can hear…and they can judge.
I’m already pretty paranoid about what others think; especially when it comes to my parenting. I think that’s probably pretty normal when you have autistic children. I’m very aware of the fact our neighbours can probably hear when one of the cubs has a meltdown, when Bear screams for quarter of an hour upon waking from his nap because he can’t deal with the transition from sleep to wakefulness, when Tyger does all his weird and wonderful verbal stimming.
If we’re out somewhere I feel even more exposed and know people will be looking and listening to my parenting.
I’ll admit it, when I know people are watching or listening – when we’re out or have visitors over – I parent differently.
It’s not like I beat the cubs behind closed doors. I don’t have a Miss Tranchbull style ‘chokey’ I lock the cubs in, although you’d be forgiven for thinking it if ever you heard Tyger’s screaming at hair washing time.
When we’re alone together I hug and kiss the cubs, tell them I love them, we laugh and play and joke. Bear killed himself laughing over me saying ‘wibbly wobbly’ in a funny voice about 87 times. We have fun. But I do parent the cubs differently when I’m not around other people and not necessarily for the better.
I’m lazier when it’s just me and the cubs. Around other people it’s, ‘Of course I’ll get you a snack, Sweetie.’ On my own it’s, ‘You just had Cheerios two minutes ago you can wait until I next get up to make tea for something else.’
I give in more easily. This probably falls under being lazier, to be honest, but it’s a little more specific. The cubs want the TV on when guests are over? ‘No, no, Darling. Just wait a little while. Why don’t you play with this educational wooden toy?’ But, when it’s just me it’s often, ‘Yeah, sure. I’ll put something on Netflix and then it’ll autoplay the next episode, too.’
I ignore them more. I find parenting hard. Harder than I thought I would (turns out being a teenager when your parents have two more kids does prepare you pretty well for being a parent but doesn’t mean you’ve effectively done it before…who knew?). When around other people I stay switched on as much as I can. It’s exhausting but expected. When I’m alone with the cubs I zone out sometimes. I suddenly ‘come to’ and realise Tyger has been repeating ‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy’ like a stuck record for who knows how long.
I have a shorter fuse. This actually ties in to my last blog post about autism and noise sensitivity. I keep my temper around other people and might react to Tyger hitting Bear with a, ‘No. We don’t hit, do we?’ But when it’s just me and the cubs and I’m overloaded from the constant noise I do snap at them and my reaction is more along the lines of, ‘What did you just do?? Don’t you ever hit him. Do you understand? No, I don’t care what he did. I DON’T CARE. YOU DO NOT HIT.’
I also – and this is not something I like in myself – use ‘why can’t you just…’ too often. I know the answer. I know Tyger can’t ‘just’ stop making all the noises he makes because his verbal stimming is part of his autism. I know Bear can’t ‘just’ wake up from a nap in a good mood because the transition from sleep is hard for him…due to his autism.
Not all of it’s down to ASD. Sometimes I know they can’t ‘just’ because they’re tired or ill or simply because they’re children. I know but I still ‘why can’t you just…’ them.
It makes me feel hugely guilty when people compliment me on my parenting.
‘You’re such a good mum to those boys.’
I want to reply, ‘I gave them Nutella in a wrap for lunch and napped on the sofa for an hour after I got up with them this morning. I shouted at them
five times in the space of a minute for being too noisy and was grumpy when they both suddenly needed a poo when I sat down to have a cup of tea.’
I’m never a perfect parent but I’m at my most imperfect when nobody else can hear. I can’t be the only one?