We began our first swim lessons yesterday. We scheduled a private lesson with the aquatics director so that we could reduce distractions and hopefully in so doing reduce the anxiety. In addition, I took reinforcements for moral support-Patty. The plan (and what is 'normal') is for the teacher to have all 3 in the water with flotation backpacks on, and the parents watch from the side. Patty and I both suspected this would not fly with my kids, so we wore our suits under our clothes (just in case).
The plan was to pick up from school then drive to the pool and eat lunch in the van and then go in for lessons. Well, the eating in the van was a total disaster. They were PO'd because they wanted to go play outside, and like usual, there was no soothing or calming them. Just scream fest 2009 in the confines of an already crowded minivan. So, we called an audible and went inside thinking we could get dressed and play in the locker room to kill time. Wrong again. Just walking through the front door caused a full out Kyan screaming fit. People were staring. Awesome. Then when we attempted to go into the dressing room, more screaming and the nice addition of a cave-like echo was extra special. We had a new audience of people getting dressed staring at us, cringing, etc. I wanted to say "you think this is on your nerves? Try it 24/7 and then we will talk". But I kept my mouth shut. So, we get them in their suits and were going to get in the water before lessons just to occupy them. Then I discover it is lap swim only and we can't get in. Not Good. So, out of desperation, we decide to let them run back and forth in front of locker room. Not a great idea but there wasn't a great deal of traffic and it beat the heck out of screaming, so we went with it. Did I mention it was raining outside? Again, awesome. Well, Braylen ran and almost bumped into this sour looking old woman, he said "Escuse me!" and kept going. She gave us all a death look. I won't tell you what I thought in that moment, but I assure you it was not nice or christian. So, then I get the idea that maybe they can play in the child watch area until swim time. THANKFULLY the child watch people let us come in and play. They saved the day. So as I was taking the children down there, Patty retrieved our bags and the sour old lady walks up to her and says "Are they here for swim lessons?" Patty-"Yes". Old lady-"At 1 o'clock?" Patty-"Yes." old lady-"Will they be here every week at this time?" Patty-"yes". Old lady-" ok. Well, thank you". Patty-" You have a wonderful day".
Now, we can all be grateful that she spoke to Patty instead of me, because those unkind thoughts I was already having?? Well, they would have been made public then and there. What I probably would have asked her is "Do you have grandchildren? Poor things to get stuck with a hateful old bag like you". I told you it wasn't christian what I was thinking. you just got the PG version. I assure you the other version is significantly less kind.
Anyway--days like yesterday--usually every day I wish we had t-shirts for K & K that say "I am not misbehaving. I have autism." I need a t-shirt for me that says "I am a mom of 3 3-year olds, 2 of whom have autism. I am also running a business and trying to run a home. I am hanging on by a thread, so please don't cross me because I might be forced to break open a can of Mama-Bear whoop ass on your head". Again--you got the PG version.
Back to the actual lessons...walking through the locker room induced more screaming and anxiety. Kids with autism generally hate transitions, no matter how small. I challenge you to count the small transitions you make in a day like walking through a door to a new place, or turning on an unfamiliar road, or changing from one activity to another. So for us the locker room was 4 transitions. Enter unfamiliar place via door--screaming. Walk through locker room to second door--more intense screaming and Kynsie paralyzed with fear. The door to the pool is actually a set of 2 doors like some public restrooms. You exit the locker room into a closet-sized empty room that has the door to the pool area. So that closet-sized area, much like elevators--induced complete freak out for K & K. Once we finally dragged them into the pool area, they were at least interested in the water, and that chilled them out momentarily. Then Miss Teresa came in and she is new and that was a whole new anxiety reaction. Needless to say Patty and I helped with swim lessons, and the actual swim learning that happened was really good. You just have to sort through all of the screaming to see that part. Miss Teresa seems pretty patient, and I did forewarn her before she agreed to teach them. Plus, we have already paid, so hopefully she won't divorce us. It's hard to always have to worry that teachers, babysitters, nursery workers, etc. will kick your child out for reasons completely out of your control and your child's control. And there is something particularly painful about seeing people spurn or reject your children again for things completely out of their control. If I weren't so busy trying to diffuse the tantrum bomb, I would probably weep then and there, but no time for all that nonsense.
We finished the lesson and the 'new' activities and all of that fun anxiety filled transition stuff begins again. Leaving the pool=very sad toddlers. Pretty normal. They were ready for a snack and a nap-didn't help things. They were cold-again, not helping. And then we walked back through that closet-sized room again, and into the locker room. Even with the Dum-Dum suckers they earned in their mouths, all hell broke loose. Again a new audience for the screamfest--more people staring, scowls on their faces. being the thoughtful mom, I go to the family shower and we attempt to rinse them off so we can keep them from having crocodile skin from chlorine-which is no good for eczema. Well, nothing doing. Evidently showers are the new torture chamber for 3 year olds. Who knew? We gave that up quickly and went to attempt dressing them. Patty took Braylen who was screaming his head off not because of transitions but because he wanted another sucker and wanted more pool time. Normal for a 3 year old, but horrible timing. Kyan was mellow yellow--go figure. You know that post about him calming down? Yeah that was wishful thinking. He has been a hitting, kicking, screaming machine ever since I typed those words. Good times. Just the same, he was pretty chill while we attempted to undress and redress the other 2. So, I get Sissy's suit off and take her swim diaper off and she had pooped. It was everywhere, and fell out on the floor. Seriously God? Really? Is all of this necessary? Did I mention that she was screaming her bloody head off this whole time? Well, to make this good time even better, guess where the wipes were? In the van. Again, awesome. So, I go to the paper towel dispenser and since it is motion activated, I am waving like a mad woman trying to get enough to attempt cleaning her up. She did no appreciate my efforts, and she was really PO'd that the paper towels weren't real soft, were cold, and her whole body was cold.
We eventually got everyone dressed and got out of there. By the time we got home and I got them in bed, I had 1 hour to snooze before getting back up to go to my store for a Breastfeeding Class I was holding for customers. In literally minutes, Braylen woke up screaming and ended up chilling out in bed with me. Sweet, but I was really needing that nap.
So there it is. We get to do it all again next Tuesday and Thursday. If you pray for us, please pray for those transitions. I will have a better plan in place next week to avoid so much down time. I keep telling my children that I resign, but they keep calling me "Mommy", so I am guessing quitting isn't an option.