Saturday, October 23, 2010

A slap in the face

At this local juice bar in Mount Lake Terrace, a "slap in the face" will cost you a dollar...I got a real one recently for free, compliments of my little Frankie.

I don't know if you have ever gotten a slap in the face but I don't think I remember getting one; perhaps I earned one or two in my teen years but honestly, they must not have made an impression because I can't remember if I did or not. The one I got a couple of days ago burned my face for a few hours but I know I will remember it for the rest of my life.

Needless to say, we are still struggling with Frankie at school. Things are not getting better, perhaps they are getting worse. Everyday I pray that he didn't hurt anybody or that he is not so frustrated when he gets home that his whole day is ruined. All the while, I have been trying to be positive and have infinite patience with him but here is the deal, I had not yet gotten hurt. My turn came up and I got a slap in the face. In the face! Boy, it hurt my pride more than it did my face. What was I doing wrong? Why is this kid not getting it? Why is he so angry he is hurting me, his mom, the one person he probably loves the most? I was speechless. For once, I was speechless. His therapist says we talk too much to Frankie - well, this time, he got no words from me for sure. Of course, time-out followed the infamous slap for Frankie but the one who needed it the most was me. There I sat, struggling between being angry and being embarrassed...All the bells and whistles went off in my head and the haunting stories I read in the past years about parents physically abused by their teen Autistic kids came bursting in. I kept on telling myself that was not my story. I refused to allow that to become Frankie's story either. My sweet kid is somewhere inside this angry child and I know he will come out, sooner or later. Regardless, my worst fears were taking shape at that moment - Frankie has been hitting, biting, kicking, running away - it's all falling apart and I don't seem to be able to glue it back together. I know some parents will be thinking at this point that Frankie has a discipline problem. Perhaps that we are not consistent enough or strict enough. What I see is a kid in pain and struggling to deal with an environment he does not fit in. My job is to help him cope and I am failing miserably.

Since the slap in the face, I have woken up to a new reality. These are the years that will make it or break it - either I help Frankie cope and fit in or I miss the boat completely and he will struggle with regulating his emotions for a long, long time. I choose to conquer, and I know I will. Frankie needs me to fight and not sit here and cry over a burning face and a hurt pride.

The slap in the face at the juice bar might wake you up in the morning, but the one I got that day did more than that, it woke me up for the rest of my life and I don't think I will fall asleep again.

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