One of the hardest things about being the mom of a child with a lot of needs is that there is absolutely no thanks, no "mom, I appreciate all you are doing for me." Instead, the child who you do EVERYTHING for and more takes their anger and frustration about their difficult life out on you. And you are left constantly second-guessing yourself. All these things happen on a daily basis.
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On this rainy afternoon I dragged all three children out of the house to go to swimming therapy. Everyone, including myself, would have liked to snuggle up on the couch and watch tv or read a book like I'm sure a lot of families in Dallas did today. But because we miss so much therapy due of sickness or doctor appointments, it's hard to justify not going on days like today when we don't have anything else to do. Every increment of therapy really is so critical for Maggie after she has Botox.
So it was on with the raincoats and out the door at three o'clock. But as soon as I locked the back door and turned around Mary Lawrence slipped on the top step and flew through the air, over three steps, and landed with a thud flat on her face. (Is it normal to want to scream when your children hurt themselves? Because that's what I wanted to do!)
Thankfully she just had a bloodied knee and not a broken leg. After a few minutes calming and bandaging her, back out the door we went in the rain. Twenty-five minutes in downtown Dallas traffic forced us to be super late. So we have to run across the parking lot in the rain, baby screaming and ML still sniffling, to get Maggie dressed for the pool.
But she won't go.
She starts crying that she doesn't want to go in the pool. I tell her she has to go and try to pry her hands off me. But no, this waif-like child clings to me with all her strength, and starts screaming as if threatening to go into full meltdown mode in front of all the sweet yet curious elderly people doing water aerobics.
I don't give in. I threaten her while ripping her hands off mine and then plop her in the hands of the therapist.
But she still sobs.
I try to bribe her. Threaten her. Anything to get her to stay in the pool and make this trip worthwhile. I go sit down and pull out my phone to try to show her that her crying isn't going to help. But she continues, reaching her hands out to me as if she is in deep pain and calling out for relief...but I refuse to give in.
The poor therapist tries to get Maggie's attention with pool toys and water guns. But her tear-soaked eyes are still locked on mommy.
I just know all the old ladies rinsing off nearby think I'm cruel. But I don't care. There is absolutely no reason why she should be acting this way, I tell myself. She was fine all morning. She had a nap. What is the deal?!
I starting talking to her in an angry tone. No help. Then I try a (fake) sweet tone. No luck. I tell her she can pick out Skittles in the cafeteria. No takers. Watch the Saige movie again. Nope.
Five more minutes of crying and still she refuses to participate. All I can think about is money down the drain, a whole afternoon wasted, and four out of four of the girls in our family at the end of their ropes.
Fine, I say angrily, get out; we will go home. Maggie immediately stops crying and I gather up our belongings and rush out the door, apologizing profusely to everyone in our path.
Then I do something really mean. On our way out to the parking lot we stop by the cafeteria and I let Mary Lawrence pick out candy. Maggie sobs when I tell her she can't have Skittles. You should have done your therapy, I tell her. Cruel, I know.
See, the life of a child like Maggie is full of people manipulating you. If you eat this, I'll let you watch tv. If you don't put your brace on, you won't get to read a book before bed. If you just get on the ball and do your exercises, I'll let stay you up late. If you don't, I'm taking away your favorite lovey.
In a desperate and pure effort to get this child to thrive, we have totally manipulated Maggie in a way where she is now (understandably) angry and manipulations no longer work because they are now rendered useless.
And if she decides, like today at the pool, that she doesn't want to do something, then there isn't a darn thing we can do about it. Except punish her. And then question why you punished her by withholding the one thing she really needs: calories.
Yes, the whole thing of raising a child like Maggie is so confusing and convoluted, especially when you strap your broken-looking child into her car seat.
Tears rolled down both our faces as we drove home. And I stopped and got her some more Skittles...