Every day I play a guessing game. This sounds super exciting and fun, right? And I wish it was. I wish my life as a Fringy mom was like some giant television game show, complete with trivia questions, oversized buttons that make weird beeping noises, prizes, and especially balloons and confetti (that I don’t have to clean up). But, that’s not exactly the kind of guessing game I’m talking about.
Every day I spend a good portion of my time guessing how much my children can tolerate of any given activity. On big occasions, it’s questions of how long can we stay at the town carnival before the sensory input overloads my daughter. Answer = 50 minutes, if anyone’s curious. Or, what time of day is it going to be most likely that my children will be able to function and have fun for a birthday party? Or, will it be better to have my daughter come home from school, take a rest in the bed to keep her routine, but then cut the rest short so we can get to her older brother’s activity in time OR will it be better to have her rest in the van and take a longer route to the before mentioned activity? Which will be least likely to provoke a meltdown?
But, there’s the day to day questions, too. In what order should I do errands that will be least likely to provoke a meltdown? How many stores can my daughter handle? What type of crackers is she going to like today? Is she going to be able to tolerate a bath tonight or should I wait til the morning? What can I do during the freetime to prevent boredom (big meltdown trigger), but how much structure is too much and will be overstimulating (ooh – another possible meltdown!).
And the guessing game doesn’t just apply to my fringiest of children, either. How much math can I assign Cub so that he is challenged, but not overwhelmed? Can I joke and be sarcastic with Cub today or is he going to be feeling particularly sensitive? How far in advance should I tell Cub or Chimp about something exciting? Wait too long and the surprise is overwhelming. Tell them too early and the excitement and anticipation is overwhelming. True story – when Cub was 7 he wanted to see Les Mis when it came out as a movie. After pre-screening it I decided he could go. I made the mistake of telling him on Friday that I’d take him to see it that Sunday. 2 nights the little dude couldn’t fall asleep. Because he was excited. About a movie. About the French Revolution that is a musical. 2 nights. But, telling him (or any of the 3 kids, really), at the last minute backfires, too, as none of them really like surprises because they can’t prepare themselves for whatever the event it.
My daughter has an under-responsive tactile system. So she needs tactile input. But, give too much tactile input and she gets overwhelmed. She has an under-responsive proprioceptive system. So she needs deep pressure. But, give too much deep pressure or in the wrong places and she gets overwhelmed. My kids need social interaction. But, too much social interaction and they get overwhelmed. They need activities to stimulate their minds. But too much activity and they get overwhelmed. Are you sensing a theme here?
The window of tolerance can be so small with these differently wired kids. And that window seems to fluctuate daily. It’s like trying to hit a moving target when you don’t even know what you’re aiming for. And, so I spend a large portion of my day guessing. Guessing how much will be enough, but not too much.
I’m glad to say that as I’ve been able to learn and study my children, and understand myself, that my guesses are more like hypotheses now. They have more education and information to support them. But, some days, I simply want to know the answers and be able to stop playing the game. Or at least get a massive balloon and confetti drop at the end of it.