The most exhausting thing for me as a parent to a higher needs child is that I ALWAYS have to be “on”. There is very little grace within the space of my parenting. Let me clarify, I am generally pretty self-compassionate and can feel and accept grace. My daughter, however, not so much.
Differently wired kids often feed on the energy of the emotional states of those around them. So, when I’m having a stressed-out, overly-tired, I-haven’t-gotten-enough-alone-time-in-the-past-10-years-of-my-life-and-so-I’m-crabby kind of day, my daughter picks up on it and sucks it all in. Now, she doesn’t consciously know that she’s doing this, so she just feels as icky as I do, but without understanding why. And when she feels icky, she meltsdown and acts out. So, the days when I feel my worst, are the days she will behave her worst. Exhausting.
And differently wired kids are often not very flexible. On the days when I’m feeling indecisive and I say, “well, maybe we’ll grab a burger for lunch,” but then decide to have a picnic of PB&J instead, my daughter will inevitably shout, “But you PROMISED burgers! You’re a LIAR!” and then a meltdown will ensue. So, the days when I feel least like being structured and assertively making decisions, are the days when I’ll have to be strong and structured in response to her worst behaviors. Exhausting.
And differently wired kids often do not deal with boredom or lack of structure very well. On the days when I’m wanting to check-out of parenting just a little, she will get bored and inadvertently instigate misbehavior and arguments with her brothers. So, the days when I feel least like parenting are the days when I have to parent the most. Exhausting.
And I know that parents of typical children still have to parent when they don’t feel like it and still have to deal with crabby kids on the days they are crabby. I do understand that. But, I also know that I could have low-key days with my boys because they can tolerate entertaining themselves for a day. And, in fact, my 11 year old LOVES those days. And I know that a crabby neuro-typical kid looks different than a melting down, crabby differently wired kid.
With a differently wired kiddo like my daughter, I pay extra for my parenting failures. It feels like I can’t have an “off” day because an off day quickly turns into a horrific day. It feels like I can’t be sick, because sick days quickly turn into horrific days. It feels like there’s no space for grace. I would give anything for a grace period, or a day where I could simply coast through it with minimal effort. But, I can’t. And that’s the most exhausting thing.