Saturday, September 22, 2007

They're Almost Always Home

We have ten children. Seven of those children currently are at home. One is a college senior. A second is "on his own" at eighteen years of age, in much trouble with the law. A third is seventeen, unable to live in our home due to his behavior. With our seven children who are at home the four most demanding children never seem to leave. They are almost always home.

Our healthiest and most "normal" children can often be found at a friend's house or in an extracurricular activity of some sort, or simply finding safe, innocuous ways to spend their time. The ordinary children are the ones who need the least continuous parental involvement in their lives, which is a paradox, because they are probably the ones who are most likely to restore the emotional reserves of tired, irritated parents.

The most challenging children are the ones who really have few friends. They never receive an invitation to spend the night at someone else's house. They are not able to participate in extracurricular kinds of activities because of the level of supervision required. Their idea of a good day is to spend much of their time within a few yards of a parent, asking for something to do, seeking ways to earn some money or simply repeating an obsessive mantra of verbiage.

As a well-educated, mature adult I have learned to have a lot of patience over the years. When I need some space to myself I can say, "I really need to have some time to focus here," which my children understands means to leave the area or at least to remain in quietness. There were times when the kids were younger when I would simply spread my arms and say, "In ten seconds I am going to whirl myself around, and anyone too close to me is going to feel my hands. You need to move now." I haven't done that for a while now; perhaps it would still work?

But even after all these years of experience and practice in being patient and accommodating to my children's special needs, their constant chaotic presence is wearing. This is not a situation that causes me to love them less, nor does it cause me to question their value or their worth. It is simply exhausting to always have the preocccupation of wondering whom I will trip over this time when I turn too quickly in the kitchen and catch someone unaware.

It's another of those cunundrums which face parents of special needs children: the ones you need to have a break from are never gone, and the ones you might enjoy for a period of time are never there.

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