Monday, March 7, 2011

Great, now they're all head banging.

We were at Irish dance on Friday night and Lizzy had a meltdown.  Now, she's a pretty dramatic kid of girl, a little over the top.  Ok, she's waaaaay over the top.  A kind of drama queen who can make a hang nail look like it needs an amputation and digit replacement.  So when her teacher asked me to come and see what she was doing in class I thought nothing of it.  Eye rolled a bit even.  Thought she was just being stubborn and not doing a jig or whatever they do in there.

I go to take a peek and I saw Lizzy sitting Indian style (or as we now say it crossed-legged or criss-cross-apple-sauce, whatever) smack in the middle of the floor, with her head between her legs, bashing it like a melon on the ground.

Thump.  Thump.  Thump. 

If that wasn't enough, she takes both her hands, balls them up into fists and proceeds to beat the shit out of her skull. 

What in the...??? 

I didn't know what to do.  Stood there watching her for a minute.  Her teacher mentioned something about self harming behaviors and I'm like, "Yeah, no shit.  Ya think?" 

But I didn't say that.  I really wanted to but I didn't.  I pulled her teacher aside and told her a little bit about Alex and how he started head banging when he gets angry.  How he doesn't have all the words he needs nor the ability to use them so when any feeling that comes close to resembling fear, pain or anger, when that kicks in, he starts to bang his head.  Not hard, mind you, just enough for me to go, "Ackk!" and help him work things out.  It's been a little more stressful as of late so he's been doing it more than usual.  And now I guess Lizzy's doing it too.  

Her teacher gave my arm a tight squeezes and says, "I don't know if you know this, but this is my side job.  At my day job I'm an OT..."  She mumbled something about the Joshua Center and gave me a quick, knowing smile and we both started lugging Lizzy off to the side.  The Joshua Center is a non profit that deals with neurological disorders such as Asperger's, Tourette's, etc.  I was stunned at how, when I needed it the most, there was an angel in my midst.  

Anyway, we drag her off to the side of the class and I had a little chat with Lizzy.  Apparently she was pissed because her teacher asked her to do a hop-two-three and she didn't want to.   Headbanging ensues.  I asked her why she banged and hit her head and she just simply said, "Well Alex does it.  Is that wrong?"

So for the rest of the class I sat there a little abashed and humiliated that my daughter was self harming in public.  I feel like if it happens at home it seems a little more OK because no one sees it.  I don't know what I'm saying...I feel like its some dark, dirty secret and its been let of of the bag.  At home I have the ability to intervene, in the privacy of my home, and provide the necessary support and calm my son.  When it happens out in the open, in public, I feel like our secrets been let out.  I feel like a bad mom, or at the very least, one that is doing something so horrible or abusive that my kids want to beat themselves.  The other moms sat there, saw the whole thing, and I had to finish out the rest of the class under their scrutiny.

And the thing is this--I know I'm doing a good job with my kids, that I'm doing the best I can and right now we've got a lot of stress going on with Alex.  And when he's stressed it affects all of us.  It's just not Alex's problem.  It's our problem as a family and Lizzy, at five, is absorbing some of that stress. 

No one else knows that.  I'm not saying that they should, but from the glances I was getting I wanted to justify what was going on, to explain that everything is really OK, that this is just one aspect of our life.  That this is our version of Asperger's and sometimes it's not at all pretty and as a matter of fact it can be downright ugly and messy.  But I didn't justify anything.  I don't know why but I didn't. 

So now I'm sitting here contemplating what happened and how this thing called Asperger's is affecting all of us.  How this is truly not just about Alex anymore but all of us.  And that realization hit me like a ton of bricks between the eyes.  I always wanted Lizzy to be insulated from it, to protect her from the stigma, to give her the chance at being a little girl, out from the shadow of her brother.  Now I'm seeing that she will always be tied to this, to Alex.  That this is just the first of many things that are going to carry over into her life because of her brother. 

There is no easy way to explain to a five year old that her brother is who he is and because of that she's going to have an extra load to carry.  Not that I believe its all bad.  I don't, not for a second.  I guess I just didn't realize that my version of reality was a little different from the actuality.  That once the veil has been lifted it takes a little time to see the clarity through the haze and right now I'm still a little hazy. 

Lizzy's Irish dancing shoes.  They didn't see much action...


  1. Self harm is a very taboo subject and your certainly not a bad mum. As now you can show Lizzie more apropiate ways to communicate her frustration.

  2. Yes, I would agree that this was not a pretty scene. You must have run through a thousand thoughts when you saw Lizzy doing these things. (I know about the head banging but don't have that experience- my son does body slamming into walls instead.)

    If I could offer anything to you, it would be to echo what you've already said about having the angel with you because of her OT experience. There is your silver lining. And knowing so young, while clearly not what you want is better in the way of getting her what she needs at an early age.

    Again, there is no reason to blame yourself or justify what was happening to others. All that matters is you, Lizzy, Alex and your family. Hugs to you as you make your way through the new stuff!!

  3. Awww, thanks Karen. Sometimes the other parents just get to me. I'd love to have them come over for an hour just to see how they come out the other end....

  4. Being on display in public makes you feel so vulnerable. We all get that. But never let it make you feel like a bad mom! No one has any idea of all that we go through. I don't have the sibling issue since my daughter is an only child, but I know enough to know that there is a whole other gigantic layer to it with siblings.

  5. Oh, man, that's so hard (((YOU)))) You are SO not a bad mom!!! Other people definitely don't understand and it's so hard when we see ourselves through their eyes. I am sure that you're harder on yourself than they are on you. I'm sure of this because that's what I do.

  6. That's so tough, and I have no real words of wisdom. It's awful to feel those judging eyes all over you in a particularly rough moment. From what I've read of you, you are a fabulous and feisty mama!

  7. First of all.... You are definitely NOT a bad Mom or this wouldn't be botherng you so much.

    A bad mom wouldn't even care.

    And secondly, being under public scrutiny is a really sucky thing. I'm often lost for the right words to say when I need them but occasionally....I find them and let it rip and MAN IT FEELS GOOD!

    Its tough on your daughter being only 5 but i guess the best comfort I can offer is to point out thay she is slowly being moulded not a super strong, amazing woman one day!

  8. @ Lynn, jillsmo, Christine & Fi--thank you ever so much.
    @ jillsom--it is so totally your fault and I hold you accountable for my long lists of sins...


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