Saturday, September 5, 2009

How do you handle abuse at the hands of your 7 year old?

What started off as a great day leaves me perplexed and unsettled. Katie and I went to the ARC Mother's Support Group this morning. I have never attended one of these but always meant to. It was at a lovely local church with a great kids' room and a comfy meeting room. I chatted with the ladies for over 2 hours and greatly enjoyed the feelings that were shared. I can't say I was surprised by any of them or their stories, but mostly just enjoyed knowing I could share in a room of women who would not judge me or pity me. Just relate.

Tonight I lead Katie to her favorite chair (well, second favorite if you count the one at the dinner table...) and she wanted to go to the dinner table instead. Without warning, she took ahold of the inside of my upper arm (you know, the fatty tender part!) and pinched the living daylights out of me. She did not fuss or vocalize at all, simply pinched my arm in the most sensitive spot imaginable. I was distracted while trying to ask my boyfriend to move his soda can from the arm of the chair she was headed to, and didn't see the attack coming at all. I realized of course, once I'd been made painfully aware, that she'd rather be going to the dinner table. I told her that pinching was not ok and not how we get what we want, but I took her to the table anyway. I think I was too shocked and out of sorts to really think of a better plan. So I fed her dinner in relative silence and let her play with her toys on the floor when she was done.

I retreated to my own dinner and then to an activity which I find soothing: my embroidery. I usually save my embroidery for after Katie is in bed, or Sundays which is our "no therapy" day. I needed to do something to take my mind of my (still!) sore arm. And to be perfectly honest, I wanted nothing to do with her at that moment. I don't think it would've done either one of us any good for me to pursue more interaction with her at that point.

I know Dr. Greenspan, and an infinite number of other specialists would tell me not to take this afront personally. And I know in my mind that it is nothing personal. This is the rational understanding I have of this. She is smart and can be manipulative with her nonverbal communication. At some point she figured out that pinching and hair-pulling gets our attention. So she uses it as she feels she must. It is not like she is screaming "I hate you!" or any of the other hurtful things that children can say, and still not mean.

But I can't help but be a bit emotionally affected by both her inflicting pain on me and by my own involuntary reaction. I feel beaten not just by her physically, but by her autism or whatever it is. Her need to pinch me affects me emotionally because it is a symptom of her frustration and inability to communicate. Not only does it hurt, but it leaves me feeling useless and overwhelmed.

So I am going to continue to take some time for myself this evening, maybe do a little research on this subject. When I look into her big beautiful blue eyes, I feel soothed, but the pain is still there for me, underlying and unsettling. She needs so much from me and I feel like I am spinning in circles. Waiting for doctor's appointments and therapy referrals, I am just treading water until we can start swimming forward once again. Floortime is a must, but on days when I am emotionally overburdened, I don't even know where to start.

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