Friday, October 27, 2017

Putting it out there, looking to see what comes back

I grew up with a sister with special needs. My parents treated her very differently than myself and my two other siblings. We were punished. There were always consequences for our actions. However, with my sister, she was never punished and never suffered consequences. Despite the meltdowns, stealing food, lying, hitting, disobeying and not listening, she was still ferried to her numerous social activities, allowed to watch television and leave the house to play in the school yard.

The rest of us were sent to bed without dinner, denied treats, forbidden from playing with friends, going to the park, watching television, had Walkmans taken away, lost the privilege to attend birthday parties and only in extreme cases, were met with a slap on the butt. 

Now I am the parent of an only child with special needs (autism spectrum disorder and anxiety). My daughter is a good kid. She doesn't act out, doesn't scream, or display anger. She doesn't talk back or argue. She does what she's told (or so I thought) but just yesterday, I learned she'd been lying to me, to her father and to her grade 7 teacher about schoolwork. Three assignments had not been turned in, two of them being ones she had told her father and I she had completed and submitted.

After the phone call and subsequent emails back and forth with her teacher, I was furious, but most of all I was really, really, really disappointed.  When I got home, I went up to her room to talk to her. I told her how upset I was that she had lied to me, to her dad and to her teacher. I told her it was unacceptable. Then I told her that she would not be trick or treating on Halloween (this practically broke my heart because my kid LIVES for Halloween). I also said that despite today being a PA Day, the two assignments she lied about completing and handing in were to be done in the next two hours along with an email to her teacher about the status of the third assignment, which is due Monday. Then I left her room to compose myself and hash out my feelings with her dad in the kitchen (who is 100% supportive of the punishment handed out). 

She completed her assignments within an hour and with my help, uploaded them both to her teacher's Google Classroom account and then, my daughter explained to me, while struggling to maintain her composure, why she lied to me. She said she was scared to admit she didn't understand the work and was embarrassed to ask for help. I told her that it was my job as her mother to help her. She knows this?! I couldn't decide if she was bullshitting me or telling me the truth. The kid does struggle with communication. She was probably being sincere, but it still sounded ludicrous.

She did not bring up Halloween but I do know that after I left her room, she bawled her eyes out because I could hear her from downstairs. When her dad went up to eventually talk to her, she was inconsolable. I don't know what he said to her (I didn't want to know) but when he came down, he said he'd never seen her like that.

And so, here it is, today, and I'm no longer mad or angry. Instead, I feel shitty. I also have a much better understanding why my parents were so soft on my sister - they felt sorry for her because she was different and short-changed from doing so many things that myself and my sisters could do that they didn't want to "hurt" her despite bad behaviour. I'm not saying I feel sorry for my kid, but her life won't be like mine and she does have it harder because of her disabilities.

Interested in hearing what some of you think.



Anonymous said...

OMG, what a dilemma. I am not a parent, so I will not even attempt to give any advice on this situation. I just wanted to reach out and offer a virtual hug in support.

Anonymous said...

If you don't punish her, how will she learn to correct bad behaviour or strive to do better? Or not lie?
My 2 cents

But yeah, being told you can't go out for halloween is pretty soul crusher but you can't reneg now, or you give her a choice? What else can you deny that would have a similar impact. Say, ok, Halloween, or? Let her choose the punishment.

Unknown said...

It is a hard one. I am not a parent so have no horse in that race. But my parents had (have?) challenges with my brother (he will always have these challenges).

They decided years ago to not treat him any differently than my sister and I. He had the same punishments as the rest of us. My parents thinking was: he will need to interact with society as an adult. And now, with medication, he is a full member of society.

That being said: I lied to my parents about something huge. And they cancelled a birthday party. And by they cancelled: I had to call everyone and disinvite them.

I survived. And I learnt the lesson.

Unknown said...

All kids have areas that challenge them and feel to need to lie. Usually as an easy way out. Learning there are consequences is part of growing up and maturing. Excuses and blaming others is not excusable. Being honest will get them a lot further than lying.

C.J. Smith said...

When I got home, there was a letter of apology that was sincere and made me cry. I have accepted this as a mistake and forgiven her. I think I went about this all wrong and we had a good talk about communicating and how to ask for help. Thanks everyone.