We need to change everything up and to also somehow get this ballet adventure back on its wheels so that we can navigate what’s happening with Johnny as well. THIS matters to him so we need to somehow make sure that it matters to all of us as a family.
What’s hard sometimes is that everything is going along fine and there’s lots of smiles and happiness and then other things happen in life that you have no control over. I look over at my son who is Autistic and I know that as much as these challenging incidents are swirling around me and were bothering me, I know that they’re poking and prodding at him and elevating his anxiety. This is not about being Autistic and having meltdowns, but being Autistic and handling his sister’s tantrums. This is a story about ballet and a little girl moving from being a pre-schooler to a school aged child and dealing with lots of big emotions and a big brother trying to be a brother to her.
Let’s go back in time three years ago….
All week I’ve been having challenging moments with Johnny’s little sister Princess, who was having a lot of meltdowns as she handles being four years old, starting kindergarten, being overtired, and balancing all these new experiences and expectations. I know a well-meaning friend and family member will tell me that this is perfectly normal that she’s a little girl who is only four. We know that. But every day through challenging moments with his sister, Johnny had been fine. But day after day of witnessing his parents trying to find strategies that will work to help a sister get through a typical day for a four-year-old little girl I couldn’t help but wonder which day is it going to be for Johnny to have a tough day.
Being Autistic, he’s not having his own tantrums or losing control of his own emotions because he can’t get what he wants. When he loses it he’s having a meltdown because it’s everything is just too much and it’s a cry for help. You start noticing with Johnny that little things can start to bring him to tears. Little disappointments and expectations that he had that something is not happening become big things for him that he can’t process. For example if his sister has a ballet lesson and he starts to get upset thinking that because she’s not getting ready nicely for us he knows that this means she won’t be able to get to her class. Every parent scrambles, directs, insists and lets be honest sometimes begs or bribes because we just want our child to learn to get ready and get to the activity that they love. For Johnny, on the surface it’s not simply her class is part of the schedule and it something we do every Saturday morning we take his sister to ballet and he dislikes intensely schedules not happening. If you go deeper you realize he’s also upset because he likes to watch his sister do ballet. So he climbs up on this little chair so he can reach this little window in the door and stands for 45 minutes and watches his sister learn to dance ballet. He loves watching her do her turns and as well gazing at the beautiful dance instructor because I’m starting to realize he’s developing crushes.
So on this morning I can tell he’s keeping his tears to himself and he’s trying to hide them and he keeps saying,
“We are going to ballet Mommy… we are going to ballet.?”
The problem is we don’t have a car, we have missed the bus and his sister is having a tantrum upstairs about something that’s inconsequential. She can’t find the right tights. She can’t find the right ballet top or something like that. Mommy and Daddy I trying to figure out whether we just somehow call it a day and just do something else until swimming starts. We look over at our son who’s looking like he’s missing his own class instead of the sister missing her class. He says something that is so insightful,
Mommy, Princess is going to be sad if she misses ballet she loves ballet.
“But sweetie can you try to talk to her as her big brother and remind her that she’s going to be upset and that she needs to just get ready and do it nicely and listen to Mommy and Daddy.” What is incredible is that he does that and I can hear the pleading in his voice to her as well. Unfortunately this doesn’t last long and she’s getting upset about something else. What do we do?
This is when my husband and I worry that the whole situation is escalating no matter what we do and we need to change things up pretty fast but at the same time we don’t want the entire day to be a bust for both kids and for us as a family. We want Princess to take a deep breath and know that when we want to do activities we need to try, do them the best we can and most importantly finish the activity. If we don’t want to do it again once the cycle is finished that’s okay . As long as we know we tried our best but its not a right fit in the end.
We need to change everything up and to also somehow get this ballet adventure back on its wheels so that we can navigate what’s happening with Johnny as well. THIS matters to him so we need to somehow make sure that it matters to all of us as a family. I then decide that let’s just take a taxi and swallow the expense. Once Johnny’s little sister Princess calms down we will have a talk with her about what happened and how everyone deserves one more chance. We are going to do this today and pay the money and take a taxi there but we can’t do this every week.
So Johnny gets to take his sister to ballet and watch her dance in another class. But now I understand why every single night when we say our bedtime prayers the first thing that he says before he lists all the names of all the people that he’s praying to God to keep safe he always says in prayer is ballet first. It means that much to him that his sister comes down and is able to get ready and go and do her ballet class. It matters to Johnny so it matters to our whole family.