Last Updated on April 8, 2018
Rachel, my daughter with autism, adheres to routine. Her favorite activity is riding the school bus, which is not available on Saturdays.
She didn’t get the memo.
At 3 a.m., Rachel came into our room illuminating the way with her iPad. In her mind, it was time to get up for school (by the way, 3 a.m. is never a time to get up in my book). Hubby told her to go back to her room. She did … stomping and bellowing all the way. The neighbors didn’t complain about the symphony of discontent, so we settled back to sleep. For 10 minutes. Rachel returned.
At some point, we switched from “Go back to your room,” to “Just sit and be quiet … please.”
That might have been the highlight of the day. After we’d stumbled through the morning, Rachel decided she wanted to cook pancakes because that is what we do on Saturdays. (It’s what I’ve done for two Saturdays in a row, which constitutes a routine in her mind.) She got out a bowl, a fork, and started cracking eggs into a dish before I could catch her.
Because I was too exhausted to catch on and didn’t want pancakes, I made muffins. She went along with me, stirring and adding ingredients. But once they were in the oven, she rinsed the bowl and grabbed some more eggs. Splat. Splat. Okay … more cooking. I don’t remember what we made next, but it wasn’t pancakes.
She rinsed the bowl again. I thought, Hey, let’s get a start on our Thanksgiving dishes. I pulled out the ingredients to make a giant batch of sweet potato goodness while she cracked eggs. Without thinking, I dumped the bowl of eggs into the mixer, shells and all. But I didn’t know I’d done that yet. No, I realized about the time I poured everything into the baking dishes and saw chunks of white. Nice. I texted my sister. “Is it okay if the sweet potatoes are crunchy?”
Gotta love my sister.
Again, I thought I was finished with KP, but Rachel had other things (pancakes) in mind. It went on like this all day. When we weren’t cooking, she was slamming doors. By dinner, I wasn’t making pancakes on principle and she was going to make pancakes if she had to crack every egg in the house.
Instead, she cracked her mama. I made spaghetti for dinner … with pancakes. They tasted the same as all the other gluten-free pancakes I seem to make: like buttered sand. But I sat a plate of those golden sand–pan–cakes in front of Rachel. With all that fuss, you think she’d eat them, right?
Nope. She shoved the plate away and the real fight began.
I, like the mature, example-setting, calm mother I am, burst into tears and ran to my closet with the dog.
Lord, I can’t stand this! Everything is always a fight! This isn’t what I envisioned about motherhood. How come other families post cute family photos on Facebook while all I have is holes in the wall and shredded Kleenex? I’m not equipped to deal with this. I’m so exhausted…
In the kitchen, I could hear Rachel screaming and stomping, echoing my heartache from her own frustrations with the severe limits of her world.
God didn’t speak to me audibly, but hubby did knock softly on the door. “We’re going for a drive.”
Later that night, during the hour Rachel slept, hubby and I reflected on the day. He said, “I think it’s pretty amazing how God gives one of us strength at just the moment the other falls.”
I was right in my prayer to God. I can’t do this. Not in my own strength. I need the Lord and I need my husband. Marriage is about so many things, but at its core it’s about unity and oneness. Sometimes I forget that and turn on my husband, wanting someone to blame when things are tough. I’m glad he was strong in that moment. And I’m so glad for God’s grace that helps me hang on even in my closet moments.
Jennifer Dyer has an M.S. in Communications Disorders, which served her well in her professional career as a speech-language pathologist. Never did she imagine that her education and career were God’s way of preparing her to be a mom to her own daughter with autism. Today, she enjoys reaching out to other families who face similar diagnoses. As a cancer survivor, carpet-cleaning veteran, and originator of the “Messy House Ministry,” Jennifer feels blessed to share joy, peace, and humor with others facing life’s challenges. She is mom to two beautiful daughters and is thankful to be raising them, serving other families with unique needs, and using her gift of writing and speaking to minister to others. Jennifer is also the author of a youth fiction book series and is trusting God with His timing on publication. Jennifer has been a mom for 11 years. She and Brandon have been married for 13 years.