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A Day in the Life Raising Two Autistic Sons

I straddle my son, holding his wrists down, hoping he’ll calm down enough so that I can get off him. I need an ibuprofen. He’s in the middle of one of his tantrums, and he’s all over the place – one moment kicking me in the stomach, the next moment patting me on the head.

“You okay, Mom? S’okay.”

I love you, I hate you, I love you, I hate you. I then take a head-butt to the nose, and it’s lights out for a few seconds. Tiny white specs flood my field of vision, and I crumple to the floor with Jaxson still clinging to me. I start sobbing and don’t stop for a good half hour.

I stare at my reflection in the shards of broken Christmas bulbs next to me – the blank look I see refracted back is disturbing. I’ve disappeared into myself like a snail pulling back into its protective shell.

So that’s what post-traumatic stress looks like.

This is me, Jeni: I’m five-foot nuthin’, one hundred and . . . ahem pounds – a roly-poly, forty-something, Rubenesque bon-bon of a gal, often described as cute but never sexy. I have two autistic children, an Australian shepherd named Sugar, and an albino frog named Humbert Humbert.

I’ve also got a husband, but he’s sort of a bit player in the melodrama that is my life. The frog gets more screen time than he does, mostly because the frog is physically present in the house more than my husband. The frog can’t escape. The husband can.

We moved from Florida to Michigan in 2007 (from a small neighborhood to a fifty-acre farm) because my mother had recently bought property and offered to help us build a home. She knew I needed help – I had a nine-year-old with severe OCD and major socialization issues, a five-year-old who was barely verbal, physically aggressive, and not anywhere near being toilet-trained, and a husband who was having a difficult time dealing with his two disabled children.

The only tool I had at my disposal was a prescription for an antidepressant.

What I had, essentially, was a mess.

Now it’s Christmas Eve, 2008 – the year was coming to an end, not unlike my sanity.

My husband had gone out for a bit of last minute holiday shopping, leaving me with twelve-year-old Jake to obsessively pummel me with random questions, while eight-year-old Jaxson did the same with his fists.

I was praying Santa would drop by early to deliver some sort of legal pharmaceutical magic I could sprinkle over Jaxson to knock him out for an hour – or five.

He ran around the room yanking pictures off the walls, knocking over tables and chairs, screaming at the top of his lungs, and clawing at me whenever I came near him.

Christmas break sucks. Take my kids off their schedules, even if part of that schedule includes school – which they both hate – and things begin to deteriorate fairly quickly.

Jaxson wanted to go outside and play in the snow. I was preparing for Mom and Bob to arrive for dinner and trying to clean the house. During the four hours that my husband disappeared to “shop,” I had to employ the kind of physical prowess only high school wrestlers are familiar with.

After he tossed a picture from the wall at me, I lunged at Jaxson, straddling his waist. I held both of his wrists to the carpet and waited out his flailing and kicking until he became tired enough that I could safely get off him. Then he cried and took to my bedroom, hiding under the covers on my bed. I left him in my room but brought a heavy dose of guilt with me as I hurried to clean the toilets and make a salad.

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