Do NOT Burn the Kitchen Down!
We interrupt the educational yet entertaining series currently in progress to bring you this important message:
Do NOT Burn the Kitchen Down!
Great advice, huh? Well, lemme tell ya…I was trying SO HARD!
Since my husband was leaving town the next day, I had decided to cook him a nice dinner before he left. I had planned a meal including two of his favorite things: Verlasso salmon and Brussels sprouts. Perfect dinner plan; nutritionally sound and yummy. I was happy. Since my kindergartener had a t-ball game scheduled that night from 6-7, I planned to serve dinner at 5, so we could leave for the game at 5:40, then be ready to head to bath and bed when we got home. A tough part of the plan, but still do-able. But then, it appeared a storm was coming. Sweet release! Freedom! Stay of execution! I thought, I’ll just wait to cook. Surely the game will be cancelled and we can eat dinner at a regular hour and not have to do the whole three-ring circus, right? WRONG! At 5:40, I got a text saying the game was still on. Did I surrender? NEVER!
I threw my hungry, napless, EXHAUSTED Post-Memorial Day Weekend children into the car, to drive IN THE RAIN to a game, which would be played THROUGH the rain. As I stood sharing a tiny umbrella in the dugout with a sweet friend, and fed my starving youngest child a “snack” (I was kidding myself, this was a meal) of peanut butter crackers, I prided myself on our adaptability–but I still held on to the dream of cooking that perfect meal for my husband when we got home. My revised plan could be made perfect too: we would arrive home, my husband would give the kids a bath while I cooked dinner, and I would be back on track.
It was going pretty well…until my husband came down the stairs, took one look, and yelled THE OVEN IS FULL OF FLAMES!!!!
Y’all, I darn near burned my kitchen down. My dream kitchen. My brand new, white tile backsplash, gas appliances dream kitchen. As I watched the black smoke billow out of the vents and door, rising up to mar the white tile and white grout backsplash to the white cabinets, I was completely frozen. The kitchen was so pristine and the plan had been so perfect—we were FINE before, and now, just flames and black smoke. How did it all go so wrong???
After the tile cooled, I spent the next 30 minutes scrubbing the black away (which is impossible to do completely, by the way) and I realized—I do this ALL THE TIME. Metaphorically, thank God, but seriously all the time. I try too hard. I try to do too much—and I fail. I make a late dinner of (smoked) salmon and Brussels sprouts for drenched and tired people, when everyone would have been reasonably well nourished and happy with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
But this is what we do as moms, isn’t it? At least sometimes we do. And I think it’s driven in equal parts by the love we have for our family, of doing the best we can to serve our family, and the fear of not getting this thing right. Sometimes we try so hard and care so much that it leads to sticking to the “perfect” dream idea at all costs, expecting 110% of ourselves at every turn.
My inability to let the “perfect thing” go is what caused me to almost burn the kitchen down. As I scrubbed, here’s the thing I realized—I’m not sure there is the “perfect” thing; maybe there’s just the thing that’s perfect for right now.
I’ve known a lot of moms in my time whose little one has recently been diagnosed with autism. These are women in the tired fog who are killing themselves to do everything that is available for their child; they want to nourish their child’s social needs, sensory needs, language needs, physical needs; do ABA therapy, equestrian therapy, craniosacral therapy, speech therapy, vitamin injections, feeding therapy, specialized programs, mainstream preschool; and they would like to do it ALL right NOW, and do it perfectly the first time. This is LOVE. This is trying to do the best for your baby. It is beautiful and admirable and certainly understandable, but these mommies are in danger of burning the kitchen down.
Here’s my advice to you amazing autism warrior mamas on how NOT to burn the kitchen down:
1) Make a list of every therapy or therapist or doctor or program or test that anyone has recommended to you, or that you’ve researched, or that well-meaning folks have told you worked for their best friend’s cousin or sister’s boyfriend’s niece or something. There are good ideas in there; write them down—but know that they aren’t ALL right for your child RIGHT NOW, if ever.
2) Prioritize! What is the immediate need? What is going to make the biggest impact on your life right now? What is the biggest obstacle to you and your child’s functioning in your daily life right now? Prioritize whatever or whoever it is that is going to address that first, and then make your list from there on down.
3) Be willing to give things time. To date, there is not a magic pill or therapy maneuver that is going to make it all better in one fell swoop—but there are lots of great therapy approaches and well-educated, kind people who are going to work hard for you and your family for as long as it takes. No matter what you choose, your child WILL get better. TRUST that this will get better. TRUST that the people you invite onto your journey are doing what they think is best for you and your child.
4) Consider that nothing is perfect—it’s just finding what is perfect for you and your family right now. Even if the world’s most renowned researchers are working at state of the art facility one hour away, hypothetical-perfect may not be perfect for your individual child or family. Perfect for one child with autism isn’t necessarily perfect for another—and that’s just from the kid standpoint. You and the rest of your family matter too! If hypothetical-perfect therapy costs more than you can spend, more time on the road than you can drive, and if you have other children who will be making the drive with you, think carefully. As I said, there are lots of good approaches and people who will help you and your child. Be careful how you prioritize your therapies, and consider the impact on your marriage, finances, and your family as a whole.
I know this is all easier said than done, I really do! BUT if you burn down the kitchen, it’s going to be very hard for you to keep your family nourished and healthy. Make your list, evaluate your priorities, and DON’T BURN THE KITCHEN DOWN!
From my mom heart to yours,