I would love to know some statistics around having a child with PDAand the emotional wellbeing of their mothers. I can only imagine it would make for quite grim reading. Every mums experience is different but these are some of the issues I have personally experienced. I do jokingly refer to myself as mental mother but this is in reference to how the daily stress I experience makes me feel.
The most obvious and wearing issue that mental mother has to face is just plain dealing with the everyday behaviour of a PDA child, even just a "relaxed" day at home results in many behavioural management issues. I really dont think you can really understand the extent of this until you have really lived with it. Even on the days you consider to have been "good" days a high level of opposition and behavioural management will have been used. "Good" may mean that really tough behaviours may have been less today. Our "good" days would probably considered by "normal" parents as catastrophic disaster that they would never wish to repeat. I never really talk to "normal" parents about Isaac's behaviour as I couldn't begin to explain the depth. Intolerant of me I know but I can't stand the misguided empathy "yes, little Jonny doesn't like getting dressed either". Mental mother doesn't follow that with a "but does he try to throw a chair at your head when you ask him?" Its just too much, they can't appreciate I now have to diffuse the anger that has led up to the flying chair. I have to be neither cross nor emotional as any emotion can add fuel to his fire and prolong the episode. Whilst doing this I am also subtly reinforcing that this isn't an acceptable behaviour. Eventually after a while (good day 5 mins/ bad day 2 hours) the chair may be down the child may have calmed BUT is still undressed. Now the point of dressing needs to be readdressed. Which management strategy shall I use this time? a friendly race, a reward, bribery, a demand all of these will be employed at sometime depending on the mood. Dressing can take half a day or may be a two second job, how do you build that into your daily routine? Chances are if you need to be somewhere the stressors will have been picked up by the child and he will choose the prolonged dressing option.
So that is a little taste of what can happen around one simple (for us) everyday demand. Faced with this reaction to most things most days, can you begin to see how wearing it is? So how can we relax? a family meal out??? Well that is fraught with difficulties. Once you have considered has it got a play area but one that isn't too busy as he is likely to hit someone, have we packed ear defenders and a full "in handbag entertainment kit", and can they get the food on the table in under 15 mins or he will be on ceiling, it kind of takes the spontaneity out of it.
So why not get a babysitter and go out without the kids?? Well we cant just get the 16 year old from up the street, a PDA child can sniff out authoritative weakness as easily as a lion can smell its prey. This would be unfair and unsafe for all concerned. It has to be someone very well known to the child. Grandparents can still do it but it has to be a totally demand free night, I cant ask them on a school night anymore as he just plain refuses to go to bed for anyone else. He can also be violent and is it fair to ask anyone else to face that?
So lets have a family holiday? Ha ha ha, I wont even go into that, my children have not yet been on a plane as we know we would not be able to get him through the whole ordeal of plane travel although we do tackle car journeys to nearby Europe.
On top of the everyday stuff we have the issue of education (or lack of it). Mismanagement by countless "professionals" resulting in horrendous experiences for the child which results in more "behaviour" but on top you get an added helping of "blame" thrown your way for your parenting skills as this child obviously has no boundaries (despite the fact older sis is a dream child and model pupil at said same school). Then there is the fighting of the education authorities to help, which they don't. Mental mother then has to put a massive amount of time and energy into unhelpful, uniformed, disjointed departments trying to find some help for her child. which is usually woefully inadequate.
BUT WHY CAN'T MENTAL MOTHER GET THE RIGHT HELP FROM EDUCATION??? I suspect this is because THE CHILD HASN'T BEEN PROPERLY DIAGNOSED YET because MENTAL MOTHER IS ALSO FIGHTING THE MEDICAL AND SOCIAL SYSTEM FOR AN ACCURATE DIAGNOSIS NOT A ROUGH BOX TICKING DIAGNOSIS.
Yes mental mothers across the land will have filing cabinets of letters and reports about their child, most of which are inaccurate, inconsistent and quiet frankly a waste of a perfectly good rain forest. We are having to fight all of these people who are supposed to be there to help the vulnerable child because they do not understand how this vulnerable child is presenting. I have had so many appointments with many different people over the years that I have now developed two "trigger phrases" they are "PARENTING COURSE" and "STICKER CHART" I swear if these phrases are ever uttered again mental mother may not be responsible for her action!!!!!
This is a very disjointed rambling way of looking at what is simmering away in my daily life but I am trying to give an impression of the everyday roundabout PDA parents face with no way to even have a break from the ride, it is perpetual and endless. Even the sanity of my work life is severely curtailed, I can now only work on a week end when the other half is home, this upsets me as I really do love my job. At times I have felt very down maybe depressed although I have never sought medication. I have cried endless tears out of frustration, exhaustion and the sheer weight of the situation. I have drunk too much wine on many occasions to help lessen that feeling of pressure for a while. I read about many mums who are in a similar situation and those who feel much worse. Some have sat looking at the pills so desperate, exhausted, unsupported and let down that they cannot see a way to the future.
So again I ask" how mental do we need to get?"...... because I think a lot of us are already there.