I can be a REAL BITCH.
If you’re looking for a positive inspirational post, this isn’t it. In fact when I see those kinds of posts on social media I have to restrain myself from leaving a snarky remark. Take for example:
Some people have been reclaiming the word “bitch” to mean a powerful or practical woman (see below) but I’m not talking about that kind of bitchiness. I never get anything done unless I have to and even then its usually done late.
I come from a family of lawyers, debaters, union officials, politicians, CEOs so I was destined to be argumentative. My older sister got a comment on her report card for Kindergarten where the teacher wrote “outspoken to the point of rudeness” which I’m so jealous of and aspire to have written on my gravestone.
As a child, I once pulled up a bunch of freshly planted tulips from the garden of the strict Catholic primary school I was going to and gave an older student a bloodshot eye by poking her with a stick. I don’t think I meant to be bad in those moments but both incidents landed me in the Principle’s Office. I also remember painting Swastikas in Art Class in high school and telling the teacher I was going to live on the streets and take drugs specifically because I knew it would annoy her.
A different high school teacher, tired of my constant surliness, snapped at me “it must be so sad to be so young and so cynical” which was factual at the time but now I like to think of cynicism as a protective mechanism against ignorance and the antidote to gullibility. For example…
One time I joined a bunch of co-workers putting in complaints about a manager well known for bullying several other staff. Result: Defending the underdog brands you awful.
Another time I sent a long email to a very dear friend, I don’t even recall much of the email other than it was practically a thesis on all the things I thought she was doing wrong in her life. Though she has forgiven me, I am yet to understand what drove me to be so awful and I haven’t forgiven myself.
There is nothing that fires up my awful side more than someone being unfair to my child. He’s 4 and has Autism Spectrum Disorder and with it a very defiant streak. He is smart, articulate, brutally honest and excellent at finding “legal loopholes”.
Yesterday a childcare staff member called me into a room and handed me a four page behaviour management plan highlighting all the ways in which he is annoying them and that if this is not fixed in 2 weeks, they will – euphemism – “cease care”. As she spoke, I could feel the clouds of dissociation carrying me away but not before a small part of me took great pleasure in seeing her hands tremble as she went through the document. Oh how I longed to release all my awfulness on her at that moment.
Not because some of what they complain of isn’t true – yes he did scream at the director for 5 minutes that she isn’t the boss of him, yes he did kick and pinch them – but because they insist on sticking to outdated behaviour modification strategies rather than using one of the plethora of alternatives given to them by his OT, Special Educator, Speech Therapist and Psychologist. He is only 4 and already “awful” in their eyes.
The only other thing more irritating than injustice is an illogical argument defending the injustice. Whenever I hear someone talk, my mind mentally stacks the points up into a tower and at a quick glace, all the weak points are obvious.
Take for example the last meeting we had with the Childcare Director. Who over the course of an hour stacked up several “yay us!” blocks.
“We have dealt with so many children with special needs before”, “M has over 30 years of experience!”, “C has a BACHELOR degree. Most people don’t know she has a Bachelor degree.” “We’re very skilled.” “We go out of our way to use any strategies presented to us.”
Then at another point in the conversation she tells me about the incident that has resulted in the meeting – Son 4 has knocked over someone’s blocks, they try to redirect, he kicks a carer and shouts at Director. When I prod for more details and they fill in the blanks of how they reacted to him and I reply.
“Ok…well I can see what the problem is.” I then go through the whole incident from his perspective. I explain he knocked over the blocks because he thinks like a 2 year old. He doesn’t have theory of mind and thus can’t understand that everyone else in the room doesn’t also think it is a great idea. If a 2 year old knocked over another child’s blocks, would grab them and remove them from the room? I skip over the fact that picking up a child because he knocked over blocks and physically moving him to another room is a reportable disciplinary offence because I already know that their staff are not held to the same “consequence and discipline” standards as an Autistic 4 year old. I explain that getting him to stop doing something by saying “I’m going to count to 5 and if you don’t choose another activity then…(inset threat of being physically restrained)” is totally ineffective because he has praxis issues and motor planning issues so he can’t follow vague instructions. You need to be very specific and so not only have you set him up to fail by asking him to do nothing in particular, you’ve also added time pressure. I then add, he doesn’t like to be touched. He has sensory issues. And I actually want to scream “if I was 4 and an adult grabbed me and carried me out of the room like a log, I would want to kick them too”. Knowing how often I went into freeze when my father abused me, I am secretly glad he fights back.
Suddenly Director rearranges her initial block pile that was all about how competent they are and is now trying to shift the blame but in doing so, just reveals how unstable whole her argument is. From this point on I just think my replies because I am struggling to restrain myself from shouting “You’re actually REALLY REALLY STUPID”.
“Well we didn’t realise the strategies have changed.” They haven’t changed. OT and Psychologist have explained praxis and sensory issues and theory of mind issues already. Staff have just opted to not try out the alternate ways of speaking to him.
“We just need to know what the strategies are, we’re more than happy to implement them”. No you’re not. Department of Education visitor has told us already that she witnesses staff NOT using them.
“The staff are just so exhausted. They complain to me that they are so exhausted because he requires so much one on one time.” Interesting, several staff have been telling me recently how little one on one time he requires compared to the past.
“We just don’t have the resources for a situation like this.” Yes that’s why we provided them for you at our cost. Have you forgotten we pay for additional people to come to the centre?
“When he doesn’t follow instructions, it seems like he is making a calculated decision to disobey.” Ridiculous. The Speech Therapist’s Report says “has trouble making inferences about other peoples thoughts and intentions“. He isn’t capable of strategic thinking. It’s almost like you think he sits at home at night in the dark reading The Art of War, highlighting his favourite passages.
“We have a duty of care to the other children.” True. As a survivor of violence I don’t allow it in my home and I don’t allow him to hurt other children. These incidents don’t occur anywhere EXCEPT AT CHILDCARE. All his therapists say he is most suited to mainstream education. Oh…they also all have more than just a Bachelor Degree from 10+ years ago. As I think all this I try REALLY HARD not to do this:
And I try even harder not to say this: I think Director, that you don’t like it that a 4 year old isn’t afraid of you. You don’t like it that a 4 year old will scream “You’re not the boss of me” in front of prospective parents. You don’t like it that he has zero respect for you. Let’s be honest. That’s really what this is about, your reputation and sense of self worth being unhinged by a child.
My child can be awful, as can every human being, but he can also be delightful. And he absolutely adores the OT, Psychologist, Special Educator, and Department of Education worker because they try to foster a genuine relationship with him. Perhaps it’s not about Autism, perhaps he’s inherited my sharp tongue and zero tolerance for stupidity.
The Circle of Security Method of parenting that I use on him says you only have to be a “good enough” parent 30% of the time in order for your child to grow up with a secure attachment. I can’t help but wonder what kind of parents Director had such that she requires so much perfection from a child with a known disability. What made her so awful?
Later I talk about Childcare with my dear friend who I was once so awful to. She jokes that maybe she should crank call them. “Yes!” I reply. “Let’s call them and scream ‘I have a Masters Degree!’ and hang up”. Such a stupid joke on my part but exactly the right kind of stupid that cuts through the awful.
Hoffman, K., Marvin, R., Cooper, G. & Powell, B. (2006). Changing toddlers’ and preschoolers’ attachment classifications: The Circle of Security Intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 1017-1026.
Kimbi, Y. (2014). Theory of Mind Abilities and Deficits in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Topics in Language Disorders, 33(4):329-343
Praxis: It’s not just motor planning. (2019) Occupational Therapy Children. Retrieved from https://occupationaltherapychildren.com.au/praxis-its-not-just-motor-planning/