Kit had a very rough Tuesday evening.
She did okay in Walmart that afternoon, but it was good that we were only there for a few items and able to keep it a very short trip.
On the way home she started to fall apart. She was very very tired.
It was a quarter to five, so I told Victor that after the bags were unloaded, Kit and I would take a drive.
A quiet drive after a busy activity often makes her sleepy, so I figured once the kids were out of the car, and things were calmer that she would knock out, and get a 15-20 minute snooze, and maybe that would help her to be calm enough to go to the Kingdom Hall for the meeting that night.
But her little mind was struggling. And her evening was taking an entirely different shape that looked nothing like a peaceful rest.
She cried the entire twenty minute drive to the next town over.
She had told me she was done with her gum, so I took it and wrapped it up in a napkin. Then she asked for a new piece, which I did not have, as the gum had come from Zak, and Zak was now at home. As was his gum. She couldn't handle this.
Her meltdown centered on the same few sentences, pleadingly repeated over and over, no matter what I tried to offer as alternatives. I was really hoping she would at least calm just enough to let her sleepiness have a soothing impact, but it seemed the opposite effect was in place that evening. Thankfully, she wasn't hysterical, just very very overtired and unable to soothe. And I just couldn't fix it for her.
When I turned around to head back she saw a playground and started crying to go to it.
Might sound strange, since that seems like an obvious aid to get her to calm down, but I wasn't up for turning her loose in that kind of disorganized state on an unfamiliar playground. That has major issues writen all over it. Way worse than driving a long way with a crying preschooler.
But I also knew that she was going to cry the entire twenty minute drive home if I didn't find a way to help her calm down. So I offered to take her to play at the "green play park" that was closer to our house.
That helped, but she was still highly anxious. And she kept asking me repeatedly, "we are going to play at the green play park?" To which I would say yes, but then she would ask again. And then I remembered something that I had read in this post by Jess from Diary of a Mom.
In her post she tries to portray as best as she can understand what ten minutes in school might feel, look, and sound like to her autistic daughter. I was moved by the whole piece, but one thing especially really stuck. In her scenario, her daughter, who is terrified of fire drills, says to her teacher "the firemen won't be here today." Her teacher nods, but does not say it back. So Brooke asks her teacher "Could you tell me that the firemen will not come today?" and her teacher tells her "Not right now, Brooke" and then tries to redirect her focus. But Brooke cannot move past her anxiety about a potential fire drill until she hears someone say the exact words she needs, "The firemen won't be here today." As a result of her teacher not understanding that she needs to hear the exact words, amidst the barrage of other overwhelming sensory stimuli, the root of Brooke's anxiety cannot be resolved despite her knowing that she needs to work on her math sheet. It's simply too much for her.
When I read that, I instantly recognized this about Kit. She often cannot move forward until we answer her question using the exact words that she is using to ask it. And sometimes several times exactly the same way, probably so she can feel sure that the answer is true.
I realized that this was probably what she needed as we drove. So instead of just saying yes, I told her, "yes, we are going to play at the green play park." And instantly, she calmed moved on to other questions about the park, I was amazed.
She never did fall asleep. She instead, while talking asked if I could see her. I told her "yes, I can see you in my mirror, right here" and I tapped the mirror that lets me see her in her seat.
"Touch it again."
I tap the mirror.
Tap...and again and again and again.
At one point, I was feeling done. "Baby, I'm done now. I don't want to tap it anymore."
"Taaaaaaaaaap it agaaaaaaaaaaain!!"
"Fine, but this is the last one. Deal?"
Let's just say we had a lot more fun at the "green play park" than on the forty minute drive preceding it.
She still cried when we left, and the entire two minute drive back to the house. But the park was fun and the weather, finally, was beautiful. And after a bath, and stories and singing with Daddy, she finally got what she needed most the whole time...