Awesomeness in bullet points:
• We saw the whales...with our eyes.
• We all stayed at a hotel and it didn't trigger any trauma reactions/behavior in my littlest cherubs. (I don't fully understand their history before coming into care but I have been led to believe that they were somewhat homeless and often stayed in hotels with others. The children were found in a hotel the day they came to stay with us.)
• We had a TON of fun and we were able to manage keeping something of a normal schedule. Granted, we blew off nap two days in a row. But bedtime stayed close to normal and everyone got enough sleep.
• Everyone had fun – even Cherub 1 (the occasionally grumpy teenager).
• Dude and Dolly like riding rides. They also came around to the fun of costumed characters. By the end of our stay they wanted their picture taken with each one.
• Pumpkin did well at respite care with Daphne (the world's most awesomest of neighbors!!). She played. She hugged. She even ate all of her meals without millions of verbal reminders to eat. (Maybe it's my cooking she hates?! LOL)
• Two days was the perfect amount of time to take in all that Sea World had to offer. The weather couldn't have been more perfect for late December!! We saw every single show and rode every single ride. It was a blast!!
And then...the not so awesome:
Pumpkin is pretty pissed off. She seemed slightly "aware" that we were leaving when we took off on Tuesday. But she knows Daphne and has been over to their house before. She wasn't upset when we left at all. And, she was fine the entire time we were gone.
But when I walked into the house at 5:00PM tonight to pick her up – she FREAKED out! I couldn't tell if she was mad that we left her or mad that we came back. She started screaming at me and crying. She pointed to the second floor of the house and said, "go night-night". Then she started crying like she did when she came back into care (after being gone 11 days) back in September. She said my name over and over. She asked for her sisters. She asked for her mommy. And, for reasons no one understands, she asked for Grandma. (Pumpkin doesn't have a "grandma" in her life. Not even her mom understands why Pumpkin cries out for Grandma.)
I thanked Daphne and walked Pumpkin across the street to our home. Pumpkin just cried and cried and cried. It was supper time and I tried to distract Pumpkin by offering her something to eat. She just cried and cried and cried.
Pumpkin isn't much of a cuddler. She has severe mental retardation and shows some symptoms of autism. In general, she doesn't connect with others. I usually try to comfort her like a "normal" child. But when it's met with rejection, I stop. I don't force it.
And since I'm not a fan of crying and screaming, I end up just telling Pumpkin to "knock it off" when she gets going. It seems harsh. I know. But parenting Pumpkin looks different than parenting a neuro-typical child. I love on her as much as I can. But if all she's going to do is cry and scream, I have to maintain my own sanity as well.
I tried several different things. I put Pumpkin on a chair facing a wall. This removal from an audience has worked before. From there, she calmed down enough to eat a little supper. She ate the broccoli on her plate before she ramped up the crying again. This time I stood her up in a corner. Again, she calmed down a little and I asked her if she wanted to eat or play. She somewhat grunted, "play," so I put her in a toy room and sat her down. She kept on crying.
I raced through my own meal and went back to try and comfort Pumpkin by holding her again. She cried but seemed to want me to snuggle her. I held her on the couch for nearly 45 minutes.
The compassion fatigue just about did me in. I made it clear that I would only snuggle her if she wasn't screaming. She stopped crying completely but it was very obvious that Pumpkin was horribly upset! I so wanted to "fix" everything. It broke my heart to hear the cries and not know for sure why she was so upset. Pumpkin can't communicate like a typical child. As I sat there holding her my heart hurt. I felt bad for leaving her. But it was better that she stayed behind. She doesn't like crowds. She wouldn't have wanted to get out of her stroller. And the physical act of getting her around the park would have been a nightmare. It's hard enough to corral a 2yo and a 4yo. It's even harder to do that when you're having to carry a 6yo that can't walk. So I knew we did the right thing. But still, I felt bad.
Now that I'm thinking over all that Pumpkin did say after I picked her up tonight – and how things seemed better for her after we got her in her PJs and started the comforting bedtime routine – I'm pretty sure Pumpkin is ticked off that we left her. I'm thinking her first response of "go night-night" was Pumpkin for, "How dare you leave me behind so I have to go night-night here!"
We've discussed before that she MIGHT say "grandma" when she's mad because of us leaving her this summer for our family vacation. What if the respite provider told Pumpkin that we went to see Grandma? What if Pumpkin's calling out that name was her way of saying, "How dare you leave me behind so you can see grandma!"
What if Pumpkin saying "grandma" again tonight was her way of saying, "You left me again just like you did this summer!"
As you can tell, parenting Pumpkin is a HUGE "what if" game. I'm never really going to know why Pumpkin was mad tonight. For all I know she could have been mad because we came back. Maybe she liked it better at Daphne's house. Maybe she thought Daphne would take her back to her mom's.
Like I said though, Pumpkin calmed down when the typical bedtime routine started. She listened to stories and swung her head back and forth when I sang the songs. She even gave me a hug as I made my way around the room with each child (she shares a HUGE bedroom with Dude and Dolly). Pumpkin rarely hugs so I could tell she was feeling at least a little bit better.
All in all, I know we did the right thing. We had a lot of fun. And I do need respite from Pumpkin every now and then. Yes, overall she is an easy child to care for. But she also wears me out – mentally and physically. She's a lot of work. I'm glad we were able to get away for a couple days. And I hope Dude and Dolly are able to remember the fun they had long after they leave our care.