An opportunity to spend a few hours together without our son should be a period of respite that is a blessing and fully enjoyed to recharge often drained resilience. Strangely though, even after 30 years, we still find going out alone and entrusting our sons care to another person difficult.
Our mind is continually occupied with the fear and uncertainty that he must be thinking when we are not around and this prevents us from fully enjoying our own experience and harbouring a sense of guilt.
This could be viewed as having created a ‘rod for our own backs’ and we should just do it, and do it more frequently and that our son (allegedly) will get used to it and will be ok. Maybe that is right, it just doesn’t sit well with us and when we have seen and been told how he responds in our absence, I’m not so sure it is wholly correct.
I even had one person explain that we need to ‘train’ him like we would a ‘dog’ and he will get used to the routine. I saw red at this as you can imagine and though we do accept there is a balance to be found and that we should not ignore our own wellbeing – which we have in the years that have passed us by, but that’s another story – but not at the expense of creating a sense of abandonment by our son, who due to both learning disabilities and severe autism is unable to process our absence as just being for a few hours, he believes we have gone for good and his anxiety takes a turn for the worse.
Some of this is as a result of aspects of his complex condition not being diagnosed until he was 29 and so coping techniques had not been developed and matured over the important years of his early childhood. We are beginning that process now.
All this said it is important that we explain clearly what we are doing and for how long and exactly when we will be back, and stick to it and fully explain what happened while we were out and encourage our son to explain what he did during those hours, as we listen patiently and sharing photographs with each other of our days. The anxiety subsides and we can reflect on the time away as so beneficial, not only to ourselves for those essential few hours but also part of the ‘coping technique’ by our son and a supporting family member in learning to live a few hours without us being there.
Win-win? I think so 🙂