Embrace the Chaos

24 Feb

Recently my daughter spent a few days with a friend, visiting her grandmother.  Aside from hoping that the girls were behaving themselves and having a great time, what came to mind was the realization of how calm and quiet our house was without her….The two boys were still at home, so there was still action going on, but everything was relatively peaceful and laid back.  The boys played together well and were happy to engage in family activities, like bowling or movies without any disagreement.  Experience has taught me that you could have removed any one of the three children, and the result would have been the same – calm, peaceful, playful familial ‘bliss’.  There is just something about that mystical number three that brings out the crazies in kids.

Any parent with a young child in the house will tell you that, at times, chaos reigns supreme.  Multiply the number of children by three (or more!) and chaos is a daily occurrence.  Complicate that equation with two boys being on ‘The Spectrum’ and life starts to get very interesting… supreme chaos is practically the status quo.  Welcome to Chez Houldsworth!

Before having kids of my own, I would shake my head in quiet disapproval as I observed mothers ‘giving in’ to their child’s public tantrums, or screaming at their child to ‘just behave’.   I would pull my nose up at dirty, snot-nosed kids, running willy-nilly in mismatched outfits, as their mothers looked away in quiet desperation.  Don’t these women have any pride, I would think to myself?  Can’t they manage their children? Not I….oh never!  I, of course, planned to have beautifully dressed, well-mannered, cooperative, bright, adorable little cherubs….someday….

Fast-forward some years, and I awoke to find myself over-run by three screaming, whining, fighting, hellions who are constantly demanding something – food, attention, toys, vindication, you name it….and leaving a trail of destruction in their wakes.  What had happened to my grand plan of perfect little angels?  I learned the hard way – never say never!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore our three kids and given the option, wouldn’t send any of them back (well, not today anyway…)  But, they do tend to play havoc with my carefully laid plans, try my patience with their ‘deafness’ and test my parenting skills with their challenges.

Truth be told, I’m not your laid-back type of person to begin with (my husband is nodding his head vigorously in agreement!), so dealing with this level of noise, chaos and disruption is like fingernails down a blackboard.  I struggle hard to pick my battles and as the popular book recommends – not sweat the small stuff….easier said than done!

Finally accepting that chaos is a natural part of our family life, I’ve recently adopted a new motto – “Embrace the Chaos”.  Rather than constantly fighting to tame the chaos, I now try to find the joy within it:

  • Instead of sighing over the trail of art supplies left behind by my daughter, I try to envision her future as a budding Picasso.
  • Instead of groaning over the books and papers strewn across my son’s room, I try to focus on the fact that he is an avid reader.
  • Instead of moaning over that fact that my kids complain about the dinner I just slaved over, I try to appreciate that we are all together and have food to eat.

And of course, in the midst of it all, I also try to seize the rare moment of ‘zen’ for a quiet moment for myself, reading in the sun room.

For Gregory in particular, chaos can be extremely difficult to deal with.  As with most Aspies, sensory overload from the sights, sounds and smells of our daily family life – music, video games, shouting, vacuuming, etc. – can become very stressful. Add to that, an older brother who loves to tackle, touch and tease and a whiny, persistent little sister invading your private domain, and poor Gregory has his hands full trying to hold himself together.

But as stressful as family life can be for Gregory, I am convinced that our familial chaos has  benefited him as well.  It has forced Greg to build his threshold of sensory stimulation and increase his tolerance for frustration.  Family life has helped Gregory to adapt, as he is forced out of his comfort zone of quiet control into the fray of close social interactions and constantly changing situations.  Family disruption has taught Greg sharing and negotiation tactics, as well as the skills of reading social cues necessary to achieve a desired end.  In short, although he frequently retreats to the quiet solitude of his bedroom to decompress from too much ‘togetherness’, the ‘invasions’ of family life have also forced Greg to rise above of his Aspie tendencies and interact with life as it comes…maybe not on his terms, but on terms he can now cope with much better…

So, when chaos reigns supreme in your home, just stand back, take a deep breath, relax and ‘embrace the chaos’! The positive results might just surprise you too!  (And I’m willing to bet that Picasso’s house wasn’t exactly immaculate either…)

14 Responses to “Embrace the Chaos”

  1. Virginia February 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Great article. I love the family photo.

    I have another solution to embracing the chaos. In our case, the boys’ bedrooms are nightmarish – clothes everywhere, junk everywhere. I can’t even find a floor to vacuum! So, I just close the door and walk away. Sometimes, closing the door is the ONLY solution.

    • Joanne Houldsworth February 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

      Thanks Virginia. Although the need sometimes presents itself, I haven’t yet been able to just close the door and walk away…. It is a higher level of zen that I yet aspire to! :-D

  2. Beth February 24, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    I so relate to the chaos, as I have three boys, similarly two with special needs, and no matter which one I take out of the mix, it is, like you said, a much calmer house! The chaos reigns supreme and I will take your advice and try harder to look for the hidden gems! Thanks Joanne, great article, great advice!

    • Joanne Houldsworth February 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      Thanks Beth! I think when we are old and living a very calm, quiet existence, we will look back on all this chaos with great nostalgic fondness! It’s all good…we just need to focus on the right things! Best wishes.

  3. Katybeth February 25, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    Our Waldorf early childhood teachers quietly tidy when the kids start to get the crazies. Simple things-like folding a blanket, Lining up shoes, stacking a few books seem to help slow things down and add an element of calm. The teacher does not try to involve the kids in the tidy she just goes about “righting things” I know it calms me down when I can’t embrace the chaos around me and just let go…
    I love the idea of finding the good in the chaos–“a budding Picasso,” “avid reader.”

    • Joanne Houldsworth February 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

      Katybeth – What a great idea! I’ll try it out, but I suspect my kids won’t even notice, much less follow my lead… :-) Worth a try though! (And even if it doesn’t work, my house will be a wee bit neater!) Thanks for the comment!

  4. Katrine February 25, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    I am so glad I found your blog today! To weeks ago our 8 year old son was diagnosed with asperger syndrome. I have a lot of questions comming up all the time and it was really a relieve to read your blog today. We were advised from the hospital not to tell him about it yet, but I am in much doubt. After seeing your clever and brave son cope with AS like that, I think I am ready to tell my son, why he is so special ;) The best wishes all the way from Denmark! Katrine

    • Joanne Houldsworth February 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

      Welcome to the blog, Katrine – and to the community of Aspies and their families supporting one another! I hope you will find some helpful strategies here, but regardless, know that your son has many wonderful talents and gifts to share. Certain things might be more challenging for him, but with your support he’ll get there in the end. Good luck on your journey!

    • Amy February 26, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

      Katrine,
      Tell your son if you feel he is ready. I kept putting it off and my eight year old found a book about AS in the library and diagnosed himself! When he asked me about it I was very matter of fact and I think he was actually relieved to find out why he felt “different” from his classmates.

  5. annie March 1, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    Fabulous article – really captures the spirit of life in the house with 3 “hellions” – always a delight to read your work!

  6. Joe Hammond May 19, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Joanne (and anyone reading this for that matter) you might be interested in watching the Shaytards on youtube. The father ‘Shaycarl’ films a video of his life every day and has done so for the past 2 and a bit years, and they are amazing to watch. Their family consists of Shay, his wife, 4 young kids, a great dane, and a large extended family and they are brilliant at just embracing the chaos of family life (in fact Shay often encourages it, in public sometimes). I actually find the Shaytards very inspirational to watch because, while I don’t think I’d make daily vlogs, their channel has proven to me that chaotic family life is worth it for all the happy moments you get.

    • Joanne Houldsworth May 20, 2011 at 9:23 am #

      Thanks Joe, I’ll check that out. We all need to find the joy whenever we can – chaos or not!!! Cheers!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Embrace the Chaos (via Aspergers : A Mom’s Eye View) | Houldsworth's Random Ramblings - February 24, 2011

    [...] Embrace the Chaos (via Aspergers : A Mom’s Eye View) Posted on February 24, 2011 by Barry Houldsworth Recently my daughter spent a few days with a friend, visiting her grandmother.  Aside from hoping that the girls were behaving themselves and having a great time, what came to mind was the realization of how calm and quiet our house was without her….The two boys were still at home, so there was still action going on, but everything was relatively peaceful and laid back.  The boys played together well and were happy to engage in family activities, … Read More [...]

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