In my post, Parents Matter Too, I talk about how my husband, Leigh and I take time each week to spend together without kids. Usually that is a simple date on the couch with some good TV and junk food. Occasionally, it is nice to leave and see something other than the same 4 walls, though. Multiple young kids with extra needs and specific languages don't lend well to that escape, though. Especially in a pandemic.
In the past, we looked forward to the twice a year visit from my parents, Oma and Opa, so we could take a few hours. They handled a pre-planned dinner that was acceptable to Will and safe for Mack. Then a pre-approved movie that we knew wouldn't cause significant emotions from Will or nightmares. We haven't seen them since October 2019 due to the pandemic. However, they get to come in July, so we are excited!
In parts of 2018 & 2019, we had a wonderful exchange student who magically spoke Will's language and was sensitive to Mack's allergies. With Rory who knew even better, Leigh and I stole away once or twice while they capably prevented the house from burning down, and were aware of potential issues from the already slumbering children.
Gradually, we allowed Rory to stay home with one or two siblings with very strict guidelines. Then, we decided she could even handle Mack. And Mack could make good choices for a few hours. We started after bedtime to minimize risk. Then did between lunch and dinner and allowed TV. Then, we upped the ante and took away TV. We upped the pay too. Rory has always been driven by the ability to do jobs for money. She wants independence. We want her to know she's providing a valuable service for us. We pay her on a graduated scale depending on the responsibilities she is taking.
Last night, we were planning on having her handle dinner (which I'd made), putting the rabbits in for the night, and putting Mack and Kae to bed. Then the day happened. And I hesitated. Will struggled a lot yesterday. All the kids fought and argued (that is apparently just everyday lately). And I was tired from cajoling and mediating.
I almost canceled the one night a week Leigh and I have to be adults who aren't working on trying to figure out how to raise challenging kids. The one night we aren't doing school work, prepping for school, writing blogs or books, studying, doing research, promoting, or in our own counseling session. I almost bailed on time away because the kids had a hard day. But that hard day was precisely why I need to follow through with the planned date.
Leigh convinced me that with specific expectations and consequences in place and clearly laid out, we could still go and nothing massive would happen. That in itself was huge given Leigh's anxiety due to his own autism. I had another conversation with each kid. I clearly laid out the consequences for not listening to Rory. We said our goodbyes. And trusted the capable hands of our loving eldest child.
Take out, good company, a waltz around an almost deserted Target, and respite. We needed it. We came home to a sleeping Kae, dozing Mack, gaming Will, and TV binging Rory. All reports were positive. Kae yelled at us this am for not saying proper goodnights. That's it. No fights. No consequences for poor choices. Everything went smoothly.
We have a live in babysitter who wants the chance to earn money by helping with her siblings. Rory is smart, capable, mature, and kind. She speaks her brother's language, and Kae adores her. Mack enjoys goofing with her and knows she will keep him safe. This is a rarity. We know. We are blessed and thankful.
Rory is our go to because of how amazing she is with her siblings. And how they trust her. Oma and Opa are far away blessings whom we are lucky to have twice a year (when there isn't a pandemic). We have a few friends who would babysit at the drop of a hat too, and while they're wonderful, we know Will and Mack together are a lot more than they're used to. If you have someone in your life who is willing and able to watch your kids for a time, don't hesitate to use them from time to time. The ability to get away and be adults is priceless. And life giving. There was a time we had no one aside from the Oma and Opa visits. Those years were exhausting and soul sucking sometimes. Take every opportunity you have.