One of the shitty things about having my ten-year-old home with me all.the.time. is that we actually interact less--or, rather, our positive interactions are rare.
All kids--all people--want to talk about the stuff they're into. And they want to be heard, and validated. It can be hard to give full attention to normal small humans when you're stretched thin, but spending time with an Aspie can be particularlly challenging. They tend to be really into their thing--like, to the exclusion of all others, and they can talk about it for hours, if you let them. Or they can talk about it for twenty minutes straight, without any awareness of what conversational fatigue looks like in people who love you but want you to shut the fuck up. You have to tell Aspies things that other people just pick up on. But the Kinglet is still struggling to understand that "I don't want to talk about this right now" doesn't mean "I don't love you, and your thing isn't important".
When your kids go to school, you get down time. You can regroup and save up all your doting parent listening skills for after the bus comes. But when they're with you 24-7, there is no down time. There's just Their Thing, all day, every day. So you kind of... stop listening. Or you listen when you can, but you feel like it's never enough. Your kid feels unloved, unvalidated. You're failing as a parent.
The Mean Mom Hat
Although I have, for my own sanity, abdicated all School Marm responsibilities with my son, I'm still the one who lets the tutor in the door. I'm still the one who has to enforce the rules, like "Since you chose to sit in your room with Ms. D. for three hours yesterday and not do any work, you don't get to play video games today." I'm the bad guy, the target for all the pre-teen snark and verbal abuse--and that shit gets old. So when he tells me an hour later that I'm the best mom ever, it's hard to feel all melty melty. When he asks me if I want to play Minecraft, I want to say "Why, no, I don't, because you were a mean little shit." And, you know, sometimes I do--because when he has friends, lovers, co-workers, or cops at his door, they're not going to overlook the mean shit, either He has to learn there are consequences for how he treats people, and being pissed at having to do what's expected of him is no excuse. So I wear the hat; and the happy mom-son times grow fewer and farther between. My kids feel unloved, unvalidated. I'm failing as a parent.
The Squirrel Mode
Any stay-at-home parent knows that this is one of the toughest jobs out there. There's no clocking out, no coffee breaks (hell, no private bathroom breaks, either). You're on, all the time, with some of the most demanding little bosses imaginable. Between the 10-year-old and the preschooler, me-time is precious as it is, but factor in all the at-home services and special ed-related phone calls and emails and whatnots, I spend my day trying to squirrel away minutes to get my own work done.
Which is important: I have a life outside of my children; I have a career, creative projects, things that fill in the pieces and make me feel like a whole person. Without those things, I'm a wraith, so I do what I have to do. But it means taking time--hell, stealing time--away from my kids to do my own thing. But because of the "always on" thing, those moments come at any point throughout the day. I'm always in nervous squirrel mode, desperately trying to hide my little "me" nuts in corners, at all hours, and i can't turn it off. I don't stop working until I crash, and even after I crash I'm still thinking about work. I can't relax. I don't do downtime--and when I do, I don't want to spend it with those little time-sucking vampirers.
Thus: my kids feel unloved, unvalidated. And I'm failing as a parent.
At least, that's what it feels like. Day in, day out.