For those of you who are frequent readers of this blog, you have probably heard me use the phrase “extra hands” a time or two. Especially when I am referring to new excursions or travel of any kind. Since I seem to hit on this point so much, it felt like it was about time I give the idea of “extra hands” more than just a brief mention or bulletin point; it is a very important aspect of our lives and I think it deserves its own full article. So, for those of you who may not be frequent readers or who have just kindly obliged me making up my own phrases without real explanation, lets dive a little deeper into this phrasing:
What do I mean when I say, “Extra Hands”?
Do you ever go somewhere and just feel yourself basically spinning in circles trying to keep track of our kiddos? Have you ever gone to a place and had your kids straight up start running in different directions? You go to talk to someone at a counter and turn around and your kid is gone? You feel like the only way you could even go out as a family is if you grow a couple more heads and more arms, or you ignore the lessons learned from Multiplicity and find a way to straight up clone yourself a time or two? Yeah, I’ve been there. Heck, many times I still am there. This is a pretty typical life for a parent with small children, or even not-so-small kids on the autism spectrum. Hence the need for “extra hands” aka assistance, extra support, another person in general to just HELP!
When are “extra hands” most needed?
I generally refer to needing “extra hands” most when we are going somewhere, but from time to time it can also refer to needing someone to help watch some subset of my kids while I take the other to somewhere we have to be at. It is hard to be a parent in a situation where you have to have to work out babysitting just to effectively go to many of the places that most parents can just take all their kids along to at some point. An example of this would be when my daughter has a baseball or soccer game. Most parents of a neurotypical 9-year-old could take their child along with them at that age to the game and know that they will sit without running off or could go to the very near by playground and play on their own for a bit. That is not my reality. Although I have high hope for these types of things in the future, my son is not at that point where we could do that. So, if I want to be able to watch the game or assist my daughter at all, extra hands are required.
What about my spouse?
In general, I don’t refer to my husband as “extra hands”. We are a team, a base unit if you will, so when I say “extra hands” I am almost always referring to needing assistance beyond what the two of us can manage together. On a very rare occasion when I am considering going somewhere during the regular work week hours (when my husband is not generally available), I may refer to needing extra hands that could potentially be him, or someone else that I could get to help. The say at home mom thing can be quite a juggle, especially in the summer when I have all three to manage without a standard babysitting schedule of any kind in the everyday rotation.
Do I ALWAYS need “extra hands”?
I’m not going to lie; I find myself in a position of needing help a lot more than I would like. But always? No, of course not. I am by myself with my kids more than I am not. It has become a bit less now that more of them are in school, but even in the summer we spend most of our days just me and the three of them. And the places that we can go without the extra support have grown quite a bit over the years. There was a time when I didn’t even safe taking my kids into a store with me because tendencies of elopement meant I would easily be in a position to lose one of them. But as we go out to places more, my boys have started to learn the rules of being out and we have set certain routines and strategies in place to help us with our more frequent outings. It is mostly in those new adventures, or big places with lots of distractions that require extra sets of eyes to make sure all our crew are staying safe. Some families can pull off a zone defense in places like this, but my boys often require a man to man or even double team type line up for these types of ventures.
Who are my “extra hands”?
We are very fortunate to have family on both sides that love our kids and are happy to help us. So, our go-to is generally family. Over the years we have made some good friends with kids similar in age to ours and we can go places as a group with them and feel comfortable knowing that they know our situation and are generally ready to help herd our children along with us. I have even hired help before, still generally a younger family member, but I have done this many times actually. Over the years I have gotten very close with Damion’s aid in school, and on occasion have invited her along to our outings to be our extra hands. If they know your kids and like spending time with them, then asking them to tag along and help often isn’t as much of an ask because they would be happy to spend time with them at a fun place anyway. Making it a win-win in a lot of cases.
If you are in a situation and don’t feel like you have any family or friends nearby that would be willing to help, reach out to your county board of DD. Sometimes they offer payment assistance for respite services. You may choose to use these types of services for a night out instead, but their terms are generally pretty flexible so if you wanted to utilize the person for extra support to come along with you on a big outing then that may be a good option as well.
Extra hands are my number one way of being able to do so many of the things that we love to do with our kids. And I am thankful that with those “extra hands” my children have all gotten to experience a number of places that we wouldn’t have been able to safely visit otherwise. Actually, getting out and going places, even when it is hard, is so helpful to our children with special needs because it gives them a chance to learn how they are supposed to behave outside of their regular home and school life. They say it takes a community to raise kids and I believe that is even more true for our kids with special needs. It’s not always easy to ask for help but I promise that finding a good set of extra hands that can help out with tough outings can change your whole life and definitely your kid’s life too.