As time passed and the children grew, my busy mom life continued on. I became more comfortable with James’ diagnosis of high functioning autism and our lives became a daily adventure of eating dinner in the car while I drove the kids to one of James’ many appointments. We were on the go so often that Quinn even began to play “appointments” in her imaginary play with her cousin. It was a busy life but it was a life filled with unconditional love between my children and myself.
James and John began to butt heads more and more as time went on. John had a very rigid style of parenting. Everything was black and white… right or wrong. His way was the right way… everyone else’s way was wrong. As with many of the arguments that John started with me… the arguments he started with the kids were over seemingly small things. Just one example that pops into mind is when the kids asked for more syrup for their pancakes, he would say no because there was still a little on their plates and it was wasteful. They were then expected to scrape the small amount that was on their plate and use that. I remember thinking to myself… Really? Does it really matter? It costs less than a penny for the amount of syrup they would need. Can’t we pick our battles here?
Due to his Autism, James also had a rigidity to him. He also saw things in black and white and as a result when John and James were left alone there would almost always be a huge blow out. Even if I was in the same house, but in a different room than them, something would almost always happen that resulted in some physical interaction.
James would claim that John grabbed his hand. John would deny it. I would see a red mark on James’ wrist. James would tell me that John picked him up and tossed him on the couch. John would say, “Well he was chasing Quinn and I couldn’t get him to stop so I had to”. James would have a large fit and throw things around the room and hit his father or his sister and say it was because something his father said or did made him angry. I would try to be the middle man and get to the bottom of things, but these interactions were extremely frequent and they both had little patience for each other.
Then Quinn started to complain. She’d be sobbing from the bottom of the stairs and when I asked what was wrong she told me “Daddy punched me on the nose” to which John would reply, “I did not! I bopped her.” I would frequently hear screaming and crying from the bathroom while he was helping her go potty and she would tell me, “Daddy slammed me on the potty because I wasn’t listening and going fast enough”.
These interactions became more and more frequent as the children got older and more independent minded. It got to the point where I started hitting record on my phone and recording some of these interactions. I would then send them to friends and ask them to keep them somewhere safe… just in case. I did my best to never leave John alone with the kids and if they claimed he did anything or I heard anything I would walk into the room and intervene. It ended up feeling like an “Us vs him” situation. He was always on the attack…. we were always on the defensive.
I wish I had been strong enough to leave sooner. I wish that I had called the police or DCF. He never beat my children….. but he was hurting them. He was emotionally abusive to them as well. He went right to intervening physically before even attempting a gentler approach.