Neurodivergence · Random Thoughts

Spoons Algebra…

No, this is not a RadiCool Unschooling post…as such. It is much more complex than that.

10M ≥ 15P

12M + 12P = GD

12M – 15P = BD

10M + 10P = ∞

Solve for M and P.

Does that remind you of high school algebra? Pre-calculus in Sixth Form? Or maybe even calculus at college?

Does it do your head? Give you headaches? And seem impossible to solve?

Now imagine that M and P represent people’s needs and energy levels. Because that is exactly what they are. Let me explain…

Just a couple of months ago, I was introduced to Spoon Theory by Jamie & Lion at #autismfestival17. It was one of those light bulb moments. For the first time, I understood better PanKwake’s demands.

You see PanKwake will often ask…demand…that I do things for her that she could do for herself. Things like get her iPad from the charger on the bottom bunk just below her or make her a glass of water. I had never understood why exactly.

Plenty of well-meaning people and ‘experts’ had accused me of spoiling her or making her dependent upon me. A couple of times I had tried to even ‘force’ the issue. But the results…massive meltdowns…quickly taught me that was not the best route for my child…or me.

Before that day, the best explanation I had run across was that those things were ‘unspoken’ demands from Jane Sherwin’s book, My Daughter is Not Naughty. But even that just did not quite feel right. Much the same way that autism or Asperger’s do not quite fit Pathological Demand Avoidance. Close but no cigar.

Then I listened as Jamie explained how he could manage a high pressure career as techie but needed carers to cook his spaghetti-O’s. He had learned to use his spoons for those things that were important to him…including helping people like us through autism education. And the rest…he delegated to others. Because energy is a limited resource. You only have so many spoons each day so use them wisely.

I got it then. PanKwake used her spoons to do amazing things like make and maintain friendships, play games, create art, climb walls, and just be. So she actually NEEDED me to get that water, switch out her iPads, or all those other things that everyone said I should just make her do for herself.

I was so excited that I actually jumped up and down and waved when Jamie explained Spoon Theory. I had an explanation that I could understand. I felt validated. My gut instinct to just do those things for her had been right all along.

What I did not realize at that time was…just a few weeks later and I would need to use Spoon Theory myself.

Now one thing I do deviate from accepted theory on with this one is…I believe that even able-bodied, neurotypicals have a limited amount of spoons. It is just that because they have more they may not be aware of them or how to best use them. But isn’t Spoon Theory one of the best explanations for burnout?

So I was aware even then that it was a balancing equation…my spoons minus PanKwake’s plus whatever else I took on that day determined outcome for both of us.

But then I got that phone call. That sharp pain and weakness in my wrist and those aches and pains in my feet, knees, and hips that I had been dismissing, ignoring, and minimizing for so long was Rheumatoid Arthritis. RA.

And suddenly I realized that I too had a more finite number of spoons.

So what was I to do?

I could not suddenly just push all that stuff onto PanKwake. It would be detrimental to her mental health. And probably not be the best use of either of our spoons.

But I could not go on just pretending that nothing was wrong anymore either. I had to start taking better care of myself…for her sake…Cookie Monster’s…and my own.

That is easier said than done though sometimes. Just look at those equations again in a new light…

10 Mommy spoons needs to be equal to or greater than 15 PanKwake spoons.

12 Mommy spoons plus 12 PanKwake spoons equals a Good Day.

12 Mommy spoons minus 15 PanKwake spoons equals a Bad Day.

And on great days like we had at Folly Farm, 10 Mommy spoons plus 10 PanKwake spoons equals infinite Happiness.

To make it even more complicated though…the number of spoons that each of us have varies day-to-day. Nonetheless, my guiding principal is…

Her spoons first!

I meet her needs before I do anything else. That is the responsibility I accepted when I had a child. They come first, last, and always.

But how do I manage that? How does Spoons algebra work? How can I possibly meet all her needs without destroying my own health? Then add in a third variable to the equations…Cookie Monster…C. Because he is important to me too.

So how do I do it?

We’ll discuss that one tomorrow.

 

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