Autism boy has always loved the Mercer Mayer books of “Little Critters”. If you are familiar, Little Critter books are about a little boy critter who has common adventures, trials and tribulations that other kids experience. These books were a staple in our when when I was growing up and the amazing Nana made sure that Autism Boy had a full set of these books. Well, one book is especially important to us. The book, “All By Myself” was a motto for Autism Boy. Too often in school and people in the community try to take away the accomplishments that our kids can do. They think that they are helping by doing things for them. Yes, our kids may be slower, take longer to learn, or complete it in a way different from what you expected, but they can do it. So I taught Autism Boy to say that he could do things all by himself. He can! Challenge your kids. Don’t let your fear hold them back. Today he vacuumed the house “All By Himself”!
Autism boy started swim lessons this year. He is a polliwog who loves water. He has learned all the basic strokes. It has been a huge accomplishment for him. Well today he struggled. Today he tried diving. As he stood at the edge of the pool, he slipped. His legs smacked against the dock as he fell in. My heart leaped out of my chest. His instructor was in the water and caught him, but the damage was done. Biting his lip, he asked to go see Mommy. He walked slowly through the shallow end and climbed the stairs to my waiting arms and then lost it. He eyes told me everything. I’m hurt. I’m scared. I need you. And then he cried. And the tears kept coming. As he sobbed he said he didn’t wanna cry in from of his instructor cause big boys don’t cry. But they do cry and it’s ok. So tonight we cuddled and more tears flowed as the bruises and wounds swelled. But the safety of a Mommy’s arms helped to heal his heart.
I don’t ever want Autism boy to think he can’t cry. Things are going to hurt in life and there will be times where you cry. He will suffer loss, experience pain, grief, and tears are a healthy expression of what we experience. Tears are not a daily occurrence and they shouldn’t be. Tears help to cleanse our heart, soul and mind of what we can’t express into words. So the next time a child, young man, or adult cries, don’t stop them. You could be stopping their healing. Instead, embrace them and show them love, compassion, and sympathy. Hugs to all who hurt.
Over the weekend my OCD kicked in and Autism Boy and I took on the task of cleaning the play room. It resembled a scene out of the movie Twister. It was a project of epic proportions, but a necessary evil since we are going to have company coming to stay. Yes, Heavily Caffeinated Mommy has lost all her good sense and invited someone to come and stay at our home.
As most parents of kiddos with autism know structure and schedule is the key to happiness and I have thrown it out the window. I have a friend coming to stay for 7 days. 7 adventure packed days. Although Autism Boy is getting better with the going with the flow thing, I think this may push him over the edge. Which brings me to the point of this blog, schedules and structure. Although they are key to keeping us meltdown free if we never move outside our comfort zone we never grow and blossom into what could be.
A few years ago I took Autism Boy to a place he was terrified of, The Rain Forrest Cafe. That evil place has lights, sounds and lots of people. As we sat in the parking lot we talked about what was in the restaurant, what would happen and who would be there. We lasted 25 minutes that trip. And unlike most parents I made him go back. Now we can have an entire dinner there, and have at his request. Great things happen with time, multiple exposures to things and a willingness to experience things. I am so proud of Autism Boy.
The 80’s were a magical time in my life. It was my childhood. Children played outside. Streetlights called us home at night during the summer. We wore jelly shoes, charm bracelets, rode bikes up and down streets and were fearless.
Trying to explain to Autism Boy how life is different now is like trying to explain to someone in the 1800’s that we have cell phones. They would just look at you, like you are an insane person. It takes showing. I ran across a copy of my favorite movies, the Labyrinth. David Bowie in leather as the Goblin King. This movie was played in our house until the VCR cried out in pain from playing it so many times. It has been quoted like one would a great philosopher or theologian. It was the 80’s. And now it is a part of my son’s childhood.
On a cold night I gathered all the blankets, pulled out the mallowmars and shared my childhood with him. As a lover of Jim Henson my son was enthralled. The artistry was not lost on his young mind but his simply nature had him cracking up at the farting stones. If you haven’t shared your childhood with your kids, I highly recommend a trip down memory lane.
Our family lives in a relatively small town. But we are a college town and that is where I disappear to, each day from 9 to 5. Autism Boy thinks I am like Clark Kent, saving the world. Well, this week I got to bring Autism Boy to work to see what Heavily Caffeinated Mommy does all day or at least what I get paid to do.
Our day started with Autism Boy dressing for the day. Only a shirt and tie would be appropriate for such an occasion, so in my drowsy, listless state I began to iron. After great debate about which superhero to bring along for the car ride we decide that they all should come along. 45 minutes late we finally made it to work and Autism Boy began greeting everyone he met, and I do mean EVERYONE. It was like he was on parade. He shook the hand of the cop who walks the parking structure. He waved at the coffee girl, and swooned as he met my boss, Boss Lady. Boss Lady was equally impressed and none to eager to go back to working since Autism Boy was here. Autism Boy then joined me for a brief walk across campus to procure the necessary caffeine that Heavily Caffeinated Mommy uses to ensue that she stays somewhat normal. With his milk in hand we strolled back to my office where he helped me with stapling, collating and drawing of the artwork needed to cover my dull and decaying walls. Our lunch was a meal purchased at the commons of something that reminded me of mystery meat from elementary school. Autism Boy thought it was incredible. He ate mine too.
But that all leads me to the question I am now pondering as I am evaluating my life. Why do we do what we do? Are my priorities in order? Do I love what I do? Am I just getting by? Am I proud of what I do each day?
Changes may be in order.
This morning as I stood in the shower, praying to complete my shower before someone would knock on the door and need my time or attention, I thought of my unfinished projects. The crocheted blanket that sits at the bottom of my closet needing more time to finish than I could imagine, the ever-growing pile of mending, the thousands of photos that I wanted to scrapbook and turn into something wonderful, and the zillions of pins I have on Pinterest that I keep swearing I am going to make. You see, I realized standing there that I don’t have any “Me” time. I can’t believe I typed those words. I hate those words and the negative connotation that they have in my mind. When I hear those words I picture how my friend would talk about sending her husband and kids off for the weekend so she could have her time. I think of the Mommies ignoring their crying kids in Starbucks so they could have their time talking with their friends. I think of child neglect. But does it have to be that way. Is there a healthy balance. Exhausted Daddy seems to be able to check out fairly regularly by going to his office and enjoying his hobbies on a nightly basis. He seems to have no qualms or pains of guilt as he retreats to have his alone time. Why is it that I do. Why is it that when I am given a massage gift card for Christmas (first time ever by the way) all I can think is who can I regift this to cause I can never get away to use it. Surely I can’t be alone in this thinking. How do I move past these thoughts. I know I am giving my family everything I have, but how can I have a little something also and not be seen as selfish?
Today I celebrated as my son failed. Yes, I stood up and clapped. He was knocked down a peg or two. He was given the opportunity to learn. No, he does not know it all. He needs to practice to get better, and in a society where we are raising children that everyone gets a medal, I want him to fail. Failure leads to success and I want him to know hard work. I want him to know trial and error. I want him to have the desire to accomplish something. So today he failed. Tomorrow, he will get back up again and try again. He will not come to me crying because he knows he has to work for something. I will not stand in his way. He has to be responsible.
Too many times parents of special needs kids are a crutch. Yup, I said it. I will not coddle him or ask for everything to be easy. I will make him work for it and create a sense of pride for his hard work. What will you do.
Heavily Caffeinated Mommy is not what you would call joiner. I was a loner and good at it and then came along Autism Boy. Autism Boy has never met a stranger. Everyone is just someone he just hasn’t made a friend of yet. He is also a sharer. He really wants to share all of his knowledge with you quickly in the span of a minute. It is cute and endearing.
Thanks to social media I get plenty of social time and I often get asked why I don’t participate more, have a blue light, or sell a ribbon for the cause. Here’s my thing…..Autism is not the only thing in our life and I will not let it rule and control our life. I try to create a healthy balance. In the beginning, just after the diagnosis I was insane and crazy, a mega joiner. But then I got real, and realized that I wanted a bit more balance. I needed other avenues to engage myself in. So when someone says, “Hey, you should meet this parent because they have a kid with autism”, I usually say no. Autism is not what I use to build relationships around. I have friends who have kids with autism but it is not the common binding factor. Nor do I want it to be. Usually our kids like hanging out together or as parents we both have something in common, cooking, movies, church, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I care about the cause. But, I have decided it is not going to rule my life. I choose different for me and my family.
Life’s road is not paved. It is not simply a yellow brick road, that when you follow the end is magically revealed. Life is an off roading adventure. It is full of ups and downs. It messy, painful, exhilarating, confusing and many become lost along the way. Many will not keep a road map with them and wander aimlessly, without purpose, vision, lonely, lost, and confused. Do you have a road map? Do you take time to think about the road you are on or where you have been? My bible is my road map. It shows me my path. And like American Express….. I don’t leave home without it.
This quote has always stayed with me. Life is not about the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away.
It’s true. When I sit and think about my life, my breath has been taken away many times and those are the times both good and bad that have made me the person I am today. Those moments carved the path that I walk today and help me to determine where to go tomorrow.
A few of my moments:
Seeing my husband for the first time.
The moment I met Autism Boy.
Seeing my husband after his surgery and holding his hand.
The first time someone confirmed autism.
The moment I got the call that someone close to me was ill.
The moment you realize who your best friend really is and that they will always be there.
Our moments will all be different. But you have to participate in life to have a moment take your breath away. Take time and reflect on your moments.