Autism · Family · growing · parenting

Running Out of Time

One of the benefits of living in an area where you are bombarded with wintry weather is the beloved snow day. Happiness abounds when school is closed for the day because of weather or road conditions. Today was such a day – while the sun was shining bright, the snow drifts were high. And even though we have a snowblower, my boy got up and dressed and donned his winter gear to pick up a shovel and attack the driveway.

As I was sipping my tea on the couch in the warmth of my home, I was watching him do this simple chore. (Or perhaps not so simple, depending on your perspective!) As he was shoveling, I marveled at his strength to be able to lift such a large scoop to dump the snow onto the giant snowbanks surrounding the yard. And that’s when it hit me.

I am running out of time.

This year, my oldest son will be 12. The last of the younger years before he morphs into a teen. I have been terrified of the teenage years my whole mothering life – mostly because I wasn’t a terrific teen. I pushed buttons. I challenged. I wanted to do my own thing. These are the things that teenagers do, before they blossom into young adults. As a mother, it scares me.

When you are dealing with sweet little babies, or chasing after toddlers you never think that period of life will ever end. People may tell you, but you don’t believe them. You’re just desperately thankful that you’re speaking with someone over the age of three. And then it happens.

Once they hit school age, the years just seem to fly by. I know there are 365 days in a year, and sometimes days and weeks and even months feel long. But time is a funny thing – despite all that, the years keep rolling into each other and before you know it, you’re running out of time.

Running out of time is where I am right now.

 

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Just yesterday I received a note from a disgruntled teacher who was unhappy with me because I allowed my child to come to school for his swimming club without his swimsuit and towel. Moreover, there was an accompanying note with it saying why I wouldn’t be bringing it to him if he asked. I’m sure that sounds terrible, but before you slap me with the “worst mother ever” label, please consider one little word – responsibility.

Responsibility is a such a small word for such a large thing. Just a handful of letters, but they hold powerful meaning. Responsibility is why I am running out of time.

When my children were very little, it was so exciting when they learned new things. Just like every other parent on the planet, I was eager to record their sweet little voices singing their ABCs for the first time. (Although, if we’re being honest, in the case of Aiden it was more like his first time going through a set of flash cards). Every success was celebrated.

When they began school, it was so exciting to witness them learning to read. A lot of time and love and care on the teachers behalf went into that – and we just sat back and helped them with a word here and there along the way. Still, ever success was celebrated.

But here’s the thing – we are teaching our children at home too. We teach them how to use a toilet, how to brush their teeth and tie their shoes. We teach them how to zip and button, how to hold a fork. In Canada, we teach them how to pull on snowpants, and to never leave the house without mittens and a hat when it’s cold. And when they get the hang of it, we celebrate their success.

But still, we are running out of time. Because no one stops learning at any point in our lives. And there is more to our job as a parent than sending them to school to be educated and teaching them self care. We also need to teach them responsibility.

So when I got that note from the disgruntled teacher, it irked me a bit. But afterwards, I decided she maybe needed a little bit of grace because she has a young son. She likely hasn’t reached the stage I am at with my sons right now, which is why she likely already slapped that “worst mom ever” label across my face. So I just reminded her why he didn’t have his swimming gear – responsibility.

On Wednesday it’s laundry day for my kids. They are responsible for bringing their laundry to the laundry room so I can wash it. The older one can even do his own laundry if I ask him to – because I already taught him how to do it. Teaching and responsibility go hand in hand because it’s our job to teach our children to be responsible. But sometimes, when they miss the mark a little bit, they need a reminder. So on Wednesday, when I reminded my son not once, not twice, but three times to take his laundry down to be washed – and he didn’t – I told him there would be no swimming. I stood my ground and told him that I wouldn’t be sneaking in after his lights were out and grabbing his laundry so I could wash his swim shorts. No, because that’s not teaching him to be responsible. Instead, he had to suffer through missing swim club because he didn’t act responsibly. Will he ever miss swim club again? Maybe. But hopefully not.

Here’s the thing – it’s not just about the swimsuit. It’s about learning there are consequences to your actions when you lack responsibility, just as there are when you do something you know you shouldn’t do. It is such a valuable lesson that children need to learn before they leave the nest.

And that’ why I realized today that I am running out of time. Because he’s almost 12 which means he could leave the nest in as little as six years. And if those six years are anything like the first twelve, they will fly by in the blink of an eye.

So I need to be a little more aggressive when teaching responsibility, even though I might be labeled as the worst mother ever. I also need to finally hand him a knife even though I am afraid he might slice his little fingers so he can learn to cook. I need to continue to teach him how to be respectful. I need to treat women. There are lots of things I need to teach him before he becomes a young man. And that’s terrifying. (It’s even more terrifying when you do the math and realize you only have two extra years to add on your younger son’s timeline).

I’m running out of time. But as I sit here and type away, I see my tidy kitchen. I see the front hall where the shoes are perfectly lined up and the coats are hanging on the hooks. I see the straightened up living room. And I smile, because I didn’t do any of those things.

Time is running out, but I’ve got a head start. I think it’s going to be okay.

Autism · Family

When You Feel Like You’ve Blown This Whole Mothering Thing

My son is obsessed with liquids. I don’t know what it is about them that he likes. But he just can’t stop. Like that time he poured the oil everywhere and turned the stove on. Or that time I decided to treat myself to a more expensive body  wash only  to find half the bottle on the floor of the shower when I was ready to use it.  The time he spilled the laundry soap on the floor. And then a few days later, all over the front of the dryer. What a mess that was to clean up!
The thing with liquids is that he loves the sound they make as they spill. He loves watching the different consistencies of liquids pouring all over different places in my house. And do you want to know what else makes a great splashing noise when not disposed of in its regular environment? Urine.
So that is how my day started. I don’t know about you, but the words “I’ve had an accident” cause me to pause. What kind of accident – and was it intentional or not? Then I hurry up the stairs to strip the bed or empty the toybox, or mop the floors or all of the above. The boy gets a bath and Mom gets to clean up. Again. I’ve learned to be gracious when it comes to urine all over the place – even though every time it happens it’s like fingernails grating against the chalkboard of my mind.
The rest of the morning  I was wrapped up in a task I expected to take an hour. I ended up missing breakfast and rushing through lunch, which isn’t all that uncommon for autism parents. In the short hour or two before the kids got home from school I quickly fired off some e-mails, tidied the kitchen, and ran a few loads of laundry through the wash. And then it dawned on me. Aiden has a school project due tomorrow.
And then worse…he hasn’t even started it yet. I don’t know about you, but when I was his age and a project was assigned at school I organized my thoughts and then started into it right away. Usually it was finished a few days before it was due. I was in no way prepared to have a son who is, let’s face it, a procrastinator. So when he walked through the door, sat down on the couch and picked up the TV remote, I came undone a little bit.
Okay. I came undone a lot. My day had not gone as I had planned and now I had to help someone with an assignment that could have been done by now. I was stressed and empty. And hungry.
So I started ranting and raving about how laziness was unacceptable and how he needed to learn how to time manage. I went on and on about how he needed to be more responsible and that I didn’t want him to procrastinate ever again. I even made up a new rule about how when he was given an assignment he would now have to work on it every night until it was complete. And all that ranting and raving? It didn’t do either of us a bit of good, we both got upset, and I am pretty sure the whole point got lost on deaf ears before it even left my lips.
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Oh, that God would give me a mouth that knows how to stop before it begins. While nothing I said was hurtful, it wasn’t very constructive. My little boy couldn’t figure out why I was so upset, and I just couldn’t stop yammering long enough to let him get a word in edgewise.
In the end, he got the project complete. Granted, not without me holding his hand and directing him on what was expected. Except, here’s the thing – what I didn’t see before I started my tirade was that he had already been thinking about his project. He had already collected his thoughts, and had some pretty interesting and unique ideas to bring forward. He just was unsure of how to get them out and how to compile them into a report expected by his teacher. He had done the ground work long before I had ever opened my mouth.
Have you ever felt like you may have blown it in a mothering minute? If the goal is to teach, equip, strengthen and encourage – I definitely failed today. We live in a world where sometimes the cookie cutter children are expected.  I of all people should know that my children just aren’t capable of being that kind of kid. And here, in this crazy frustrating moment I forgot it all. All that I knew about expectations. All that I knew about autism. I had forgotten, and had unrealistically put expectations on my son to time manage, to organize and to get his project done. Autism aside, these are all learned skills. I mean, he is only in grade six after all.
Reality set in and I found myself totally wrong and in need of forgiveness. So I had to seek him out and apologize for my irrational thinking. We had a great conversation about how to move forward. Since communication is not his thing, I will need to be more diligent myself. I don’t want to hold his hand for a lifetime – at some point he is going to need to run on his own. But maybe not  yet.
So as I sit here reflecting on my behaviour, I can see his report peeking out of his school book. I pull it out and look at the assignment –  I look through his eyes for a moment and see an assignment he would not be thrilled to have to complete. A science project asking him to create a new animal that has to have adapted to life on a certain, uninvented planet. His eyes tell me he is fustrated because it is not real science – it is entirely fictional. His eyes tell me he is frustrated because there is a creative element to it, having to design a new animal and all of its features and its home. His eyes tell me this project will be hard for  him.
And then I take a sip of my latte and think of all the praise I could have given him. Praise for struggling through something difficult to come up with an animal. Praise for being a flexible thinker and not dwelling on the fact that its habitat was not true or factual. Praise for knuckling under and getting the project done. And in this moment, I wish I could have a do over.
Sometimes do overs are possible, and other times they aren’t. But at the end of the day, I know we love each other. I know he doesn’t hold a grudge and neither do I. I know we can work together to help him get to where he needs to be. I know that we really and truly are flying by the seat of our pants.
And like I tell him when he has made a bad choice – tomorrow is a new day and a great opportunity to start fresh.
Autism · Family

We Are An Autism Family

 

Today is World Autism Awareness day. There are campaigns all over the place to “light it up blue” and wear blue today. It is a nice idea and I am all for it. However, sometimes there needs to be just a little bit more. I have lots of people who come to me and ask about the kids and then confess they really don’t know what autism is.  What is it, anyway? Autism is tricky. It can be many things. It is different in every child.

My two children are so intensely different from one another. So much so, in fact, that we didn’t even know Micah had autism until he was in grade two. Partly because he was so different from Aiden, and partly because managing Aiden’s situation was pretty much a full time job. So much so that one night when Micah was in grade one I sobbed and sobbed because I could see he was struggling in some areas and didn’t know how I would deal with helping him while Aiden was desperately needing me to help him through a difficult time. Autism is hard.

At the same time, I look around and see other autism parents and my heart breaks for them because their children are more challenging than mine. I see their lives and I feel broken for them because it is so much harder. But really, we are all in this together.

I can’t tell you what autism looks like as a whole. I can only tell you what it looks like in our house. It’s not always a pretty picture, but you know what? It is beautiful.

Aiden 

 

Aiden is ten now. We received his autism diagnosis when he was 6. You can read more about it here. This kid – he is special. I know everyone says their children are special, and they are. But this one, he is amazing. He is smart and he makes us laugh. SO much. He just says the funniest and most random things ever.

His challenges are difficult. As is common with autistics, he can’t really socialize well with other children because he doesn’t really know how. Most kids would just walk up to someone they think they might like and just start talking or join in to their game. Aiden would be more likely to whap them with a pencil or pull on their clothes. He once poked someone with a stick because he thought that way they might play with him.  He is growing so much in this area, and will now work hard on communicating with people vocally, which is a relief. But if he is stressed or overwhelmed at all, he falls back into what is normal for him.

He is incredibly smart, but he has behavioural issues that hold him back from being able to learn at his level. Sadly, sometimes he becomes bored with work that is too easy for him and will do something out of frustration which really makes the situation worse, not better. He tends to be aggressive at times, which is heartbreaking because he has a heart of gold and would never intentionally hurt someone for the sake of hurting someone. It just sort of happens. Unless you have sat in a room being confronted with what your child has done, you can’t ever know what this feels like. It is not pleasant. This past fall, I actually removed him from school for a two week period just to give him a break. If we are being honest. it was to give myself a break too. All of this is so hard on a mother’s heart.

Some mornings, he wakes up screeching. For no particular reason other than his enjoyment of the sound of his voice and letting us and the whole neighbourhood know he is up and ready to face the day. And let me tell you, a ten year old screams like a girl. Pass me the ear plugs.

He remembers everything. This is both good and bad. Good, because if I can’t remember where I put something I just ask him and we can usually track it down. Or if I can’t remember how much I spent at the store I just ask him and he knows. He can remember events as far back as when his brother was born and he was two years old. Vivid memories like pictures. He can tell me what we had for breakfast three months ago. It’s bad because I worry he will remember my failings. If he does, he doesn’t say anything.

Sadly, he also struggles with impulse control. He has a hard time controlling his body. Or he will do things with good intentions, but they get a little out of hand. Sometimes these things can be dangerous. He currently loves liquids and pouring out liquids, so it is not uncommon for me to walk into the laundry room and find laundry detergent all over the floor. Or step into the shower and find it’s covered in shampoo or conditioner. The worst, though, was when he decided to make me breakfast and poured a whole bunch of cooking oil in a pot on the stove, which of course spilled all over the place. And he was just about to turn the burner on when we caught him. Yikes!

That’s what autism looks like for him. But I can’t tell you the negatives before telling you the positives. Because he isn’t only autism. It is part of his makeup, but it isn’t him.

He loves. He deeply loves people, and they just can’t help but love him back. He doesn’t hold it back in any way, ever. (Which could be a problem when he starts to have serious crushes…Lord, help us!) He just puts it all out there.

He prays for everyone he knows. No matter what their situation or whether they are believers or not. Sometimes, we will be doing something and he suddenly stops to pray for someone. It seems out of the blue, but it really isn’t. Later, we will hear that someone was going through something and it is as if God says to Aiden, “pray for them right now” and he is obedient. That makes a mother’s heart so proud.

He is creative, which is not always common for people with autism. He loves to draw and will make very interesting works of art. A few years ago, during a particularly trying time at school, he had a drawing chosen to be displayed in a local art gallery. It was entitled “Our House” and was his rendering of the new house we had bought. He is forever going through art supplies. But it makes him happy, so I am forever replenishing his supply.

He has a heart to serve. If he hears of a way he personally can do something for someone else, he does not hesitate. He would happily pack up some of his prized possessions if it meant someone else could have happiness. Last year, he and his brother chose half of their beloved stuffed animals and we washed and sent them off to the Canadian Forces for them to pass out on missions where they might encounter children who might need a little love. He also loves to help out collecting up dirty dishes after a church dinner, helping to organize the salt and pepper shakers, putting away the tables and chairs. He just wants to be a servant in whatever way a ten year old can.

He is my heart.

 

Micah 
 
Micah is eight. We only received his autism diagnosis about a year and a half ago. I blogged about it here. Oh, Micah is my son. He is so much of me that it is ridiculous. Both the good and the bad – but mostly the good, I think. He’s a great kid and so special.
Micah’s challenges are numerous. In addition to an autism diagnosis, he also has global developmental delay, severe ADHD, and a non verbal learning disability. He has many challenges, but he is a superstar at rising above them. He has grown so much in the last year and a half and it is so encouraging.
The most obvious (and likely most annoying, if we are being honest) thing about Micah is that he is LOUD. He does not have a volume button. It is difficult to turn him down. It is hard on the head sometimes. If you have never heard him, you have no idea what I am talking about. Someone once described him as “louder than a 747 coming in for a landing.” I am not sure if that is quite accurate, but it might be close.
Micah has an easier time playing with other kids, but he has a hard time knowing what to say and what not to say. If he believes something with all of his heart, he can’t turn it off and that can be a problem when trying to communicate with other kids who might not share his beliefs or ideas. He has been bullied in the past. I know one day in the spring I went to pick Micah up from school and his teacher was almost in tears because some of the kids had taken gravel and thrown it down his shirt and smushed it into him. Micah was okay because he bounces back so easily (and he likely doesn’t even recall this). But his teacher was broken about it, and so was I.
He obsesses over things. Right now he is currently obsessed with puffins. You know, the cute little sea birds? Well, he is so obsessed he wants to be one. He has cried himself to sleep at night because God did not give him a beak or wings and he just wants to fly. He pretends he is a puffin. He even calls us “mother puffin” and “father puffin.” His favourite show in the whole world is Puffin Rock (a Netflix original series) – which is a super cute show, but not when you hear about it all the time. He knows a lot about puffins and needs to know more. He is desperate to know more. Obsessions are common for autistics, but it can be hard for everyone around them.
Micah had a hard time reading facial expressions. He is getting a better handle on it now, but he is not really in tune with why other people may be feeling the way they are feeling. For example, if he hurts someone, he might say “why are you sad?” He doesn’t always know his part in making people experience different emotions. It can be tricky sometimes.
One of the most challenging things about Micah is that he is always so distracted. This is more the ADHD than the autism, but it can come into play for autistic children as well. One of those grey areas. Micah just loses focus so easily. If you come to our house and he is walking around naked, please understand we have been trying to get him dressed for a half hour. Since he is 8 years old and can dress himself, we struggle with having to physically dress him ourselves, but sometimes that is what it takes.
That is what autism looks like for him. But like I said about Aiden, it doesn’t make up everything about him. There are lots of positives to.
The best thing about Micah is his never ending joy. He is almost ALWAYS happy and has been for his whole life. He sees the good in everything. If he is temporarily upset about a situation or circumstance, he almost always is able to wipe his tears and find something positive. This is a skill that not everyone has, but I am sure everyone wants to have. I like to say Micah is eternal sunshine, because he is just so happy. He is exicted about everything. So much so that when I pick him up at the end of the day at school, he is busting at the seams to tell me all about whatever he has learned or something fun or cool that happened that day.
Another amazing thing about Micah is that he loves, just like his brother loves. Even at 8 years old, he just can’t wait to snuggle with you after school. He just hangs off of you sometimes. And after a particularly hard day, that is just what you need.
Micah is so imaginative, which is not usually common for autism. (In fact, this is one of the reasons he had a late diagnosis – we didn’t think he could possibly meet the criteria because of his amazing imagination). He can take a scrap of paper and play with it all afternoon because it means something to him. He could find a bottle cap and that is his baby puffin for the day. He can tell amazing and exciting stories. I just love to read his creative writing, because it is seriously the best. He has dreams and ideas galore.
He works really hard once he sets his mind to it. He is dedicated, even when he doesn’t want to be. We have daily chores for the kids, and even though he grumbles about it – NO ONE can clean and organize the front hall like our Micah can. He is a superstar!
Yes, we are an autism family. We are fully aware of what it is and how it presents itself. We know the struggles as if they were our own. Because they kind of are. But at the end of the day, we are just like everyone else. We love our children, we want the best for them, and we are willing to fight for them. We pray they will grow up to love and serve the Lord. We pray they will experience many of life’s blessings. Just like any parent would for their child. We are an autism family, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
 

 

Psalm 127:3 “Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from Him.”

 

Autism · Christmas

A Simple Christmas



December has arrived, and with it the bustle of the holiday season. Although, most retailers have been ready for a month now. I remember early in November I was in a dollar store in Ottawa and the Christmas tunes were blaring through the speakers so intensely it made my head spin and left me with a splitting headache.

 
Sometimes, that is how I feel when it comes to the holidays. Don’t misunderstand me, because I am a Christmas lover. I have always been dazzled by sparkling lights lighting up the dark winter sky. But lately, it has been a lot harder to become dazzled. Christmas always looks like a tornado of good intentions at our house. The excitement and anticipation are there, but most often they don’t unfold as we’d expect.
 
Take our Christmas tree, for example. This weekend we decided to dust off the totes that hold our Christmas treasures and decorate. We have learned from Christmases past that it is always easier to do all the preparations before involving the children. Assembling the tree, stringing the lights, wrapping the ribbon. All of these things come together before we call the boys in to help us hang the decorations. It never works out as I’d expect. I want to watch as each decoration is removed from the box and marvel at the memories. To look at the ornament that holds a picture of my husband and I when we were dating and smile and the memory of the day we walked for hours in Ottawa during the Tulip festival – but not to get caught up in how much thinner and prettier I looked back then. I want to cherish the sweet handmade ornaments the boys had made over the years, and remember how tiny their hands were when they made them. I want to step back and look at the tree and have it look as beautiful as the trees on my holiday Pinterest board. But you know what? I don’t have a Piterest life. 
 
Instead, our tree looks like a happy afterthought. The decorations are whipped out of the boxes at record speed. Someone shoves the other one away and whines they’re hanging the decorations where the other had wanted to hang theirs. Another decides he likes every decoration on the same branch. As I step back and look at the tree it looks like a hot mess. Lights strung haphazardly, ribbon wrapped to cover connecting cords, but definitely not symmetrical or beautifully placed. Decorations all over the place, but not in a coordinated order. The tree branches itself that don’t expand enough to cover the metal pole that makes up the stem. It isn’t a thing of beauty. But it IS beautiful, because it represents our lives.
 
I will admit, I used to get caught up in comparisons when it came to the holiday season. Just recently, a friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook of an amazing, Pintrest perfect Christmas tree and fireplace. It looked like something out of a magazine. My first reaction was a twinge of jealousy, because it is the type of decor I would love to display. Several seconds later, I looked up at my tree and smiled. I realized I liked my tree better, because it is mine. Of course it looks the way it looks – that is just so us. It is easy to get caught in the comparison trap, but it steals your joy. And what is Christmas, if not a season of such?
 
In Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas, an over excited George wakes up the man with the yellow hat repeatedly, mistakenly thinking it is Christmas morning. After a few days of this, the man decides to make a countdown calendar for George so he could see how many days are left. When George notices there are several days left to go, he lets out a disgruntled noise. The man explains the best part of Christmas are the preparations leading up to it. The movie then continues with various holiday activities the man with the yellow hat and George partake in. But the sweetest part to me is that nothing about their preparations is perfect. That’s a wonderful representation of our lives. No wonder my boys still adore Curious George. (And why I have seen this so many times I can narrate it from start to finish!)
 
Yes, there is joy in the imperfect.There is also joy in simplicity. And that is my wish for this Christmas season. What does simplicity look like at Christmas? Making time for things that are important and less difficult and cutting out the rest.
 
Every other year, the Santa Claus parade is on our side of the city. In past years, we would attend the parade when it was in our area. We would bundle up and stand outside waiting for a glimpse of the floats as they went by. This year? We decided to stay home and watch a Christmas movie while eating a take out pizza. It is so difficult for our children to participate in any events past 6 p.m. Their behaviour gets the better of them and we have a greater risk of public meltdowns. We just don’t need that. Sadly, we also had to miss our church’s community Christmas tree lighting. The whole neighbourhood comes out to sing carols, watch as someone plugs in the lights and then celebrate with hot chocolate and cookies. I was more disappointed about missing that event than the parade, but I believe it was much less difficult.
 
Simplifying things in the home is helpful as well. That silly Elf on the Shelf we discovered a few years ago them jumped on the bandwagon is coming back to haunt me. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t bought one that day. Coming up with new, fresh ideas is like holiday hell. Especially when I have children who remember everything and any day now they”ll say, “she did that last year!” I asked myself why we even do it at our house since we don’t do Santa. What is the point? My husband and I decided Elf on the Shelf is getting a makeover this year. No mischief! She will be focusing on the gift of giving and loving others. I wish I had done this years ago.
 
Simplifying also helps our family shift the attention back to what Christmas is all about. It i so easy to say “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but it is also so easy to get lost in the commercializaion of Christmas. One way we have helped to combat this is to give five small gifts: a want, a need, a read, a handmade gift, and something that will draw them closer to the Father. They do not go without at Christmas, but there is not a mountain of gifts under the tree. I like it that way. We also started something new this Christmas by doing a devotional advent calendar from Thriving Family. In light off keeping things simple, I didn’t print off the full calendar but just downloaded the devotional portion and bought them a chocolate advent calendar at Walmart. We started it today and it was a nice time of togetherness where we read, reflected and talked about our day.
 
Keeping Christmas simple is not a new idea. It is not always easy to do with the holiday parties and events we will be invited to. However, when we focus on the greatest gift of Christmas, and less about the decorations and parties, it is easier to breathe and so much less stressful. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I see a sign for “instant Merry makers” at Timothy’s and the Gingerbread latte sure looks delicious! But I won’t indulge in the holiday desserts. I will keep it simple.







Autism

The One You Call

 

It’s been a week since the start of the school year. We made it through, relatively unscathed. It’s never easy sending these little ones back to school, is it? It’s always a hard thing to do…
I overheard mothers on the playground talk about their relief that school was starting again – they’d get a nice break during the day from their kids. Time to have showers in peace and meet friends for coffee dates. Time to shop at the mall. Long, luxurious mornings. I get that, moms. I do. But then again, I don’t get it at all.
Let’s face it, I still can’t shower in peace. Even if I am home alone and decide to shower – that peace could be shattered in a second when the phone rings and it’s the school. I still try to meet my friends for coffee dates, and I am so thankful for the understanding friends I have who get that sometimes we need to cut it short when the school calls. I’d love to shop at the mall and take time to look through the shops I never get to because I just can’t do it with my children. But, even then I am just a phone call away.
Even still – that’s what I am here for. Mom. The one you call. The one you call when you’re not feeling well. The one you call when you’ve soaked your clothes on the playground and need some clean, dry socks immediately. We Moms know the drill. But then, I am also the one you call when someone can’t calm down. I’m the one you call when they’re screaming. Throwing things. The one you call when they need to be sent home. When they need to cool down. I’m the one you call.
It breaks my heart when I am the one you call. I don’t mind retrieving extra clothes or bringing in something you’ve forgotten. I don’t even mind coming when you’re not feeling well – even though I don’t like seeing you sick. I just hate getting the other calls. The ones that make me want to hang my head in shame that I am that Mom whose kid has been kicked out of class and sent home for the day. It breaks my heart when they do things that get them in hot water.
I feel embarrassed sometimes. I’m the one you call when my kid ruins something in the class. I want to hang my head in shame that they’ve broken a pair of eye glasses. Knocked over a plant. Smashed another student’s lunch to smithereens. And I know. I know it’s not my fault. But I am still embarrassed. I still feel like I am not doing anything right.
I will get over it, though. Because I am the one you call. I’ll be there as soon as I can make it and I will hold my head up as you tell me all that my child has done. I will apologize. I will give them a disappointed look. They know the look.
But then, I will move on. Because I’m the one you call. And this won’t be the last time. So I am not the one that will rejoice when my children return to school because it’s not peaceful. It’s sometimes stressful. It’s always an adjustment. It’s always a trial period.
We’re always trying new things. We’re always trying to make the way for you easier. Better. I know some day, it will be. And finally, when things are working smoothly and you’re doing amazing the school year will end. And we will go through this all over again.
It’s not easy being the one you call. Every time you call, I cry a little bit inside. I don’t even know why, because I’m not sorry that I don’t have a child like all those other Moms who are enjoying their lattes and shopping and getting their nails done. Because those other Moms don’t have you. They don’t have your laughter. They don’t have your extraordinary take on the world. They don’t have your love. They just don’t have you.
So, call me. I will be there for you. Even when it’s heart breaking. Even when it’s happened for the second time this week. Even when I just want one of the latte sipping, manicure getting, shop til you drop kind of days. I’d rather drop everything for you. I will always be the one you call.

Autism

Knowing Time

Today I was looking back on some photos from five years ago when we were at a wedding shower for my brother in law.  I love wedding showers.  I love baby showers too. It’s such a great way to celebrate the bigger moments in life.

I was excited to attend this wedding shower with my family. It was meant to be a low key family barbecue with a few friends thrown into the mix.  We each brought a side dish and my inlaws had bought a cake.  It was a beautiful,  sunny August day with a breeze that made it bearable.  It was the perfect day for this event.  But,  sadly, it was anything but prefect.

I wish I could have known what I know now back then.  Sometimes time is a wonderful thing.  These five years have brought us so much wisdom and understanding.  It’s easier to do life now, knowing what we know.  The boys would have been three and five at this event.  They were so young.  I’d like to believe that most children that age would have a hard time at an event like this,  but I don’t know. Because now I know both my boys are autistic. On that day? We didn’t know.

Something else I didn’t know was time. This event was scheduled for six o’clock,  which is a perfectly acceptable time for an evening barbecue.  But I didn’t know then what I know now – any event on or after six o’clock should not be attended by my children.  After holding themselves together all day, they just can’t handle it any more.  Yesterday my Aiden asked if he could attend our church middle school youth group next year.  I didn’t have the heart to say yes.  Because I just don’t know from what I know about time.

At this barbecue, there was an incident.  Time has allowed us to understand “incidents” a bit more.  It has enabled us to be aware of what triggers them.  Time has been kind,  and we are almost always able to avoid public incidents (excluding the school related ones), because we can tell when they’re about to happen.  If you’ve seen us out and about and we drop everything and run, that’s what avoiding an incident looks like.  But on this day,  we didn’t know.    So when two adults started running towards the groom to throw cake in his face,  and two little boys followed suit,  it was the boys who were reprimanded.  Knowing what I know,  it was extremely inappropriate for these adults (my husband included) to exemplify behavior these children had no way to measure was not socially acceptable. Looking back,  my husband wishes he had never had touched the cake.  And that makes me sad, but it’s life. Something done in love and jest from one brother to another has to be carefully calculated because of the ramifications it could bring about.

Yes, time is kind. Time has allowed us to learn and grow in so many ways.  We are more equipped to weather the storms we face.  We’re able to avoid many situations that aren’t ideal for our family.  Sometimes it’s sad to have to decline invitations. But time has made us realize it is necessary.

In a few short weeks,  there will be another family barbecue.  Time has allowed us all to understand the necessary steps to have a successful gathering.  We will try again, and use time and experience as a guide. I pray we’re successful.  If not, I know in time, we will be.

Autism

The Blessing of This Year

Last year at this time, I could not wait for school to end. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year (with a few good days and a few really good staff thrown in the mix). But mostly, one of those years you just can’t wait to be done with. When the school year ended, we had a pizza party and celebrated – even though it wasn’t the best experience. We weren’t celebrating success so much as we were celebrating survival. Even though it sucked, it was finally over and we couldn’t have been happier. We welcomed the summer months with open arms.
This year is a different. It’s like we went from one extreme to the other. Last year, we couldn’t wait for it to be done and we were counting down the days and hours when we could walk out the school doors and not be back until the fall. But this year, with only about an hour left to pick up my boys for the last time, I have the opposite feeling. I’m sad.
Sad because it’s been awesome. Sad because the entire year has gone off without a hitch. Sure, we had a few bumps along the way. But overall, oh, heaven. I have never had a school year end on such a good note. That ridiculous song from The Lego Movie is running through my head right now. “Everything is Awesome! Everything is awesome when you’re part of a team!” I really do feel like we have been part of the team. And really, that is how it should be.
Don’t get me wrong – we have had some amazing teachers and resource involved in the past. I have been so blessed by them and so glad we have had those experiences. But this year, oh this year just raised the bar to a whole new level.
Autism parents, can you imagine a team meeting with no stress? With laughter, even? Before this year, I couldn’t. But this year…oh, this year! Every single meeting was easy. I put out my ideas and opinions and they rolled with them. They treated me like a colleague and not just the student’s parent. That’s how it should be, right? After all, they’re my babies we are talking about.
The teacher lottery – we totally won on so many levels. You never know what you will be facing when you start off in September. I mean, all teachers are awesome because their job can not be easy. The idea of facing a classroom full of children every morning terrifies me. I couldn’t do it! I don’t think I have the patience at all. They’re amazing, they’re superheroes! But this year, oh this year….the teachers loved my children and connected with them. They cared. I know all teachers care, but these ones put aside the papers that listed all the things that are “wrong” with them and loved them for who they are and what they have to offer.
I know my children are ready for the break – they’ve worked very hard this year and have had so many successes and gains it’s mind blowing. To see someone struggle so much with every subject rise up and actually learn on the level he is supposed to be learning is such a gift. To see someone who has particular interests that might not fit the norm applauded and encouraged is such a gift.
So we will enjoy this summer like a gift that is received because of a huge accomplishment. Like a graduation. Or a promotion. We’ll do our summer bucket list from top to bottom and we’ll enjoy every second of it – so that when the cooler weather starts to set in, and September comes we will be ready.
Ready for a new year, with new teachers and new experiences. I will try not to stress about the mandatory intensive french that Aiden is facing, even though it’s intimidating to me. I don’t even need to stress, because his french teacher this year helped him go from saying, “I hate french! I am not going to french class!” to “My french teacher is awesome and french is my favourite. Bonjour! Au revoir!” And his french grades are awesome! I will try not to stress about my Micah leaving the K-2 group and joining the 3-5 group on the big side of the playground. He’s ready. He’s excited.
I can’t be happier than I am right now with how this year has been. I can’t thank the teachers enough. We’ve had nine amazing teachers and support staff working with our children this year and every single one had something awesome to bring to the table. Some of them will be part of our team next year, and some of them won’t. It’s going to be bittersweet walking into that school for the last time until September. It’s going to be bittersweet saying goodbye to the teachers who have enriched my chidren’s lives and helped them grow a little more into the men they will become.
Thank you teachers. You deserve the break this summer will bring. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this year, oh this year!