Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lessons from the day

On our way to Hunter's school yesterday morning, Hunter looked over at me, with sincerity and seriousness in his eyes, and said, "Mom, I am really nervous about today. Today is the new semester and I have new classes, and teachers, and new kids in the classes. You know I don't do well with change! What if I don't know anybody in any of my classes? What if they are hard?" My heart started breaking.

With our crazy Christmas break (more to come later) and trying to get back into the swing of things, it just hadn't registered yet. I usually gear up for these transitions. I usually try to prepare him. I usually try to prepare myself, but it had totally escaped me. The mommy guilt kicked in. All I knew to say was, "Sweetie, it will be fine. Things are always worse than they seem." All I could think was, "What a stupid, cliché answer!!!" Honestly, I just didn't know what to say. The truth is, just like all of us, he had to face his fears. For him, though, this is so much to take in. New faces, new subjects, new classrooms...change, change, change...for a person with autism, this is sensory overload. What could ever be the right answer for him?

I picked him up from school at the end of the day, and he told me they had had an assembly at school on bullying. He thought it was interesting. He looked at me and said, "You would have cried today. This dad was talking about his son committing suicide after he was bullied. It was so sad." I asked, "Did you cry?" I waited for a second, assuming the response was going to be a resounding "heck no I did not cry", but instead he looked down and said, "Yeah, I cried. It was hard to see the dad cry. You know, he was out of town when it happened, so he feels really bad!" Uggg...right to the heart. As a parent, those words are hard to hear. Spoken from your child, it just hits home even more. More than anything though, I was touched by his answers. I was astounded at the thought he had put into this poor father's speech.

When I asked him how the new classes were, he told me how many kids he knew in his classes. He told me about the new projects in his computer classes he was excited about. He was smiling and laughing as he talked about it. I guess my answer was right after all. "Things are always worse than they seem!!"

I try to learn a lesson from every day I am on earth. Yep, every day I look at my life and think, "What did life teach me today?"

The answers from yesterday:

Lesson # 1: No matter how old he gets, he still needs his mom. He might act like he doesn't, but he does!! He needs me to reassure him that everything will be ok, no matter how cliché my answer may be. He needs to know that no matter what life throws at him, no matter how hard the transition, I'm here. Tomorrow, he will be too big to need his Mom. That is what he will want me to believe, but I will resort back to Lesson #1

Lesson #2: My son with Aspergers syndrome has empathy. He has amazing, heartfelt empathy!!!! I was pretty sure he did, but the teenage years have put serious doubt into this theory. (I'm sure all of you parents with teenagers have empathy for me!!)

Lesson #3: I already knew this one, but I learned again today...this parenting gig his hard!! There are no right answers. There is just doing the best you can and hoping that your best is good enough.

Love/Hate Relationship

“I hate Aspergers!” That’s what my little guy screamed as he ran into the room. He was crying uncontrollably. I knew the boys had been fighting in the other room. I knew it was over one of those silly electronic devices. I have a love/hate relationship with those devices. They are my sanity in the moments of peaceful bliss and my hell in the moments of fighting.  

At that moment in time, I knew that it was about more than a little fight over a silly game. It was the constant picking that Grant is enduring. Hunter’s hormones have kicked in and he is, unfortunately, the brunt of everything his big brother can throw at him. I’ve been there. I get it. It is part of almost every day of my life, but I’m not eight. He’s not my big brother who I’m supposed to look up to. Grant is called short, stupid, idiot and many other names constantly. No matter what he does, it is not right. Those tears were not from a silly game. They were from a big brother who tore a remote control out of his hand and told him how he wasn’t doing it right…one more thing he wasn’t doing right!! 

I hugged him as he sobbed uncontrollably. I told him how sorry I was and that it wasn’t him. Then, I gave the remote control back to him. This little episode passed. My worries didn’t. I worry every day about how Aspergers will play out in Hunter’s life. He is not Aspergers. He has Aspergers. It does not define him, but it is part of him. It is part of how he thinks. It controls how he handles many things in life. I can give him the tools to deal with it. I am trying desperately to do just that, but it won’t be enough to save him heartache. It won’t keep him from hurting others sometimes because he doesn’t know how to handle a situation. It won’t keep him from hurting his little brother who loves him so much! 

I love my son more than words can express. I love all the things that make him special. I love the wonderful characteristics that make him unique and awesome, but I too hate how Aspergers can hurt him and those around him. I hate the pain it will cause him. At the same time, I love it because it is part of my son. I love that it has caused me to grow as a person in more ways than I ever thought possible. It has changed my priorities and my purpose in life. I am more patient. I am more understanding. I am more thankful for those amazing little moments in life.  

Yes, just like those video games, I have a love/hate relationship with Aspergers, but mostly love!!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Autism Moms

I walked into the work room at school the other day to do some volunteer work at my little guy’s school. I truly thought I had it all together. I was dressed up, I had my makeup on and my hair done. Once again, for another day, I thought I was pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. “Never let them see you sweat!” Isn’t that the motto? Well, that’s how I work this whole Autism Mom situation. I pull myself up every single day by my boot straps. I put on a smiling face. I try to make myself look confident and sure of myself by looking the part. I don’t do it for anyone else. I do it for myself. Probably because it is the only control I have. It is the only thing that makes me feel confident in this job I have been given. No, I didn’t ask for it. I’m sure I’m not the best at doing it. It is just the job I have right now. I don’t have the option to screw it up.

This day had been a tough one. I had spent the entire morning on the computer. Another morning of countless emails back and forth to the teachers explaining how Hunter was being dishonest again and wasn’t turning in his assignments. They didn’t know how to handle it. Was it okay to give him detention? He wouldn’t sit still. He was skipping tutoring. Another morning of situations I just don’t know how to handle. I’m not the expert. I’m just his mom, and to be honest, I don’t have a damn clue!! I just know I am spending my entire day answering these emails and my entire afternoon and evening will be spent fighting with him about homework. I only know that I am exhausted by all of this and sometimes wonder if any of the fighting is actually doing him any good or just wearing me out.

So, I walked into the work room. I put on a smile and said hi to the teachers and other mom’s there. Then, I ran into one of the other “Autism Mommy’s”. She looked at me with a sympathetic grin and said, “You are having a tough day, aren’t you?” I looked at her with a little bit of shock and embarrassment. I was sure I had covered the stress up with the mound of concealer covering my dark circles and a little bit of lip gloss. I said, “How did you know?” She just smiled and said, “I’ve had that look many times myself. I get it.” I just explained to her that it had been a tough morning dealing with the teachers, smiled, and turned to go do my work. Truth is, I turned with a tear in my eye. Truth is, my heart was warmed. Somebody got it!!

This “Autism Mom” job isn’t an easy one. I’ve yet to hear any of us ask for sympathy. Honestly, it is just a lonely place. I’ve had so many friends and family say they wish they knew how to make it better. Well, here is the formula to help your friends and loved ones raise a child with autism...love them, hug them when they need it, offer to help when you can, send kind emails and text messages and acknowledge that some days are tough. No, you can’t always make the tough days better, but just having someone else acknowledge that today sucks, and that’s ok, somehow makes the day a little easier.