Thursday, July 24, 2014

There is no "3 strikes your out" rule in parenting

It is hard to explain how hard it is to be the sibling of someone with Autism. I do my best to help my Grant get by unscathed. I know I am failing horribly. He is constantly in the midst of breakdowns, appointments, arguments over homework, and major attitude. Even though the attention Hunter gets is not always good attention, it is still attention. Some days it is an exhausting, never ending, feeling hopeless kind of attention, but it is attention nonetheless.

Yes, this thing called "Asperger's Syndrome" has robbed him of so much. It is not a thief in the night, it is a constant loss of everything important to him. It is his IPOD case that is chewed up because of sensory issues. It is not getting a book read to him because I am so exhausted I fall asleep before it happens. It is my voice being raised at him for nothing he did, just my own pent up feelings. It is him wanting to look up to his brother so badly, but knowing he can't follow his path.

I try not to think of the pain in his heart because it hurts my heart too much! I try to give him extra hugs, extra laughs, and extra time. I try to tell him how proud I am of him. I try to let him know that he is an amazing person. I know it is not enough, but it is all I have.

I love car rides with Granster. It is just me and him.  No video games are getting his attention. No army guys or Hot Wheels cars are in sight. This is my time to lay it all out on the table. Normally, car rides are my time to teach him. This week, during one of those little car rides, he taught me.

He has been attending a camp this week. He has had a great time. He has played with amazing friends. He has had tons of activities. Most importantly, he has had time away. He has had a break from the craziness in this house. God knows he needs it.

I picked him up from camp on Tuesday. It is a short ride home, so I always start the conversation early. How was your day? Did you learn anything? What was the best part/worst part of your day?

There is "3 strikes your out" rule at camp for the kiddos who are struggling with their behaviors.
 I typically don't have these problems with Granster, so I said to him jokingly, "So, how many strikes did you get today?"

Him: "None!! But some kids got strikes for not listening and running around!"

Me: "I knew you wouldn't get any. You are such a good boy and make good choices!"

Him: "Yeah, well, I try to make good choices, but sometimes I don't. You know my emotions just get to me sometimes. I get depressed...I get sad...and sometimes I don't do the right things, but usually I try make good choices."

Me (driving the car trying to hide the tears streaming down my cheeks): "Buddy, I was just joking with you! I knew you would be good today! I didn't have any doubts at all! I know it is hard sometimes, but you do the best you can!!"

For a moment, he revealed a part of himself that he doesn't feel safe to reveal most days. He let himself be vulnerable. He spoke his truth. Yes, sometimes he has outbursts. He is in pain. He doesn't make the right decisions at the right times, but he is trying!

If I was living by the "3 strikes your out" rule, I would have been kicked out of the parenting gig a long time ago. I make bad choices. I lose it sometimes. I fall asleep before reading his book. I say things I don't mean, but I am trying! I am trying with all my might to raise two great men.

I want with every fiber of my being for them to know how much I love them. I want them to know that no matter what mistakes they make, I will be here to pick them up. I know that my hugs don't always make the pain better. My words don't always fix things that are broken. All I can do is try every day, and when I fail, get up and try again. There is no "3 strikes rule". There is just me loving my kiddos, making mistakes, trying my best, losing my mind, feeling lost, hugging with all my might some days, yelling with all my might others and doing the best I can!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sometimes the things that make us "weird" in school make us awesome in life!

He came in and sat down across from me. He had a serious look on his face. I put the checkbook and bills down and listened intently. It looked like we might be here a while.
He said, “I have something I need to tell you.”
“Ok, I’m listening. What’s going on, “I asked softly?
“I am not popular. I have not been telling you the truth. Actually, I hang around the kids who are considered weird. I just wanted you to know.”

Let me rewind this story...
 I have heard over and over from him how popular he is. He has told the therapist that he is one of the popular kids because he wears cool socks. He has told my husband and I that he only hangs around the “cool” kids. He has told his Grandparents the same story.  We have talked to the teachers during teachers conferences and they have said that he is very liked by the other kids at school and he is very social. Sometimes he is a little too social and obsessed with one topic, but overall he is kind to everyone and well liked. My hubby and I were pleased with that answer.
We have often wondered how many of these friends he spoke of were real and how many were made up. We have wondered if they were “popular” kids being nice to him for the wrong reasons, which concerned us. We have often worried, as parents do, about his feelings being hurt.
We had come to the conclusion that as long as he was happy, we would just let it go. We would just keep an eye on things and keep asking questions about his friends. We would monitor texts and phone calls. We had a feeling that he was not fitting in socially and the other kiddos probably realized he was different, but we just thought he hadn’t figured it all out yet. We would just be careful and let him keep believing whatever made him happy.
Now, as I sat here looking at those big brown eyes and trembling lips I realized that he had known all along.
I asked, “Why have you been telling us you were popular?”
He answered, “I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
I felt this of wave emotion come over me. It was a mixed bag of feeling blessed that he was coming to talk to me and sad that he ever had to feel pain like this. I hated that he was feeling such doubt about himself and how we felt about him.
“Hunter, I am not disappointed in you. As long as you are trying your best at everything you do and being kind to others that is all I can ask of you!!” Then, I smiled at him and said, “Thank you for being honest with me. Now, can I be honest with you?

“Yes, “he responded shyly.
“I’ve know all along that you probably weren’t “popular”. I didn’t know why it was so important to you that I thought you were, but the truth is…I don’t care.  I wasn’t popular either. I would rather you not be popular at all because many times that can cause so much trouble in your life. I am much more concerned about you being happy, really happy. I want you to surround yourself with friends that care about you and who you can depend on no matter what life throws your way. I would much rather you have a few real friends than a lot of friends who aren’t good to you. That is how I live my life and it makes things so much better.“
He looked a little shocked. He kind of grinned at me. Then he said, “Please don’t tell dad, ok”
I smiled at him and said, “He already knows, sweetie.”
He said, “Grant told him didn’t he? I told him last year that I wasn’t really popular and I knew he couldn’t keep a secret.”
I chuckled inside at the thought that he thought his dad and I had to be told by his 8 year-old brother that he wasn’t really popular, but I said, “Nope, he did not say a word to us. I promise. We just always had a feeling that you were not as popular as you were letting on, but honestly, he doesn’t care either. Neither one of us do. We just love you for you.”
He doesn’t?”
“No buddy, he really just wants you to be happy!  Can I let you in on a little secret that you will find out for yourself in a few years?”
“Right now, this seems like the most important thing in the world. It seems like if you don’t fit in with that crowd, no one wants to be your friend. I understand that because I was your age once too. The real truth is that in middle school it feels like that, by high school there is still a little of that but you know yourself a little better. In five years, when you are done with high school, you will move on to college and it won’t matter who your friends were in high school. You will find friends with your same interests through classes you are in or clubs you join or dorms you live in, and suddenly, these people who didn’t want to be your friends will just be a distant memory. They won’t matter a bit. I promise it doesn’t seem like it now, but that is exactly what will happen. “
He looked at me like he thought I knew what I was talking about (at least somewhat) which is a rare occurrence these days. I went on to try to explain how I was not popular in school and girl in particular was really mean to me. I ran into her a few weeks ago, and the pain she used to cause me wasn’t there anymore. I had moved on. “I promise you that one day you won’t care about these people either, “ I said.
He got ready to get up and I said, “One more thing…you know the characters on Big Bang Theory?”
“Well, I know they are just fictional characters, but there are a lot of people out there just like them. Do you think they would have been considered "cool kids" in school?”
“No, “ he chuckled.
“Nope, probably not. Guess what? Who cares!! They went on to be so much more successful than the people who would have made fun of them in school, right?”
“Yep, you can do the same thing! Sometimes the things that make us stand out as “weird or different” in school make us awesome in life!”
He stood up to go back to his game of Minecraft. He didn’t say a word. He just walked away in quiet contemplation. I just sat and thought a while about how no matter how many words I speak now or in the future, I will never take away his pain or insecurities. All I can do is try my best to let him know that he is so special to me, his family, and in this world.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sassy Aspieisms (courtesy of my 13 year-old)

Leaving orthodontist appointment...

Me: I need to run by the grocery store to pick up some things for a salad for dinner tonight.

Him: I don't want to go to the store. Anyway, why do you keep making salads for dinner? I can't put on weight only eating salads.

Me: Well, we are not having only a salad. Salads are just a good way to get the 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day we need. I am just trying to keep our bodies healthy.

Him: Five servings of fruits and vegetables a day...where do you get this stuff? Where did you read that crazy fact?

Me: Well, just about everywhere!
Sassy Aspieisms (courtesy of my 13 year-old)



Me: We have to start limiting the amount of time you are on the computer and other electronics.

Him: Whining…where did you hear that?

Me: Your doctor says it is not good for your brain to have too much game time.

Him: I don’t believe it. I think it is a conspiracy theory. I will not believe everything I hear.

Me: It is not a conspiracy theory. Studies have been done showing the effects on children’s brains.

Him: I think it is just a way for doctors and scientists to make money.

Me: Well…I think they would make more money supporting the companies that make these games than going against them. It really doesn’t matter because you only get 2 hours.

Sassy Aspieisms (courtesy of my 13 year-old)



Driving down the road in the car…

Him: You are mean to me, bordering on abusive.

Me: Really…and why is that?

Him: You feed me too healthy. It is your fault I am this skinny!

Me: Yep, you must be right. It sure couldn’t be genetics or anything.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pillars of strength

Yesterday was the 4th of July. We went to a presidential library. In that library stood beams from the twin towers. The beams were not burnt, but rather showed the impact of the planes. The beams were bent, slightly mangled, but had withstood the tragedy with amazing strength.

As I stood there looking at the beams and watching videos that accounted for the horrifying tragedies of September 11, 2001, I could not help but reflect. I thought about the amazing human spirit that lives within all of us. Like those beams, when dealt a blow, we do not falter, but rather keep going. Like the amazing first responders on that day and the survivors who helped others by carrying them down 60 flights of stairs or using their shirts as a tourniquets, we rise to the occasion when there is a need.

Parents of children with special needs have to be beams of strength every day. Many days we have to pull from the depths of our souls and show amazing resolve to keep going.  My Grandmother and Grandfather raised 8 children. Their first child was born with a condition called Osteogenesis.  They were told very early on that he would not survive.  He defied the odds. He had numerous surgeries. He broke his bones more times than I can even count, but when he died at the age of 59, he had lived an amazingly full life. He could not play baseball, so he coached. He could not ride a bike, so he rode a lawnmower. He could not do many jobs, but he went through jeweler school and started his own business. He married. He had friends.  He lived life to the fullest. He did all of that with the support of his parents and his family. He was a sweet man with an infectious laugh who made everyone happy when he was around.

I often wonder, as the mother of a child with special needs, how often my Grandmother felt like bending. I contemplate how she managed to keep her strength. How did she continued to be the pillar of strength for him and seven other children, especially when I feel like I am breaking so many times in my own situation? I am amazed at her strength.

Today, I am thankful to live in a country, where like my uncle, my son has the opportunity to defy the odds. I am also thankful for the many special needs mothers, like my Grandmother, who have paved the way.  I am thankful for the mothers, many whom I consider friends, who I watch every day be the unbending beams for their children. Those moms who pull strength from the depths of their souls and keep going for their children.