Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Be my guest...Jessica Nieminski from MY EXTRAORDINARY CHILD

Today I am thrilled to have Jessica Nieminski from MY EXTRAORDINARY CHILD as my Guest Blogger on Sassy Aspie Mom. Her story is sweet and inspiring. Make sure to visit her at http://www.myextraordinarychild.com/blog.

Superhero: a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers; an exceptionally skillful or successful person - Merriam-Webster DictionaryPicture
When the time came for me to have children, there were a lot of options and situations that I knew I needed to be prepared for.  Though I have to admit, majority of my thoughts were about choosing nursery bedding and baby names.  Would I use cloth diapers or regular?  What stroller and diaper bag should I get?   While many things came to mind, it had never occurred to me that I needed to prepare myself to raise a real life superhero.  

When I see my son, I don't just see a child with Autism that needs help to be part of the world.  I see a superhero who can teach me and others far more about the world than I could ever teach him.  I see the most amazing, dedicated, triumphant child who has a unique skill set unlike any other.  I see a boy with the truest, honest, kindest heart that I've ever seen.  I see a boy with great passion for life and extraordinary interests.  He is a person with a special connection to extraordinary individuals and a trusting heart that doesn't judge.  I see so many magnificent qualities in him, but the reality is that it is not all cake and rainbows.  

The hardest part about raising a superhero is watching the battles that they encounter daily.  Watching them not only battle the outside forces in their environment, but the battle within their own body.  There is no way to truly document how that feels as a mother because it is indescribable.  However, watching your child discover the world in a way that most people could never imagine is the indescribable counterbalance to it all.  

Everyone has their own philosophy on how to raise a child on the spectrum and I respect that.  For me, the question often isn't about how to raise a child with autism.  It is how can I help foster his inner superhero?  How can I help him  build upon the wonderful foundation that he already has, and how can I help further develop the person that he is?  It is hard as an autism parent; mostly because there is a fine line between trying to help faciliate the kind of growth that will better prepare him for this world and how and when to let him soar and just be him.  I think many parents of children on the spectrum struggle trying to find exactly where that line is in a life full of therapists and interventions.  

You spend every day trying to live in what feels like the same world as your child.  You spend countless hours lovingly trying to bring him/her into your world and stay there.  A world that brings them extreme discomfort and pain.  In order to even make my first real connection with my son, I had to enter his world and I think that should really count for something.  I may be uncomfortable with his world because just like my world is to him, it brings me extreme discomfort.  With that said, he loves his world and I feel that has to count for a lot when deciding where that fine line is.  To be honest, I don't think that we really live in different worlds, we just see and feel things differently.

As a parent of a child with autism you need to go outside of your comfort zone and think more about when to step in and when to help foster the inner superhero inside of them.  You see, according to the dictionary a superhero is a fictional hero, but I don't agree. When I see my son, see what he can do, and see how he perceives and combats the world on a daily basis, it is clear to me that superheroes are indeed very real.  There is nothing fictitious about them, and I couldn't be prouder to be raising one.  

Today's blog is dedicated to all the real life superheroes and extraordinary children out there.  May we all feel the blessings of your presence and the amazing qualities that you possess and bring to our world.  Thank you for all that you do!
A loving mother who won't stop until this world presents more love and opportunity for all children.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Maybe my opinion does matter...at least a little

Several months ago, during a car ride home from school, Hunter informed me that my opinion didn't matter to him. This shouldn't come as a shock to me. He pretty much says that through his actions each and every day. After all, he is a teenager who also has Asperger's Syndrome. He tells me what he is thinking, no matter what! Those words shouldn't have surprised me, but they did. I should no longer be hurt by his stinging words, but I was. I held it together while we were in the car. When we got home, I went into my bathroom and cried. It felt like he had physically punched me in the gut.

I know I have many years left of him thinking I'm pretty darned stupid. I know that as long as I'm telling him what to do and not do, I will be labeled the "Worst Parent on the Face of the Earth" by him. He tells me that constantly. This was different. When he said my opinion didn't matter to him, I heard that I didn't matter to him. I heard that nothing I have taught him had stuck. I heard that I wasn't important to him. I can handle him being pissed off at me for being his parent. However, I couldn't imagine not meaning anything in the fabric of his life.

Then, a few weeks ago, he had his first real school dance. He had been to another dance, but it was a fun dance for groups of friends. This was different. Many of his friends had invited girls to this dance. He had not invited anyone as his "date", but I could tell he was feeling extra pressure to fit in and be one of the guys.

The theme of the dance was "Hollywood". The students were supposed to dress like they were on a red carpet. I asked Hunter what he was going to wear, and he said sweats. Well, that wasn't going to work. I told him we were going to have to do some shopping. He didn't argue. My boy, who hates to shop with every square inch of his very tall body, did not argue! He said, "Okay, when are we going?" My car was already headed to the mall.

When we got to the store, he told me he wanted to wear a bow tie  and jeans. I actually thought he would look very handsome and Hollywood-ish in that, so he picked out a bow tie and together we picked a shirt that would coordinate. He never once complained. He was actually excited.

That Friday night was his big "Hollywood Premiere". He got dressed in his bow tie, coordinating shirt, jeans, Sperry-like shoes and, of course, coordinating socks (Hunter's socks always have to coordinate...it's his thing). He asked me to fix his hair to look nice, so I did. He actually asked me to fix his hair..what??? He looked extremely handsome. Of course, I had to embarrass him with a million pictures. I wouldn't be fulfilling my role as "Worst Mother on the Face of the Earth." if I didn't. He just rolled his eyes at me. Then, as we were leaving the house to take him to the dance, something totally unexpected happened. He turned to me, looked me in the eyes, and said, "Thanks Mom for helping me with my new outfit and fixing my hair." I said, "You're welcome buddy." Then, I turned around as tears ran down my cheeks.

This role of parenting a teenager isn't easy. I know I'm making lots of mistakes as I go along. I know there are many days Hunter doesn't like me at all. This night also confirmed that he needs me at least in some small way. Even if he doesn't realize it, my opinion really does matter, at least a little. I do have an influence in his life. Somewhere deep down, he might even think I'm kind of cool...well, that might be a stretch!