Friday, July 27, 2012

Letting Go

When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I never really worried about what type of mother I would be. I started working with kids in one form or another from a very early age, so I had plenty of experience with children, from preemies onward. I was calm throughout carrying big C, certain that I knew what I was doing - I had bathed children, bandaged bo-bo's, and changed diapers with the best of them. Becoming an instant parent to a 4-year old upon my marriage gave me even MORE experience, and I went into that delivery room without a shred of worry--knowing I was made for this.

Twenty-two hours after beginning labor, a nurse put big C in my arms, and I stared in wonder at this tiny human being who was MINE now, his eyes still fresh with angel dust. Just minutes earlier, we had been one body, he and I, and now he was his OWN person, already starting out on the journey that would take him to being a man one day. From this moment on, he would be DIFFERENT, from one second to the next - always growing, always changing, and it was up to me as his parent to help guide him onward.

Fast forward 48 exhausting hours, and it is time to leave the skilled nurses and doctors behind, to strap his tiny body into his carseat for the ride home. I remember being seized by panic, thinking "Shouldn't there be a test for this? You're going to just LET ME TAKE HIM HOME?"

Forget the time spent caring for other people's children, forget the four years raising our oldest--not of my body but always my own--forget the things I knew how TO do, all I could think about were the things I was terrified I would NOT be able to do. I held his tiny little self in my arms and felt the weight of all that depended on me pressing down, threatening to overwhelm me.

These days, that feeling has come around again--reminding me once again that no matter how much you ever feel like you have things "figured out," life has a way of proving you a fool, every time.

The next two weeks seem designed to test my strength. In one short span of time, big C is turning 5 and starting kindergarten, K is moving away for a year, and little C will be starting REAL SCHOOL and phasing out therapy all together.

Big C needs school. He NEEDS it. His sharp intelligence is making him impatient with his small world, his little mind desperate for new stimulation, a place that can keep up with him. I know it's what he needs, but my mother's heart remembers gripping the dashboard on that eternity of a first car-ride home, and I think again, "What if I can't do this?" I have to put my baby on a BUS, for goodness' sake, and heaven knows how I'm going to do that.

K is spreading his wings, tentatively testing the waters of a life he will one day have to live independently. I remind myself once again that this is a GOOD thing - he is making his own decisions, has a good head on his shoulders, and a strong support system should he decide the waters are not to his liking. But while his wings are itching to spread, I want desperately to grab some scissors and clip them for just a LITTLE WHILE LONGER. Because I know I can't, and because he is braver and more adaptable than his father or I have ever been, we will put him on a plane in two days and spend the next twelve months holding our breath.

And little C? He has traveled a long, long way, my little intrepid warrior. My mental checklist of Skills He Needs To Acquire has grown smaller and smaller as the months have flown by, and I am finding it harder and harder to justify the waiting--for just a little bit longer--to introduce him to the "typical" world he will travel through now. The therapists that have been his guides (sherpas?) tell me that he is ready. That he will be fine. That this is THE IDEAL RESULT of the hard work and countless hours and effort we have all put in.

They are trying to gently nudge us from the nest, but I find myself clawing at twigs and brush and FEATHER, dammit, because I'm not ready. My baby's place to fall has always been soft, the people in charge of guiding him here always smarter than me, but beyond this new checkpoint lies so many unknowns.

It's all US from here on out, and I am once again that frightened new mother, peering through the angel dust at the most precious and fragile thing I have ever been put in charge of. Wondering who made the decision to put ME in charge, and what in the world they were thinking.

For now, I'll hold them tightly when they stay still long enough, snuggle with them when they'll let me, and try to pry my fingers from the dashboard.

Monday, July 16, 2012


"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."

--Anais Nin

"Silence makes the real conversations between friends.  Not the saying, but the never needing to say that counts."

-Margaret Lee Runbeck

When we were first diagnosed, I remember agonizing over the unknown in little C's future.  What would his life be like in a year?  Two years? Five?  Would he be able to function in a classroom with his peers?  Would he hold down a job, live independently?

Would he ever have friends?

Family is wonderful - he will always have that.  His brothers love him to no end, and God knows I'm grateful for it.  But there's something about friendship that the human soul just needs.  You can't choose your family, and they're kind of obligated to put up with you, but friendship is a choice - someone looking at another person, with all their quirks and foibles and faults, and choosing to love them, as they are.

I've watched, in the months since starting therapy, as little C's social skills have come along.  When we started, he was generally content to play by himself, and I worried--a LOT-- about what that meant for his future.  I didn't want him to just function his way through life, I wanted him to enjoy it, to step outside of his safe little world and form meaningful relationships with people around him.

But how do you teach friendship to kids on the spectrum?

The answer?  You don't.  They teach us.

Completely spontaneous.  Entirely unprompted.  Simply perfect.

From the beginning, C and J just clicked.  There were other girls closer to her age, and boys closer to his that either might have chosen to become best buddies with, but they chose each other.

And it is magical.

They bring out the best in each other.  A simple burp is enough to send them both into waves of giggles, and after five minutes in their presence, I am in awe of how natural it is for them, at the ease of their connection.  I wonder, sometimes, if we adults couldn't take a few pointers from these two.  Both kids have their differences, and their own challenges - but these details are completely insignificant in their world.  They met each other where they are, and that's all there was to it.

A year ago, I would have been content to know that my baby would eventually make a friend.  

I couldn't have imagined how proud it would make me to know that he has learned to be a friend.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Path Less Traveled

I have so much to tell today, that I'm not quite sure where to start. I'd like to tell you how proud I was of my boys - both of them, with their little sensory quirks - and how well they did with the fireworks they experienced on the 4th of July. How little C, after some initial suspicion, charged right into the fray and started merrily almost-catching his brother on fire at every turn with his newfound love of sparklers. How after a giant boom that sent my own heart to racing, he gleefully demanded, "MORE PARACHUTE!"

(Apparently one of the fireworks set off that night was called a parachute, so every single one after that was subsequently given the moniker.)

Then I'd tell you about how big C, who needed industrial-plant-worthy earphones to make it through New Years Eve last year, was running around like a madman, demanding more sparklers, more parachutes (the term was contagious, apparently), more, more, more!

(I wouldn't tell you how Mommy ended up hiding inside after the first big boom, incidentally.)

I WOULD tell you how at some point after I forced myself to stop hovering at the window, trying to make sure that none of my children lost any digits, it struck me - this was the first social outing we'd had since the children were little more than infants, that I did not end the night in depression. Sometime amongst the whining about eating dinner, climbing on swingsets and begging for JUST ONE MORE BROWNIE, I had forgotten to compare my children to the handful of others running around that house. I had not fretted about what one child was doing that little C was not, I had not hurried after him to drag him from playing in isolation in a back bedroom to gently push him into the fray of screaming banshees running around the back yard.

Yes, he spent time in that back bedroom - but he enjoyed himself back there for short spans of time, then made his way outside to see "What's goin' on?"

At the end of that night, for the first time, I left a gathering with other children HAPPY, if not a little frazzled. Okay, a lot frazzled.

But those events - even those - paled in comparison to yesterday's ride home. Smaller, less glitzy, but infinitely more significant to this mama.

Remember this post? Yes, the whiny one?

As usual, little C decided to answer it in his own way, on his own time, his own terms. As usual, this mama ended up humbled by the way things come around, on a timetable greater than my own.

Yesterday. It is time for the ride home. His therapist and I rush through the how-did-he-do's as the rain around us tries to decide between drizzling and pouring. I know his best friend at school had a birthday today, and I am ready with questions for him on how it went.   Did you sing Happy Birthday? I will ask him. Did you eat cake?

Before I can start my barrage, a query comes from the back seat.

"Mommy. How you spelllllll....cake?"

Startled, I respond. "C-A-K-E, cake, baby."

"Mommy. How you spellll...Happy Birthday?"

We make our way, letter by letter, through the events of his day, as seen through his eyes. We spell the birthday girl's name, his favorite therapist's name, happy birthday (again), and on and on. Eventually, we move to various things that catch his eye out of the car window, and I can do nothing but be grateful for this glimpse into my baby boy's mind, a glimpse that many parents of children on the spectrum may never know.

Hearing about his day may have taken a slightly different form that I may have imagined.

But Good Lord, I'll take it.