Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dear Cub Scout Leader

Dear Cub Scout Leader Guy,

Hi.  I know were a week late signing up for this whole shindig.  Sorry about that--I'm usually pretty crazy about details, and being on time, and following the rules and stuff.  You'll probably learn that the hard way, so strap in.

But things happened, tonight was our first pack meeting, and I know you were a little blindsided.  True, there were other siblings tagging along on this adventure, but somehow I think you were just a tiny bit unprepared for Little C.  See, what you saw as just another field trip to a fire station was, in reality, sort of this mom's definition of the third circle of Hades.

I really, really wanted this for Big C.  He's great with his brother, really, but he deserves his own space.  As heartbreaking as it is for me to explain to Little C that this is something his brother is doing without him...well, I know Big C needs it.  Time with his friend, B, time (somewhat) away from my own neurotic presence...time to just be Big C, instead of Little C's big brother.

That whole independence thing kinda went out the window when circumstances dictated that I'd have to bring Little C tonight.  It wasn't planned, really, and to be honest, I was dreading the drama of leaving him behind.  Things worked out the way they did, though, and so he came.  To a fire station.  Where there are lots of loud things, and also lots of overwhelmingly exciting things.  Too, lots of children swarming in different directions, and all dressed in the same colored clothing. (Can we talk about that later?  Because really, maybe that could use some reconsideration).

Normally, Mr. Cub Scout Leader Guy, I would be right there with you.  I'd chat, and I'd ask questions, and I'd listen to your patiently explained instructions with a smile on my face.  But when we're in a fire station, with loud noises that could sound omigod-any-second-now, and my kid is so excited about the real life fire truck right there in front of him that he can't decide between omigod-noises-are-scary and omigod-firetrucks-are-awesome-can-I-hug-it-right-now, well...I get an little on edge.

I'm sorry I'm just murmuring vague agreements and nodding distractedly at you, but you see--inside I'm constantly formulating disaster relief plans.  If he screams when the siren goes off, I am ready to snatch him up like a maniacal linebacker and run for the nearest doorway.  Would the one to the right be best?  Or the one behind us?  What would cause the least amount of distraction?  By the time I've worked out that plan, he has risen to his feet while I'm distracted, and his hands are flapping happily.  I can tell by the way that he's eyeing the fire suit that he's decided it's completely acceptable to get up during your little talk and go investigate it.

Normally, he's very good at reading social cues and listening to directions, but there's just too much happening right now.  At my gesture, he returns to his seated position on the designated line next to the well-behaved siblings, but his hands are hovering over his ears again, and I can tell that the possibility of sudden noises has re-occurred to him.  I know I should be beaming proudly at Big C right now, like all of the other parents surrounding me, but I am incapable of anything except shifting nervously from foot to foot, wondering how much longer this will last.

We head out to investigate the truck, and I breathe a sigh of relief thinking, Great.  Open space.  They can walk around now, and he doesn't have to be still and quiet.  The relief is short-lived, though, as he darts from end to end, first investigating the hood, then the bumper, then back again.  All while cars are periodically cruising through the parking lot, by the way.

I alternate between pinning Little C down to walk him back to where he's *supposed* to be, and eyeing Big C in an attempt to ensure manners are being observed.  Fortunately, he is behaving, and I relax just in time for your partner to promise Little C solemnly that if he can find the key to the fire truck, he can drive it.  When she winks at me as he scampers off, confiding that there is no key to the fire truck, I don't have the heart to explain that he thinks too literally to get the joke.  I'm sorry I can't quite concentrate when you explain about the various fees involved, but I'm too busy contemplating how much hysteria would ensue if I started crying at this point.

When the meeting is over, Big C is sweaty, happy, and oblivious...and me?  I'm just tired.  We exchange information and confirm plans for the next event.  I half-heartedly attempt an explanation, and you are very nice, but obviously a little lost.

Um, better luck next time?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sweet, sweet dreams

"Drop me on the bed," he begs.  It is a ritual that has remained constant since he was able to utter the request.  I snatch him up in my arms, and--as I have done for more than the two years since those blessed words have come--hold him in wriggling anticipation over his mattress.

A knuckle finds his mouth--an action that, for him, signals excitement, and he giggles.  The sound makes my heart happy.

I hold him suspended for a second longer than is necessary, knowing that these days are numbered. Soon, his lengthening limbs and increasing height will finally overpower my maternal urges, and I will no longer be able to lift him.

That day is not this one, though, and when anticipation has turned giggles into belly laughs, I drop him onto his bed, laughing with him as he bounces.

He settles himself into position for the night ahead, with nary a protest.  My baby loves his sleep, and always has.  

"Just blankie," he declares, and I cover him lightly with the baby blanket that he has remained attached to for as long as I can remember.

When winter comes, he will allow the colorful sheet and comforter that make up the rest of his little nest, but even then only in one order - blankie, sheet, covers.  No deviation.

Because I know how hard he works to acclimate in the rest of his daily life, I don't push, and follow along with the routine.  Social expectations are one thing, but I am determined that he will feel free to find comfort and security in whatever routines he needs to when he is home.

I kiss he and his brother goodnight, and he declares solemnly, "I won't wipe your kisses off, Mom."

As I turn off the light and let the door latch snick closed behind me, I hold those words close.  They don't sound like much to most--but I know how precious they are.  I know how hard communicative speech was to learn, and how precious spontaneous speech was when it came.

I can start my own winding down now, and pick up my tablet to browse the news of the day.  Sifting through Hollywood gossip, photography articles and the various detritus in between, I stumble on a Reddit post discussing the recent rise in measles cases due to declining vaccination rates.  This does not come courtesy of the various autism news feeds I subscribe to, it's just there--on the front page of a crowd-sourced news site that millions visit each day. 

It's gladdening to see these articles come to public attention--I sometimes wonder how much my own little bubble actually has to do with the "outside" world.  This is important to me, but does anyone else see this?  Is the significance of a horrifying number of children being needlessly affected by a preventable and serious disease lost on the rest of the world?

As the current top comments on the article are pretty vitriolic concerning anti-vaccine advocate Jenny McCarthy, I have to think that my sentiments are shared.

While it is good to see the public outcry, it is also saddening.  Comments rage against McCarthy and Wakefield and "stupid hippies," and all I can think about is the significance of those numbers as they relate to autism hysteria.  Although measles is a potentially life-threatening disease, and the rate of contraction is higher than the supposedly-vaccine-related autism case numbers, 92% of cases were found in children with no history of vaccination, or unknown vaccination history.

The parents of those children, at some point, chose not to vaccinate.

Autism has, in essence, become such a horrifying prospect that it pales in comparison to a disease that once killed children en masse.

My son's autism is not horrifying.  It can be confusing, frustrating, even scary sometimes, but it is not horrifying.  In fact, it is sometimes just as confusing, frustrating, and scary as parenting my typically developing child. 

Different, perhaps, rougher in patches--but by no means so horrific a prospect as to risk death or life-long medical ramifications.

I know my child is only one child, with one unique version of autism.  I know there are parents of disabled children who struggle mightily every day, much more than we do, and wish that they could go back in time and change something--anything--that may make their baby's life less of a struggle.

I get that desperation, that fear.  I do.

But here, on the other side of our autism, I'd take my healthy child with autism struggles exacerbated one hundred times over against even the remote possibility that I wouldn't have one heartbreakingly beautiful little boy, promising to never wipe his mama's kisses off at night.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Oh. Hi.

Hi again.  Cyd here, from the other side of insanity.  You'll be happy to know that yes, I did pass my test, and yes, I am still in one piece.  Relatively speaking, at least.  I now have just four more panic-inducing exams to take, and then I will happily refuse to ever take a standardized test again.

Did I mention that at the end of this rainbow is a commencement ceremony in Hawaii?  'Cause there is.  Also, lens spending money for said Hawaii trip.  Also, nights during which I will not wake up categorizing the legal ramifications of various bailee/bailor relationships (Don't understand what those words mean? ENJOY THAT FEELING FOR ME).

I have decided that upon completion of the last necessary test in this insanity, I will be purchasing a ukulele and a grass skirt to adorn my desk at the office, and tormenting absolutely everyone within ear and eye shot.  It may be the only thing keeping me going.

Just kidding...LENS MONEY!

Speaking of lenses, I sort of stumbled into a wonderful working relationship with another local photographer.  I second-shot for her on a wedding at a local (gorgeous) plantation, and the whole experience was absolutely amazing.  The photographer was laid back and happy to teach me her ways, and the wedding....dear Lord, the wedding.  There was an amphitheater, a chandelier, honor guards with crossed swords, and a dog as bridesmaid.  Every moment I wasn't actually taking a photo was spent looking around in dazed amazement, wondering how I got so lucky.  The lead photographer said she would love to have me back for the other weddings she has lined up, and I'm hoping to God that she was serious.  She uttered these words before she saw my photos, so I'm still a little anxious [read: terribly insecure].  If it works out, it'll be the perfect opportunity for me, so keep your fingers crossed.

On the autism home front, Little C is starting to venture into foods outside of his norm, which has been encouraging.  Predictably, this process is in no way proceeding along a reasonable path, but that in itself is becoming the norm, really.  Boiled peanuts? SURE, I'll take some of those.  Previously-looked-upon-with-horror cheese dip?  WHY NOT?

Chicken *strips*, rather than chicken *nuggets*?  Have you lost your mind, woman?

So maybe we'll ease into the chicken strips thing, I'm thinking.

Two more photo sessions this week (eek!), then it's prepping for exam #5, and a solo wedding in October.

Y'all pray for me.