Friday, June 27, 2014

pop the question

I have many plans for today.  

I have lists for groceries, to-do's to be done in preparation of a big annual event we host at our house every year, as well as the daily grind chores that I have been putting off due to summer vacation.  (Who wants to clean when the lazy river at Wildwater Kingdom is beckoning?) Anyhow, it's become impossible to put off the tasks any further...and that's why I wasn't going to think of blogging today.  I don't have time. 

Plans change. 

I'm working on paying bills, catching up on emails, and the general "I-forgot-what-day-of-the-week-it-is-because-it's-summer" confusion, when Ethan and Isaac come into the office.  We get into a quick discussion over a few things, and Ethan brings up a server on Minecraft that he heard of just for kids on the autism spectrum called Autcraft.  We look up the founder's Facebook profile.  Then, as Isaac is quietly standing behind us he says, point-blank, "Do I have Autism?"  

I'm not sure how other parents handle labels in their homes.  I'm not saying you should or shouldn't tell your child of their special needs.  In our home, we haven't told Isaac he is autistic, nor have we used it to explain things to him.  It just hasn't been an issue. He sees the world differently, interprets the world uniquely, and processes his surroundings like one of the many fractals on a brilliantly cut diamond.  He has a diagnosis, yes, and on paper it says he has autism.  It makes him eligible for services that allow him to thrive, and it allows us to form a framework of understanding around a fraction of how he needs to live--but he is not limited to a set of "symptoms" or expected to be put in a box of understanding.  Isaac is Isaac.

But when your own child asks you a question like this...

I calmly take him in my arms and hug him.  He nestles his chin into the crook of my neck, keeping his arms at his side.  I can almost hear his brain clicking and grinding.  

"Yes."  That's all I tell him.

I feel cornered, trapped, and angry.  I wish I could punch the walls around me and throw a tantrum. Because although I believe Isaac is unique and wonderful and I wouldn't change him for all of the typical children in the world...he still has a label...and I can explain the label away, use more socially palatable terms to describe his needs, but he will always need to be identified with autism if he is to get what he needs in a manner that allows him to succeed--both in his own mind and in the world.  

Instead of losing it, I get my composure and pull him away to look in his eyes.  It takes him a moment.  It seems like he is avoiding my glance.  I wait patiently for him to meet me, holding his shoulders gently.  "Isaac, I hope you know how amazing you are.  There is no one, NO ONE like you in the whole universe.  I know God was being super creative the day he made you.  He was so excited!  And He has a plan to use you in awesome ways."  He looks at me, nods, and gives me a quirkly smile with squinty eyes and says..."Want to play with me?"  

And just like that, the anger, fear, and worry fall to the floor.  I have to let the intense conversation that I was preparing to have with my son about all the innate ways he is different--all the moments he has awakened awareness in me and others who know him--all the nuances of his thoughts and emotions...I had to realize it's my job to love him, not label or cover who he is with a band-aid.  I need to love him by sharing life with him, answering the tough questions with just one word answers, and trusting that Isaac will discover more of who he is...

Over a game of "Pop the Pig."  And I am so glad for that plastic pig with the inflatable belly who eats plastic hamburgers, because now we can just go on.  Enjoying the moments, not dwelling on labels or differences...even though we know that they are still there.  Always there.

Questions from our children aren't scripted, and we don't always have the answers mapped out.  The questions about "who am I?" are to be answered over time, through experiences, and through love.  Their questions will often spark the same questions in ourselves.  And we learn them, live them, and cherish them together.  

Isaac, last day of 1st grade...a little champion. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

note to self

My empty mug of yogurt and berries sits in front of me on the computer desk instead of heading to the dishwasher.  My mug of coffee is probably sitting somewhere upstairs, getting cold because, frankly, today it's not attached to me at the hip.  Laundry baskets are calling my name in the basement.  I am still in my pajamas, and should really take a shower. It's safe to say I'm torn this morning...

From the living room, sounds of Nintendo DS playing and the occasional, "YES!" ricochet to my ears--Ethan is officially done with school until the fall.  We are all trying to soak that reality in today, especially because I still have until tomorrow for Isaac.  He is at JB having "Spy Day" with all of his fellow school mates.  (He made sure to pack his binoculars to see any other spy-like events that were thinking of sneaking past his all-too-aware spyishness.)  So, although I have one child, carefree on the couch, I still had to get up and carpool Isaac to school per the normal routine.  I'm just confused today.

Summer vacation is part mental for me.  I'm not sure if other moms, dads, or caretakers deal with this phenomenon.  I get so excited for the end of the school year because it means no packing lunches, no double checking homework folders (yes, I did it until the very end), no making sure one school uniform is on while the other completely different school uniform is packed and gym clothes are on--oh, and making sure there are underwear on under the uniform pants.  Most of my mornings felt like I was trying to rehearse Abbott and Costello's "Whose on first?" routine, unsuccessfully, with my children.  But I persevered.  I didn't give up because I expected my kids not to give up.  Finish strong!  Finish proud!  And then, after you crash through the finish line and pour Gatorade over your head all while taking deep breaths and collapsing to the ground...when it's time to get up again, you ask yourself, "Alright...what now?"

Don't misunderstand me.  I love the freedom of not having to go anywhere, not having to do anything.  But, then, the next minute...I hate it.  I need to DO something.  I feel in limbo with feeling needed or valued because I'm on top of my game and then all of a sudden the expectations are just thrown into park. Switching gears while going 50 miles an hour is not something I do well with...and I'm just being honest.
Somewhat how I feel today...

Here's a note to self:  downshift by remembering who you are and what you were created to be.  Just because the school year is done...(for 1/2 of my children)...does not mean you are needed any less.    It's just a need for relaxation, a need for playing until it's dark outside, a need for popsicles and sun tea.  It's a need for muddy feet and grassy knees, dripping ice cream cones, and yes, baths.  Every night.  You're still mom.  You're still the one teaching, molding, shaping your sons.  You just are mom in a bathing suit and cover up with sunglasses saying, "sure, we can have Menchie's for the 3rd night in a row."  It's a need for slowing down.

So, I'm downshifting.  Rolling the windows down, and getting a sunburn on that arm that is exposed under the sunroof...(true story)...

And remembering who I am and what I was created to be, not do.

Happy summer, friends.