Why I Don’t Write About Autism Anymore

I almost titled this, “We’ve Still Got It!”  Sorry, a little autism humor.

I haven’t written much about Autism, in this space, lately. There’s a reason for that.

There was a time when Sweetboy was newly diagnosed and I needed to write of the devastation I felt at receiving the news that our child would face challenges more than your average bear. I needed every letter of the alphabet to deal with All The Feelings as they poured over me like a deluge.

So, I wrote through them.

Then came those times when I wanted to celebrate his victories and make note of every challenge he was able to overcome and highlight the achievements.

So, I wrote about them.

But, that Sweetboy is now fast approaching his fourteenth year. And you know what? He doesn’t want me to write about him here anymore.

Part of being a good story teller is knowing where your part of the story ends and another person’s begins. He would like to take over ownership of his story. And, to me, that is a grand new adventure!

I can’t wait to watch it unfold! I’m finding the beauty in watching my son, my Sweetboy, own who he is and choose to move forward from here on out.


Does that mean that Autism has no place here, anymore?

As if that could ever happen!

It does mean that I choose to honor and respect the wishes of this man-child. If he wants to share a story, you can be sure I’ll be making space for him to.

It’s all a grace, this parenting thing. And to parent a child with Autism is truly layer upon layer of grace. Daily. Hourly. Minute by agonizing minute.

But the joy of seeing your child continue to progress… there is nothing greater!

To those of you in the thick of the diagnosis, or the thrill of the achievement, warrior on! We are rooting for you and praying for you and loving on you from afar.

And always will be.

Yes indeedy!

Getting To the Other Side

I can raise my hands in the air like I just don’t care. Mostly because I’ve learned, after 40 some years of life that it doesn’t matter much what the person next to me thinks about me. In fact, I’m a firm believer in the adage that what others think of me is none of my business.

We’re trying desperately to get Sweetboy to own that mindset, too. The one of not caring what others think of him.

Recently I pulled on my Smart Mama pants and told him how one of the most comforting verses to me, in all of the Bible, is where we are told that people look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

He was only mildly comforted.

It did, however, distract him. And so, he started perseverating on his looks.

Oh joy.

“But, mama, people are looking at me and seeing my stupid autism!”

Sigh.

I reminded this Sweetboy of mine that it’s okay to detest his Autism. I detest pollen. And allergies. And horses. And clowns.

But, I also (while desperately trying to keep those Smart Mama pants hiked up) reminded him that detesting what is not good should drive us toward what is.

He wasn’t buying what I was selling.

Tempted to hang my head in parenting defeat, I was reminded that although we like to focus on the positive around here, sometimes… sometimes, we have to shine light on the negative to reveal it for what it is.

And, in this case, I recognized some of the hurtful comments from his classmates as Fear.

Seconds away from feeling a parental failure, I remembered that we struggle through the trials so that we can see the mind-blowing beauty on the other side. God’s great reveal, really, is how incredibly beautiful something can look from the other side.

The other side of awful-ugly.

Like, hurtful-ugly comments from preteens whose cheeks you’d like to squeeze clean off their faces. In love, of course.

So, I pulled up those pants and secured them with the belt of Truth. Particularly, 1 Samuel 18. We read through that whole chapter together. We uncovered some treasures.

The truth in this passage was that Jonathan, Saul’s son, found a friend in David, the soon-to-be-king that Jonathan’s father detested. I’m speculating here, out of the ugliness of Saul’s hatred for David came a beautiful realization for Jonathan.

You see, during those dark times, Saul was certainly not pleasant to be around. And, I’m guessing that Jonathan quickly realized, to his relief, that he was not alone. That David, too, suffered the wrath of Saul.

As I shared this story, afresh, with my Sweetboy, I saw light begin to spread through his eyes.

I then relayed that infamous incident during my fifth grade year where I was the recipient of cruel comments because I was the only one who hadn’t shaved my legs yet. The cutting remarks nicked worse than any razor blade ever would.

But, I found a friend, that year. We commiserated during gym about being the only two girls, surely, in the history of ever, whose cruel parents kept them from fitting in.

Miraculously, just as God likes it, grace washed over Sweetboy’s face as he realized that he and his two best buddies had each other. That he wasn’t the only one to be at the receiving end of spew from Jealousy.

“I’m glad I have a possie, mama. They get me.”

Yes indeedy, child.

He realized that he isn’t the only one.

Neither are you.

Nor am I.

And that, friends, is a beautiful truth on the other side.

An Open Letter to the Author of “12 Reasons Why Peanut Free Schools Are Not Okay”

Hi Mama,

I wanted to reach out to you regarding your blog post, “12 Reasons Why Peanut Free Schools Are Not Okay.”.

Brava! Seriously, Nicolette, I want to thank you for sharing your different perspectives on peanut allergies and attempting to “walk full circle” around this sensitive issue. As the parent of children both with a severe peanut allergy and without, and as the sister of a sibling who had needs of his own, I applaud your desire to point out how the typical kiddos’ needs sometimes get lost in the shuffle. They surely do. And, wow, do I ever know it!

Are you still reading? I hope so. Because now, I’m going to offer you just a couple of different perspectives. This is not a bashing. I promise. You’ve had enough of that.

Regarding point #7, you had me at utilizing alternative methods for educating your child because, as any parent of a child who is immunocompromised will tell you, yes! That is necessary. Their childrens’ bodies cannot handle the influx of germs that are constantly circulating within a school building. They must seek alternative education sources and venues for this very reason. Is it hard? Oh yes it is. Is it their life? Yes indeedy.

But, you lost me at meeting a “basic set bar of expectations”. I’m wondering if you envision a society where the folks who can’t meet a basic set bar of expectations are required to live, work, and play in areas that don’t infringe in any way on those who can. Will my child, with autism, who is most times able to meet that bar, but not always, be allowed to interact with those who’ve met the bar? Or, should he be educated at home. And, once he becomes an adult, maybe he should just work from his home, or mine (whichever – we’re cool with however that plays out) so that his needs don’t infringe on the needs of those working diligently, you know, at the bar.  Because, of course, our children are equal.

If my son becomes a brilliant scientist (from my lips to God’s ears!) who is able to research a cure for cancer because of his experiences and perspectives, but can’t be near peanuts while he’s researching, he will take the necessary precautions. Because, here’s another place we agree, it’s ultimately going to be his responsibility to take the precautions necessary to guard his life.

Here’s the thing, though – any adult he is working with is probably going to take precautions as well. Because, respect for differences manifests itself through kindness and consideration. We don’t take breaks for those kinds of character traits.

Another perspective I’d ask you to consider is when my son, who is peanut allergic, attends school with sweet Sally. I’m talking about this precious child, that you mentioned, who just lost her sweet mother to cancer. And, Sally does indeed need to eat peanut butter each day to help her soothe her grief over her mama’s recent death. So, because I care about all children, I encourage my child to leave the table where all of the other children are sitting and go sit at the peanut free table. And, he does.

He’s told by their teacher, of course, that he can ask a friend to sit with him. But, at the tender age of 9,10,11… no one wants to sit with him because, well … I’m sure you are totally aware of the social interaction dynamics of pre-adolescents. So he sits there. Alone. And, that’s okay. That’s his cross to bear. Not sweet Sally’s.

But then, there are a group of Sally’s, or Sals, who have parents who have voiced their own perspective about why “these kids” even need to be at school with their typical children. They get agitated that they can’t bring in candy for holidays and cupcakes for birthdays. It is so frustrating that they vent about it. At home, of course. But, Sal and Sally hear all of this venting and begin to live out what they hear at home, as children sometimes do. And one day, they jokingly smear peanut butter across the back of my son’s shirt as he is eating, at the peanut-free table, because they think it’s funny. And, well, he shouldn’t even be at school anyway.

“My child would never!”, you are thinking. Right? I mean, I would too! But, the reality is that lots of our children do.

Unless…

Unless we stress the importance of not taking a break from kindness and consideration. Not because we want to maximize the importance of some over all. But because that’s what respecting differences is all about. I move over to make room for you because it’s the right thing to do.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I respect you. You are a human with different perspectives than me. And I hope that you never stop writing what you think – because then we shut down dialogue, altogether. I don’t want our society to become an us versus them society. And, I’m pretty confident that you don’t either.

So, I’ll wrap up my letter to you by asking you to never stop walking full circle around these issues. And, please, never stop listening when others point out that you didn’t quite close that circle up.

Sincerely,
Missy (Another Mama)

The Recording Follow-up

Just for those of you who asked, here’s the tune to “You Gotta Think Positive”.

Be prepared to be totally and completely underwhelmed.

“You Gotta Think Positive” by Sweetgirl and her Mama

This was my feeble attempt at technology integration.

My future, in this department, is insecure.

Obviously.

 

 

 

 

 

You Gotta Think Positive

When negative thoughts rise within him, Sweetboy needs as many hands on deck as possible to redirect him towards hope. Sometimes, my earnest hugs and feeble words don’t come close to touching his darkest thoughts. Or, it might be a day where my mood might be a tad bit darker than his, making it even harder to help him move toward joy.

But God…

He provided me with Sweetman, who can pick up where I leave off. And He also saw fit to give us Sweetgirl, who carries hope in her pocket every hour of every day.

It’s within the safety net of home that we are able to be helpers to each other. We find ourselves dancing around each others’ moods with just the right steps. And we come to know which moves to use under what circumstances, the longer we have had to be in each others’ presence.

I’m grateful that Autism touches our family. It forces us to dance to rhythms we might never have chosen. It also teaches us to be patient as we learn new moves.

I’ve been giving negativity a lot of thought, lately; as in, wanting to give it the boot. And, when I read this blog post about the ill effects of negativity, by Michael Hyatt last week, holy cow! My determination to keep moving Sweetboy in positive directions got a major boost.

To that end, Sweetgirl and I made up a chant to help our Sweetboy think more positively. Our little ditty isn’t likely to win any Dove or Grammy Awards, but it surely does help to snap that child’s mind into a better place. And, while he does indeed groan whenever we fire it up, we’ve started hearing him hum it to himself as he bounces around the house, once in a while.

“You’ve got to think POSITIVE, POSITIVE, POSITIVE! And only think the BEST, the BEST, the BEST!”

(I totally stole that from God. In Philippians 4:8. Where He directs us to think about only the things that are good and worthy of praise.)

Progress – that’s all any of us can hope for as we go along. Certainly not perfection. There was only One who was perfect. And He longs for us to keep moving forward, inching our way as we crawl on our bellies, some days. But, moving forward, nonetheless.

One way to keep taking steps in the right direction is to keep our eyes on all that is good. Another way to do that is to surround ourselves with folks who look for the best in a situation. I see us, Sweetgirl, Sweetman, and me, as those people for our Sweetboy.

And, I pray God continues to surround him with those people outside of our four walls.

Ahab always told us to “plan for the worst and hope for the best”. Solid advice, that.

And I’d add, you gotta think positive!

Yes indeedy!

Do I Look Sick?

We had plans to go visit The Italian sister-in-law, and family, one weekend. So, of course, it was only fitting that Sweetboy came home with The Big Question on his lips.

“Do I look sick, mama?”

This is one of his current perseverations, along with anything to do with shorts, and an abhorrence to any potential puking. (Although, to be fair, I don’t know anyone who loves the sound of retching!)

When the child is suffering from allergies, he will ask us 246 times, between the hours of waking and sleeping, if he looks sick. He will have us check his throat with a flashlight almost as many times. The forehead thermometer gets quite the workout, too.

Good times.

If someone in his class gets sick during his school day, he walks in the door informing us about it. He gets his snack wondering if he’ll get sick. He does his homework, pausing periodically to ask, “Do I look sick”? During dinner, he’ll stop eating long enough to ask if we think him eating his dinner will make him sick. As he showers, he pokes his head out of the shower door to ask us to confirm that he doesn’t look sick. The child will lay in his bed agonizing over whether he is going to fall ill next.

His preoccupation with the possibility of becoming sick, during these times, is so intense, that it’s easy to lose patience with him. I mean, by the twelfth time he poses the question (within one hour!), there aren’t many creative ways to say, “Nope”, left.

Ultimately, though, how could I get angry about this? Because, I ask this question of My Father, all. the. time!

“Remove that thought from your mind, child,” He wisely suggests.

“Show that friend the grace I show you, daughter,” He gently reminds.

“Practice hospitality for her even though you feel exhausted today,” He encourages.

I bristle at all the prompting, sometimes.

“But, God, do I look sick?”

I don’t, of course.

Not to the mamas waiting at the bus stop with me. Not to my exercise buddies as we huff and puff together in the mornings. Not to the cashier swiping my Devil Dogs through the scanner. Not to my online Bible study team as we reason out ways to best highlight an important principle.

No, I don’t look sick.

It doesn’t mean I’m not, though.

Sometimes, I’m sick at heart over hurting another who needed mercy. Other times I find myself sick to death of bearing incessant questions with patience. Even physical sickness, itself, rears its ugly head once in a while.

“It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners.”  (Mark 2:17)

And so, as we returned from the urgent care with a positive rapid strep test the next morning, he didn’t even bother asking the question. He had his confirmation.

Just as I have mine.

Indeed.

Oh Write Thirty

Is it just me, or is time kind of stampeding on? From the moment I turned forty, I feel like I’m constantly sprinting after time and yelling, “Slow DOWN, for the love!”

As soon as I saw that clock tick over to 12:01 a.m., January first, I was struck by one thought: I haven’t been diligent about focusing on my dream this past year.

Opportunity is knocking.

I am not fully prepared.

One doesn’t simply crack open the door for Opportunity.

Amiright?

It’s in the still quiet moments when I hear The Dream Giver whispering into my ear and heart. He seems to have to whisper the same word time and again: “Focus, child.”

I’m hanging onto that word and letting it drive me for 2015.

Over and over again, no matter how well-intentioned I am, I find myself running down rabbit trails. Some, are necessary. The project that my Autism Spectrum Disordered child has looming over his head becomes too big for him and begs further breaking down before we all break down. Those kind of unforeseen circumstances are the unavoidable trails.

But, then, there are the ones I step down willingly. The research for a pending trip become fodder for vacation dreaming. And poof! A week’s worth of days are spent using my writing time for Internet Surfing time.

That’s not even the kind of ten I like to hang!

I would never have described myself as one who needs help with direction, in the past. My life as a Second Grade Teacher, before children, dictated a routine. It demanded organization. It fostered creativity within the bounds of structure.

This past decade-and-a-half, though, God has shifted my life. It has been more about living moment-by-moment, based on the ever-changing needs of the ones I care for.

Looking back on the year of preparation that I had in 2014, I realize that the rabbit holes were awfully dark. It’s hard to write or create in the dark.

And, I’m not a rabbit.

Zeroing in on a word that will drive me, in this new year, isn’t something I intended to do. After all, I was all about being intentional in 2013. And I wasn’t all that…intentional. Then, in 2014, I thought much about pursue. But, rabbit holes!

So, here I sit, staring at the number2-0-1-5 and thinking, “Isn’t it time I get serious and focus?”

I can almost hear God doing the exasperated parent sigh. Almost. Although, I’m sure He would never. even.

One of the most beautiful things to come out of taking on the Write 31 Days Challenge last October was seeing how I thrive on routine. I knew that about myself, at one point in time. But, I’d forgotten. Being forced to write some every single day burst open the creative gates. It also kept me honest. Saying I was going to write every day, and then having to show up on Day Whatever without a thing in hand, was a mammoth motivator to stick to it.

Back to the whole idea of focus, I know what I have to do. I work well with a schedule. If it’s looming, I’m moving. That’s where I can start. I’ll choose an Oh Write Thirty time during each day and set my trusty time and just do it! Oh those smart Nike people!

And then, hopefully, the next time I hear Opportunity knocking, I can fling wide that door and welcome It in!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to close out of approximately four vacation destination tabs.

Yes indeedy.