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.

Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?

We have a problem in our yard. It slithers and is holding our front yard hostage. As in, every day for the past 5 days, it finds a spot to lie right in the middle of the front yard. Exactly whenever the bus lets Sweetgirl and company off.

And the first time we discovered this thing had taken up residence outside our abode, I was treated to the rare and delightful show of three screaming seven-year old girls each jumping two feet in the air. They proceeded to hop and scream for the 30 seconds it took them all to make their way to the back yard where the swing set is.

Because, surely, there are no snakes in the back yard!

And poor Sweetgirl has had nightmares about this dad gum thing every night since!

Not only is this creature terrorizing us in the daytime, it’s wreaking havoc at night, too.

I wish I were kidding.

Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes? I’ve watched my fair share of fish being gutted, bucks being skinned, and turkeys being plucked.

But snakes?

My palms are sweaty and shaky even as I type out the word!

I took to The Facebook today, to share my distress, with a picture, hoping someone would at least tell me it was a harmless kind. One neighbor jokingly informed me that this particular reptile is called a Scarus Wettus Pantsus. INDEED! My pantsus are wettus!!!

Snakes_Missindeedy

Thank you iPhone for zoom capability!

Today, in fact, I took a stroll through the front yard to the mail box. No sooner did I get halfway across than the blasted thing slithered right in front of me and stopped. As if to say, “Go around, or else!”

I went around.

Far FAr FAR around.

My nearest neighbor’s teenage daughter happened to come driving down the road at the same time as this catastrophe took place. She slowed as she came upon me hopping and screaming in my driveway.

I calmly walked over to HER yard and overstayed my welcome. I did, however, ask her to babysit for us. I’m pretty sure her answer will be no.

Here’s the thing, I come by my abhorrence of these scaly things by birth. The Nana… you have never seen someone as terrified of snakes as she is. Never. She’s been known to pass right out because one had the audacity to sneak up onscreen in the midst of some television show or movie.

So, back to my slithery misery… I braved Mr. Google and found that there are actually very few poisonous varieties of snakes up here in New England. Furthermore, I found that there are three distinct ways to determine whether a snake is a “pit viper”, AKA bad snake. (Although, are there any good snakes? I think not.)

  1. Does the thing’s head have a deep pit between the eye and the nostril? (I don’t know and I don’t intend to find out.)
  2. Is the pupil (the black part of its eye) vertically elliptical? (Again, I don’t know and I have no desire to get anywhere near that close. Also? If you can say vertically elliptical 5 times fast, you win the Internet!)
  3. (And this might be my favorite…) Do the scales on the underside of the tail go all the way across? (I can’t even. WHY WOULD I BE LOOKING UNDER THE TAIL? Why?)

Here’s another fun fact: If you are on a “snake watch” for an hour and a half to track its movements, that 2 minutes you have to visit tinkle town will be precisely when it chooses to slip away.

And then, YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE IT IS!!!!!!

So, in conclusion, I detest snakes.

 

I’m filing this one under Lessons. I’ve learned that I’d rather play “wettus pantsus” than “where’d the snake go?”

And, I might never leave my house again.

Bring Devil Dogs.

*Update since this post started! Another kind facebook friend said we should definitely find a way to “relocate” it (Can that be code for kill it, please?) or else it will raise a family in our yard.

And then, I died.*

For Time to Stand Still

Forget time-travel…I want to stall it!

Sweetgirl has developed quite a sense of humor. And lately, she beats me to every punch line. I have a funny come back for Sweetboy and she spouts it off before I get out the first syllable. We watch a funny scene in a movie and she’s chortling before I get the first snort out.

And then, she knows things that are beyond me. This kid, she has a sense of time and space that I do not even aspire to. This simply must come from Sweetman. I assure you, these skills of modulating an area, sequencing tasks in order of efficiency, enjoying math… alllllll Sweetman. Thank you God for letting me be yoked to my Sweetman!

Yet, she is still small enough to sit in my lap and let me cup her cheeks in my hands and murmur how much we adore her. She fits. Right there in my lap. Secure. Cherished. Mine.

I am clinging to these hours, days, weeks-months-years. As graduation looms around me for so many other parents, I want to linger in these fleeting moments.

Can we parents come together and agree that it would be a fantastic idea to create a sort of “time-stopping machine”?

Can we?

Sweetkids

Because, imagining the ability to soak in a moment of the sun glinting off of her pale yellow hair as she dances amongst the wildflowers swells my heart. I want to press pause as I watch her tiptoe with gentle and cautious optimism toward the bird nervously perched five feet away.

And Sweetboy… oh child! How I love that my heart is beginning to beat more in tandem with his. The thumping is erratic at times, but as he discovers more of his gifts and talents and loves, I see that we are not that different, he and I. We both laugh hysterically over bathroom humor. His laugh… I could listen to that beautiful sound play over and over and over.

What a gentle way he has with others! I like to eavesdrop on his conversations sometimes. I wish I could halt the flow of them and take notes on how he waits attentively, taking feelings into account in ways that others his age often don’t. He is expert at feeling empathy in situations others would flat-out miss.

And the child has caught my love of reading. I don’t care that it’s Big Nate that makes him read voraciously. Seeing his love for what the written word can do for a person, grow is a joy. I sneak in sometimes, long after “bedtime”, and just stand watching his eyes dance across the pages.

I want… no, I need time to stand still for all of these precious moments that I know are fading from our daily interactions.

Indeed.

We danced in the living room, the other day. Homework was done, we were all feeling worn down from the day, and there was an energy zinging amongst us that desperately needed release. As I pressed play, my children, these precious people who God knit inside of me and allowed me to birth out into the world, they danced around me in circles of love.

I just want it to go on forever.

But it can’t.

So, for now, I just need time to stand still.

Cuteness, Times Seven

I’m convinced that Sweetgirl is able to sense my reluctance to allow her to grow up.

You see, she turned seven last week.

Seven_Pink_Balloons_Missindeedy

As we celebrated the risen King, Jesus, we also celebrated another year with a girl whose spirit is so big and beautifully loud, that all who meet her are charmed.

This child is able to dance, sing, bounce, and breathe with joyful abandon. Sometimes, I think to myself, “I want to be like her when I grow up!”

Her confidence in her abilities sometimes outshines her actual abilities – and you know what? That’s exactly the way I hope it always is for her.

I want her to aim for the stars, keeping her eyes fixed on The One who already thinks she’s made it.

She catches me sighing in resignation as she’s making a scrapbook page instead of coloring Doc McStuffins. To that, she says, “Mama, I have to keep growing up. That’s my job, you know.”

Indeed, child. Indeed.

If I were a letter writer, this is what I’d tell her.

Dear Sweetgirl,

I love you.

I love your spirit of adventure. Please, never stop seeking wonder.

I adore your smile. Please remember to flash it toward any and all.

Your tender-hearted ways make me so proud. Please keep your heart soft towards this world.

I love your belief in a God you cannot see, but to Whom you often talk. Please, never stop talking to God.

I love, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, your adoration for the color pink. Please, know that it was you who turned your mama into a pink lover, too.

And most of all, I love seeing how you change each year. You keep trying new things and loving new things and understanding new things and I love every minute of it!

I’m so glad that God gave us you!

Happy Seven, child of mine!

Love,

Mama

It’s Okay, Try Again

I’d just had a rotten argument with my husband. One of those oh-so-un-Christ-like moments during our discussion, I chose to assume the worst. It went downhill from there.

As I huffed upstairs to cry on my bed, I realized that once again, I had led with my feelings and not my mind.

Or, the truth.

This always, always gets me into trouble.

How about you?

But, I go back to a tender and beautiful and true comment that The Gammy made to me, recently. We were talking about how our mouths can get us into so very much trouble, how human we really are. She wisely pointed out that we are loved by a God that, when we come to him with tear-stained faces, says, “It’s okay. Try again.”

And He says it with the gentleness of a soft breeze.

He means it with Ultimate Authority.

He is the God of grace, after all.

I clung to that as I sat on the bed and cried my little heart out. And, we are resting in that regarding the uncertainty of fractured relationships.

We long for healing. For Love to win out over the hurt. For understanding and grace and joy to creep back in.

We’ll wait as long as it takes.

Because, doesn’t He?

I’m Not Catholic, But…

Too often, this past year, I’ve been walking around looking only to the interests of those who are mostly like me. Far from keeping my heart tender, it’s starting to harden it toward those who don’t experience life the way my family and I do.

I don’t want my children to grow up thinking that treating others the way they want to be treated means anything other than treating everyone the way they’d like to be treated. It’s The Golden Rule, true. But, it’s one that I want to follow better in spirit and letter, this year.

I’m not Catholic, but I’ve always been inspired by the many stories centered around Mother Teresa‘s servant heart. She went into some of the harshest, grittiest, most detestable places and poured out kindness.

We can’t all head out to the far-reaches of this globe. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think every person should, either. In fact, anyone of us can look within our own city or town and find some “others” who need to be treated the way so many of us almost always are.

With dignity.

And respect.

And kindness.

Much the way I imagine Jesus to have tenderly looked on the woman who wiped His feet with her tears.

I want Him to be able to look upon me, and mine, that way.

As we embark upon a new year, I’m envisioning new family goals. This is one of them, for us. I want us to think more “neighborly” and less individually. Thinking through ways we can practice this in our community, I’ve come up with a few ideas. I’m sharing three of those, here, in the hopes that it will spark ideas of your own.

And as far as resolutions go, I think this is one that honors both the spirit and the letter of that golden rule so many of us claim to hold dear.

3 Ways A Family Can Treat Others the Way They Want to Be Treated

1. Draw pictures. Then, visit a local nursing home and share them with the residents. Share why we drew them. Just share our stories in written or drawn form. Give them encouragement to tell theirs. I’ll never forget the day I took a short story I had written with me to the nursing home I frequented in college. What started as a project for a class turned into a desire to continue fostering relationships with these frail yet fully alive elderly friends. Two of these residents had minds that were so sharp, even at 82 and 90. I brought the short story to finish it while I waited in the “parlor” for my visit with Margie. But, she snuck up on me in her wheelchair and asked what I was doing. After I told her, she demanded I read it. And then, she shared a completely unexpected story of her own. My life was changed that day. Her daughter, living in another country, wrote to me after her passing. She said that Margie lived for my visits. Just to feel connected to the world outside of that Nursing Home. I’ll never forget that. My children need to know that sometimes, the ones who need the most kindness are the ones you’d never expect.

2. Serve at a local Food Pantry or Shelter Kitchen. This is something I haven’t done in an embarrassingly long time. My children only know what it is to be served. Not to serve others. I’m being very honest. I don’t like writing that or reading that, but, it serves as a much-needed kick in the shorts to expose them to more postures of service. To help them take that chin down a notch or three and bend low to lift the chin of another. The blessing is one big boomerang of hope and goodness.

3. Ask at least one person in our house how they could be helpful to them, each day.
This is where we’ll be starting. “How can I help you?” Those are five powerful words, and I want each one of us to make them such a natural part of our vocabulary that they tumble out without prompting. I’ve made a Servant_Heart_Chart and included the picture below. It’s not fancy, but it does the job. #practicalforthewin

Servant_Heart_Chart_Missindeedy

My hope is that these children, of mine, will go about their days, weeks, and years with a heart bent on considering how they can treat others better than they deserve. This, to me, is the most difficult challenge a human undertakes.

Well, this human, anyway.

It’s why I require so much grace for my days.

But it is given. Oh, how it is! And I intend to make pouring it out a priority – for myself, and for my family.

Yes indeedy.

Do you have an idea for how to teach children to treat others with kindness?  Or, do you know of a great book with ideas for family service or servanthood? Please, share!