Old School Background

Monday, September 9, 2013

I remember longing to be a parent and imagining rocking my baby peacefully, singing lullabies. I envisioned myself baking cookies with them, making arts and crafts, kissing away boo boos and tucking in angelic children at night. I could see in my dream that one day they would grow up and have a perfect family just like mine. Occasionally there was even an image of the rare sleepless night of rocking and cuddling a sick child.  

I've had all of those experiences. Well except the growing up and having a family part, I am NOT ready for that yet! I've also had so many more that I never would have imagined I would. So many great experiences. Hearing my children say "I love you," kisses blown through windows and across fences, mastering math facts, sounding out a word for the first time, celebrating school achievements, watching them take their first step, shoot their first goal, throw their first ball, speak their first sentence and then the second and third and one thousandth. I've had the joy of taking a walk with nowhere to be and seeing the world through their eyes, reliving some of my favorite childhood experiences. I've searched the Christmas tree lot for that perfect tree and then enjoyed steaming hot cider. I've watched Easter Egg Hunts where one child is elated with finding just one egg. Celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, anything and everything. Being a parent is wonderful. To love someone solely because they are and to revel in all the delightful things they do. 

That love is also why being a parent is so terribly tough. I never knew how much more I was signing up for. The tears I've wiped might number in the millions, I've cleaned up gallons upon gallons of vomit, wiped more bottoms than I care to count. I've hugged my children too many times as they've poured out a broken heart to me and known as I cried with them that I can't fix this. I cannot take the pain away. I've kissed my baby good-bye in the operating room and I've left my hysterical son on a kindergarten playground when his schedule was altered and he could hardly cope with that huge change. I've restrained my sensory defensive child just to trim their fingernails until we learned how to soothe him before and after. I've sat in IEP meetings where every one of my child's deficits is highlighted and gone over. I wouldn't change any of this because strangely it is all these negative moments that make me love my children all the more fiercely and why my heart aches so much tonight.

For several days Elijah has told me his stomach hurts. Since he is otherwise acting pretty normal I haven't thought much about it but tonight he kept coming down for two hours after bedtime because his stomach hurt so I tried a different tactic and asked him to tell me about school. I knew transitions are hard for him and he was a little slow with adjusting to a new classroom and grade. I wasn't prepared for what I got. His little body just melted into mine as he told me about how confusing it was and how he wants to be in his classroom more. (He is pulled out for almost half the day). He knows the other kids are doing stuff while he goes to speech, occupational therapy and the resource specialist and he is worried about missing out on fun things and falling further behind. He then goes on to tell me he is really scared he can't do second grade math. "First grade got so hard at the end and I know second grade is going to be harder. I want to be smart but I don't know if I can do it." He goes on to say how the class goes so fast and he is just so confused about what he should be doing. At this point tears are streaming down both of our faces. I hugged him and rubbed his back and told him how much I loved him and how smart I believe he is. I promised to talk to his teachers and see if we can work it out that he misses less or perhaps differently. Even still when he went back to bed I just felt sad.  

I wish I had said so much more. I wish I had said something like this.

You are smart Elijah, so incredibly smart. I wish I could make learning easier for you. I wish I could make autism (feels like such a nasty word tonight), learning disabilities, visual processing challenges, language delays and sensory processing disorder all disappear. Your brain works differently than mine but it doesn't make you any less smart. Most boats don't fly and most airplanes won't sail across the ocean but both can get you to Hawaii they just have to do it differently and it's likely going to take the boat a little longer but they both can get there just differently.  Those riding on the boat might have more fun and see a whole lot more along the way. Being different is okay. I wish you could see how incredibly intelligent you are. I know IQs mean nothing you your young mind but yours is up there buddy and that's pretty impressive. You remember things like no one else can. You have amazing problem solving skills and you think outside the box. You ask good questions and you desire knowledge. I am so afraid sometimes in our effort to teach you to read and write that we are going to lose some of that. You are amazing because even though school is hard, hard work you come back every day. Even though it is hard to write the letters and you cannot always remember which way they go, you still made me a birthday card. I love that when you are happy and excited your whole body gets happy and excited too as if you can't wait to tell the whole world about what you've just discovered. You know everything there is to know about Legos, Avengers and Justice League and what fits into which category. I don't know half of what you know in that regards. You never forget a fact about animals, the earth or space. You've probably never been taught the scientific method but I've seen you use it. You love to discover what works and what doesn't. The why and how of things. You are one of the most amazing kids I have ever known. Most importantly you were created by a God who loved you before you were ever born and He still loves you, even more than I love you and that's a heck of lot. At least to the moon and back a dozen times. You are loved! You are special! And you are just right just the way you are!

Sadly I didn't say that though I did mumble some encouraging things but thankfully I have tomorrow.  And tomorrow I shall try to communicate all of this to him and go to school and try and make things better for him.  If there's one thing you've got Elijah, you've got a mama that has your back and I will always try to get what is best for you.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Almost A Mom's Worse Nightmare

Today started like typical summer days in my house.  When I got up at 6:30 there was already a child logged onto Lego.com on the computer.  We all slowly got out of bed and shuffled around wrapped in blankets to ward off the early morning chill.  Outside was wet and foggy but like most August days it promised to be warm and sunny later on.  At 8:20 we rushed around in a panic realizing we had to be leave for swim lessons in 20 minutes.  We were out the door in time and at the Coast Guard pool 6 minutes before Elijah and Mary had to be in it only to realize that we had the skirt for Mary's swim suit but lacked the rest.  Thankfully Naomi isn't too much bigger than Mary and their lessons are at different times so we dressed Mary in Naomi's suit and they were off to the pool.

I sat and watched their lessons and marveled at how well they were doing and how far they have come.  Both Mary and Elijah wanted nothing to do with swim lessons at the beginning of summer.  Mary didn't want to be told what to do and Elijah didn't want any part of his head to get wet.  Here I sat watching Mary swim a few feet at a time and Elijah gracefully float on his back and then do six bobs in a row without a whimper, a whine or a tear.  I thought to myself, watching him in the pool where he is trying everything that is asked of him and listening to the instructor you would never know he has autism.

Afterwards Naomi and Bethany had their lessons and then everyone changed into warm dry clothes we headed for home with the fog slowly lifting.  There is some bickering about the correct way of singing "Under the Sea."  We stop at city hall and pay our water bill and then a few minutes later pull up in front of the house.  I help Mary out of the car, remind everyone else to get their suits and then go unlock the house while everyone else climbs out of the car.  We head inside and everyone runs off while I do some laundry and prepare lunch.

Thirty minutes later I am walking from the laundry room to the kitchen right past the front door when I notice movement in the car.  I think it must be a shadow from the tree but stop and look again.  Someone is in the car!  I run out the door the ten feet to the car and Elijah is in the car crying.  I let him out as ask, "Have you been in the car since we got home?"  He replies, "(Unnamed Sibling) slammed the door in my face and I've been trying to get out."  My heart is in my throat and I am trying not to cry as I hug him and pull his hot, sweaty body from the car.  It is only in the 60s but it is much hotter in the car.  I am extremely grateful that the car is parked in the shade.  This could have been so much worse, so very much worse.  In my head I am berating myself for not checking that everyone was out of the car.  How did I not notice?  What kind of parent lets this happen?  I thought he had done what he always does when we get home and ran upstairs to his room.  I had let myself be lulled by his adherence to routine and even though I didn't see it I assumed the routine was followed.  I thought he knew how to exit the car.  I can't help but think about what if I had been a few minutes later.  While holding tight to Elijah and giving him a nice cold drink of water I did what most scared, upset parents would do and I yelled at the sibling who slammed the door in his face.  I even told them "Elijah could have died just because your were mad at him."  Then I berated myself over and over again in my head while the child cried on time out.

A little later when I had myself together a bit better I asked the child's forgiveness for screaming at them and explained in a much calmer way why it is so terribly awful and dangerous to slam the car door in someone's face, especially someone who cannot easily open it.  This afternoon we will all go out to the car and we will not come in until all my children can unlock and open the doors completely on their own.

Tonight will be so much like any other night.  The kids will take baths, we will read stories and then we will say our prayers and tuck them into bed but tonight I will be so incredibly grateful for this normalness because we came too close to it being very, very different.