Well, we are now the proud owners of a $22 pink watering can. That is what it took for Oliver and I to be able to leave the nursery yesterday intact. Tuesdays mornings are our sacred Oliver-Mommy time. We always do something fun before he boards the bus at 12:30. Yesterday we went to the nursery because he wanted to buy some strawberries. We’ve been gardening gung-ho lately. Okay, not we, but me. And I wanted to rope him in so that we can spend more time outside. So, after I made him go with me all over the nursery, we settled on a few strawberry plants. We were having such a good time talking, laughing, and just plain joking around about nothing. On the way to the check out counter, the large rack of shiny, colored watering cans caught his eye. He just bolted for them. Not just the rack, but the pink one to be specific. He asked very nicely, ‘Mama, can we buy this pink watering can. Pleaaaaassssseeeee?’ I don’t want my kids to think that they can get anything and everything that they ask for. That is a bad precedent to set. I decided to steer him away to the other (less expensive) watering cans. He started to flip out. It’s really like something in his head just turned on and then Wham! Tantrum. I tried and tried to get him out of it. Judging parenting eyes were lurking. I totally held it together but then I just decided that it wasn’t worth it. I knew that if I gave in that both he and I would remember this as good memory. The take away from the morning wouldn’t be an image of myself leaving an abandoned shopping cart full of carefully selected strawberry plants in order to pick up my screaming, flailing child. I decided that the $22 to fork over for shiny pink metal watering can was worth it. And, it worked. We had a really good hour and a half after that until he got on the bus. If I didn’t give into him, that would have been an hour and a half of further escalating screaming. I would have spent the 3 hours when he was at school racking my brain how the situation could have been different and also how much I suck as a parent. We’ll consider the pink watering can an investment. Boy, does he love it!
Should have known better. Oliver was starting to get a little restless and locked himself in the office. My mom and I were trying to get Emil to calm down because Oliver slammed it smack on his face and he was angry and trying to hit his way thru the glass doors. Then Oliver found a piece of paper and what appeared to be a Mr. Sketch pen. He started to draw and looked like he was doing a pretty good job of self-soothing. About 10 minutes later I went back and saw that there was blue marker everywhere. I thought to myself, ‘Well, atleast it’s not a Sharpie!’. Then I looked down on the desk and recognized the undeniable Sharpie pen cap in the exact same color blue. Panic! It is everywhere. On the hardwood floors, desktop, chair, Oliver’s arms and shirt. I didn’t freak out but just said, ‘Oh, NO, what happened here?’ Oliver said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, Mama, it was an accident’. I said, ‘sure is’. I don’t think that he did it intentionally, but it certainly wasn’t an accident. Regardless. Now I have to try and get this out. Any ideas? If there is one thing that I’ve learned with him over the past few months is that when I have a big reaction to something, he does, too. Both in happy and sad times. So, I gathered the pen and walked away. He was feeling really remorseful and starting down a negative path until my mom took he and her dog, Libby, to the park. From there, he’s been in good spirits.
Oh, Oliver and his sayings. I love him. Today he had a very heartfelt conversation with my sister, Malia, on the phone about going to Trader Joe’s. He said that he bought ‘gluten-free’ because gluten-free made his tummy feel better and had the purple signs (the signs that they use at Trader Joe’s to signify that an item is gluten-free is a purple sign). Then he said that orange juice also protects his tummy and makes him feel better. He then told her that ‘gluten-four’ made his tummy feel bad. I gather that he has interpreted ‘gluten-free’ to be ‘gluten-three’. What a nut. I haven’t had too many conversations with him about this so a lot of this has really been about him picking up on the conversations that I have about gluten-free diets with my mom, sisters, and friends. He is incredibly literal. He makes me chuckle 😉
Yes! Hallelujah! Shoestring potatoes are gluten-free! What a joy. Trying to remain optimistic, because I am a true optimist, but honestly, life can be sad and depressing whilst also being happy and lovely. Finding a balance in this world raising these 3 boys is a challenge right now. I do know that in sad there is happy, and in happy there is sad. Ugg…I need a balance. I feel that it fluctuates between super happy and super sad in a moments notice, if even that. I don’t want to complain. I hate complainers. I want to tell them to buck up and live life. I want to tell myself that. I tell myself that. I hear myself saying that. I am doing that. And with that I feel hope and love and pure joy. The utter pain of autism in our lives and the utter joy of it is a lot to bear sometimes. I don’t want to say ‘I’m overwhelmed’, but I am. If it were just autism, maybe I would be fine. If it were just a teenager, maybe I would be fine. If it were just a feisty toddler, maybe I would be fine. But the combination of trying to anticipate the needs of all three of these beings in addition to a marriage and a home is a lot. Thank God for Glee. The happiness in my week has been the return of this show. How crazy is that! It is something that I can count on. The rest is not as reliable.
I’ve done a great deal of reflecting lately. Having my hand bandaged and being in an extended lethargic state of recovery, I’ve had the time to do so. There is so much to reflect upon. It seems that these times when you are forced to slow down are a blessing in disguise. I feel frustrated because there is so much to get done and I can’t so I just throw my hand(s) in the air. I’ve reflecting upon so much. I have done a lot of contemplating where I am in the raising of each child and how vastly different each of them are. Different kids, different needs. Now that my wrist has been set free of my cast from the surgery, I can type again. YAY!
I think about where I was a year ago. We had no diagnosis; just hunches and lots and lots of fear. Oliver had just been evaluated by the school district. I was a mess. Sadness wrapped in a thick layer of depression from feeling out of control and frightened. Oliver was tested at between 1 – 2% in social skills. That was devastating. I remember sitting in the parking lot of Burger Master on Aurora. Sobbing hysterically. Not knowing what to do. Oliver sat in the backseat drinking a milkshake, spacing out, staring out the window. That was such a low point. It was so scary. I have never been in denial of where we are at with Oliver. I think that if Oliver were my only son or my oldest child, it would be a different situation. Also the fact that my mom was so good at grasping the bull by the horns always set a great precedence for us. Even though it had been a few years between kids, so there was no one to directly compare him to, I knew that Oliver was different. He wasn’t connecting the dots and jumping to the next milestone on his own. I figured that maybe different kids just progressed differently. I still cannot watch videos of him when he was younger because I don’t know what I don’t want to see. If there is obviously something there and I didn’t see it I will feel bad. If there doesn’t appear to be anything, I will feel bad that maybe we did something to cause this. I’ll get to the point where I’m ready to watch these, but I am just not ready yet.
Sometimes I want to wake up and find that this whole autism thing has washed away. Even though sometimes it’s not the most difficult thing that our family is dealing with, it is undeniably the thing that pushes us over the edge because of the amount of all encompassing worry involved. I’m learning to live with it and recognize the beauty of everything that we are granted. Even though it seems like too much at times, I have made peace with where I am. I recognize how volatile this world is and how something that I have never even heard of can invade my life tomorrow. So, I need to be okay with today. Not only do I need to be okay with it, but I have to embrace it. I think that part of embracing something is accepting its flaws and weaknesses along with it’s beauty and strength. I accept that there are going to be worse days than I’ve seen, but I also believe whole-heartedly that the best, most glorious days are yet to come.
Another large part of acceptance is giving up control. I see parents who feel as powerless in the face of autism as I do. We are courageous. I also see parents who are absolutely courageous upfront, seemingly fearless. I bow down to you and praise you for paving part of this path before us. It is downright scary at times the effects of autism has upon on a family. I don’t feel as much fear when I admit that I don’t have control of this. I can try and control Oliver’s diet, vitamins and supplements, therapies, etc, but I have to make a separation about what I am trying to control. I cannot control autism and I cannot control Oliver. My friend, A, today told me that she was reading a book about ADHD and the whole first chapter spoke of how first and foremost you must love your child for who they are. Indeed, that is it! That is the first step in acceptance for me. Sure, I would love for autism to leave us, to free Oliver of its very intense grasp, but if not I will love him just the same. Setting aside the expectations that you have for that sweet little baby that you held so tightly when they were born and promised them that nothing would ever, ever go wrong…that takes a great deal of faith to know that it is just going to be okay.
I also reflect upon the people who have entered my life in the past year and I simply can’t believe my blessings. I have learned a great deal from the courage of people who are facing autism and life’s many other challenges. The tears we’ve shed, the laughter…my life is so full because of all of these amazing souls that have passed through my life and left a huge impression upon me. I cannot imagine my existence without them and the lessons I have learned from them. I feel a tremendous sense of community and support. I’m so grateful.
Although sometimes I don’t want to be more aware of Autism, I remain in awe of Awe-tism. How awesomely consuming it is. How much time, energy, money, and strength that it demands of me. It doesn’t ask me patiently and wait for me to say, ‘just a sec’. It shrieks at the top of it’s lungs for me to hear it and drowns absolutely everything and everyone else out. I’m still listening but sometimes I just really want to turn the volume down.
Just short of a miracle, Oliver got a haircut with no big fuss. Thanks to his buddy who is his social skills partner, and to Teacher Heather. His buddy got a haircut last weekend and on Monday they drew up a social skills story. Peter talked with him about what was scary and came to find out that it was the hair falling in his face that was most terrifying. I did some research and found that some people have used visors to prevent the hair from falling in their faces. I told him that there was a special hat for haircuts. He seem unenthused at first, but then he seemed into it. For some reason, the next day I asked him if he wanted to get a haircut at the barbershop or from Mommy. I have been through this conversation with him numerous times before only to be yelled at, ‘NO, I HATE HAIRCUTS!’ But for some reason on this day he said, I’d rather have you do it, Mommy. He asked if we had a special hat. I said, ‘Why, yes, and you get to choose which one you want to use!’ I didn’t think this through. I was still on a high from hearing the words, ‘YES’. I somehow floated to the hat drawer in Julian’s room and there were two visors in there. One was an orange Denver Broncos one. That is the one Ollie chose. He also insisted upon scissors, NO clippers. I cut his very thick, overgrown hair with a pair of $1.99 haircutting scissors with a huge smile on my face. It’s not the prettiest haircut you’ve ever seen, but it is definitely a haircut. Huge, huge progress. I really never thought that it would really happen. Yeah for progress!