I almost didn't get out of bed this morning. Really. But this time, it was because I had an indescribably beautiful baby girl snuggled up to me in her pink doggie pj's. As the morning light seeped in through the window sheers and graced her round, porcelain face and made her golden brown hair shine, I watched her rest completely still except for the gentle rise and fall with each breath and the nod of her pink binky every now and then. What an amazing blessing... a gift... our children are. Can there be a more fabulous sound than the slaps of tiny bare feet on the kitchen floor? How awe-inspiring and humbling to think that we are chosen to give them a home; to make sure they feel loved and learn to feel and share the love of Christ! Then I thought about the stark contrast between our two younger and our oldest.
When Ryan was a baby, he was the only one, and we would sleep all snuggled to each other after Daddy left for school. The older I get, the more I cherish the things that were normal baby things he did. Back in the days when we just loved being parents and couldn't wait to see all he'd do! I had decided our kids would learn to read before they went to pre-k and would learn to read music at the same time. They'd start piano at an early age, and would basically walk into the school the first day of pre-k with everyone telling them how amazing they were... and of course, everyone would talk about how smart and well-adjusted the Senzig kids were! Oh, and I was going to be the Martha Stewart of room moms. Look out. Equipped with more Tupperware than is ever neccessary, I was gonna rock their little Elmo socks off with my baking skills. Yep, I'd been waiting my whole life for this! Ever since I was a little girl "raising" my Cabbage Patch Kid (Annabelle, and yes she DOES live in Mae's room now) I couldn't wait. It's not a popular thing to say in this day and age, but I wanted to be Betty Crocker, Donna Reed, and June Cleaver all rolled into one and stuck in jeans and a t-shirt.
But what I didn't know was that the t-shirt would have a giant puzzle piece on it for Autism Awareness. All that effort I was going to pour into having our children be exceptionally gifted and super-overachieverly prepared was going to go into just getting Ryan to do the basics. I didn't know I was going to beg him at nearly six years old to just please go to the bathroom without screaming and crying. Just walk, please. I expected to train him to sit in church at an early age just like I did my sister Bree, and be able to keep him quiet with the evil eye from the choir loft just like Bree. And yes, that really did work... she was awesome! Instead, I'm doing good to keep him semi-quiet and confined to the pew-area we're occupying. I also had no idea that the job I had done professionally would turn out to be exponentially easier for me than figuring out how to be an autistic child's mother. Yes, folks... I am far more comfortable with my ability to handle 150 sixth graders with musical instruments than I am in my ability to take my son to the grocery store. There, I said it. It's inexplicably difficult to admit it. I LOVE my son, don't get me wrong. It's just that walking through the grocery store with a nearly six year old slapping his ears, beating his chest, and now hitting me (that's new, by the way) and screaming like some kind of tribal man off to war hits this people-pleaser where it hurts.
The contrast is amazing. Richie is now beginning to help his brother. He leads Ryan back into the house when it's time to come in from the backyard, pleading in his sweet Richie voice, "Come inna howse, Yyan!" He reminds Ryan of the rules, especially with the piano. "Fingahs onwey, no feets, Yyan," Richie reminds as he hears (even from the other room) Ryan holding the sustain pedal as he experiments with intervals. Richie's sweet heart is such an encouragement to me. Ryan is his hero. Richie has no precluded ideas about behavior or culture. He just loves his big brother. Richie even used to try to stim, or handflap, like Ryan. So precious, that unadultered love and trust. We are getting to the point where, when Richie copies some of Ryan's autistic behaviors, we have to explain that brother does that because he doesn't know better, but Richie does. This is true, and that's just one of the parts that is hard to swallow.
Other than the diagnosis itself, and really more than that, is the death to my preconceived ideas about all of life. How my house would be kept, how I'd teach my children everything, how we keep our marriage healthy all has to be relearned in a way that fits us. Yes, that sounds familiar to most couples, I bet. The hardest part for me is realizing that I do have to draw lines, and more often than I wanted, the lines will be drawn in a way that the answer is "no, I can't do that."
Now, yes, I physically CAN walk out this door every day and do whatever. I can force my will and do whatever I think is right... to a point. I could do a lot of things, but the hard part is listening and hearing the difference in "good" and "best". Last week I got a lesson in that. I had been thinking after a few weeks of these sweet neighbor boys watching Richie for me while I take Ryan to therapy with Mae in tow that I really could do this on my own. They were out on vacation for a while, and I found myself carting all three kids by myself to Baylor. Everyone got out of the van just fine; we made it into the building just fine. Richie and Mae let me sit and read books to them the whole time, and we spoke with Miss Stacy, then left. On the way out, I learned my lesson. See, there are all these emergency call boxes all over college campuses. They're equipped with these big, round, bright red, irresistibly pushable buttons- just at Ryan-eye-level. Usually, I can keep a hand on Ryan and a hand on the stroller. This time, Ryan led Richie away and as I was getting Richie, he bolted straight for that button and before I knew it, that blue light on the top was flashing and I was telling (while half-running away and trying to not say any unsavory words) the campus cop who calls out loud so loud that half of McClennan county can hear that yes, all is well. As I walked away, once the embarrassment subsided and everyone was safely buckled into the van, it hit me how much I do need those boys, and what a God-send they truly are.
We are at a crossroads (thanks, Kay Arthur) in our lives right now... and really, several times a day. We can whine, be sad, be angry and resentful and let that grow into bitterness, or we can ask the question God asked Jonah.
"Do you do well to be angry?"
Well, do you? How's that workin' for ya? For me, not so good. I'm not denying that there is a grieving process for every hard thing that happens in life. But I am saying that at some point, we have to realize that the time we're spending bemoaning our trials is time SPENT. Time we could have been stroking those golden-brown curls. Time spent letting Richie kiss-hug-kiss-hug all over my face till he giggles. Time spent laughing when Ryan passes the emergency box and says "you LOVE to push buttons" every time since the red button incident. Yes, I get angry. At least once a day I look at God and say, "Are You SERIOUS?!" Yep, I have plenty of fodder for those, as I'm sure you do. Just last weekend we spent part of a gift to give back and participate in the Waco Walk for Autism. After walking one lap around the Fountain Mall, we found Ryan's beloved Miss Stacy, who had her iphone out, and yep, that was it for Ryan. Twenty minutes to get the phone away from him plus forty-five in a meltdown equals the whole of our walk experience. Ah, well. Just today, we had to have a new tire on the van. No one in town had one, so I bit the bullet and took Ryan with me to the Goodyear store in Waco. Yep, meltdown city. First I had to keep him from running out of the store and into traffic. Then spent the rest of the time calming him down, because man, mama... you're mean not letting your child play in traffic.
Just like anyone else, after all that, I was so tired and really wanted to crawl under a rock, even just to get some sleep. But instead, I tried to remember in each instance... there is always a reason. I may never know the reason or reasons behind anything that happens, but I trust that the same God who loves me enough to send His only precious Son to die a horrendous (at best) death so that I could experience His love and peace has nothing but my best interest at heart. The same God who knew me before the foundations of the earth has a plan for my sweet children!!!
So I am thankful not for autism, not for frustration and anger, not for tears and emarrassing situations, but for the precious, innocent smiles and snuggles I share with the special children with whom God has gifted me. I am the most thankful for the Lord who died so that the grace and mercy and love and peace of God can flow through me, that I may glorify Him in every meltdown and every scream and hit, as well as every hug, giggle, and victory! I am thankful for the discernment and wisdom that the Holy spirit and Word of God give me! Without the death, burial and resurrection of Christ I would not be able to rise in the morning.
Instead, I'm unable to rise because I don't want the sweet moment to end.
CHRIST HAS DIED!
CHRIST HAS RISEN!
CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN!