Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, I will try again tomorrow. ~ Mary Anne Radmacher
I needed this.
Lately, as you know, things have been changing in our lives. With Ryan getting bigger and older, things must change. Things we've clung to even without realizing it. There are things that, although we're typically-abled grownups, it's like pulling teeth to change for Eric and I. Some things have changed, too, and not for the better. Here's where I have a confession.
I'm having difficulties with potty training.
No, not me... I've been good since before I was two. No thanks to anyone but my Granny (Nanny's mother, my great-grandmother), who had a fabulous knack for that and a lot of things. I think she potty trained everyone from Nanny to me, and probably some neighborhood kids in there too! This difficulty is one of the things people don't always realize is on the ASD menu. Funny thing about that menu... great selection, but you don't make the choices. It's a ginormous grab-bag of traits, problems, difficulties and gifts. Not everyone even gets the same number of them.
One of our menu items is the potty mess. I must say that we don't have it NEARLY to the degree that a lot of people do. Ryan usually does very well in routine. We had been doing so very well for a long time, and just in the last few weeks we've seen a bit of regression. This is one of the things about autism that I have the hardest time dealing with. We think he stims on the feeling of it... I must emphasize "think". No idea if that's really what the deal is. He has a tendency to use this as something to exert control over when things are changing, it seems. And oh, are we ever tired of it! Did I mention that I have a nearly 3 year old and a 15 month old, too?! Maybe that's why I'm not scared of cloth diapers. I've cleaned so many diaper-used pairs of underoos and pants I'm nearing pro-level on getting smells out of stuff. Yeah, cloth diapers are totally not a problem... and they save us enough money to make sure Ryan gets to therapy and back, and we still get to eat.
With two in diapers and one prone to accidents at times, you'd think I'd be the first in line to start potty training Richie. In reality, the thought makes me tired. The cutesie training pants ads, the neat little videos and stuff... part of me wants to think it's cute and cool and try to get into it, and the other part of me wants to throw myself on the bed and cry. We have been working on this since right before we left Fairfield. That would be about three years. Three years of poopy pull-ups, underwear, pants, bribes, even pleading with Ryan to not poop on Elmo's face, conveniently located on the little booty of his underwear. Nothing doing. Oh yes, he was doing famously for as long as we stayed in routine for a long time, but I think... no, I know... Ryan knows there's something afoot. He can feel the changes if nothing else.
We really don't know why. We really don't know if it's something he chooses or if he just doesn't get it, or if there's something about it that he kinda stims on, in an odd way. It is, however, one of the biggest kicks in the gut of the whole autism thing. It's this kind of thing that makes us panic. In that one instant, that one flash of light, you see his whole life flash before you. It's in that instant that it's tempting to try to wrest control.
But the more I try to control, the more I get angry when I realize there's no hope of control. So I have to practice the heart-change of wanting to instead understand, meet Ryan where he is, and try to go from there. I have to be okay with the prospect of potty training being an ongoing thing for a long, long time.
I also have to be okay with... even find joy with... the fact that there are so many things that I have to face by myself. When I say "by myself" or "alone", I mean time with no other adults with skin on in the house. No one to say, "you go sit down, I'll take this one". No one to play with the littles... or at least keep them out of trouble... while I go through the whole "where do we put our poop, Ryan?" think for the bajillionth time. Yes, my Eric and I are here together, but there are times when he is not (although Jesus always is... and without that, oh my...).
Tonight I was listening to my husband read "Oh, The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss to the boys before bed, and these words floated over the laptop screen and into my ears,
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something you'll be quite a lot.
And when you're there, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that scare you so much you won't want to go on.
Yep, there are days that I'm scared so much I'm not sure I can go on. That something has to give. Something simply must change or improve, even if that something is me. There are moments like this, for sure. And in these moments, these days of dread and not being sure what to do next, there is always something. Something like this poetic little book, a song, or a verse that helps me just go ahead and cry. Get it out there, admit that I'm not able, without His help, to keep pedaling. Sometimes it's something cool, like Ryan at bedtime last night, wriggling his arm out of the covers of the top bunk and pulling my arm over so that he could lay his head on it, then whispering in his sweet, robotic way, "I love you mommy." Or maybe it's Richie shoving one of his stuffed animals at me, insisting that I sleep with it tonight. Other times the something comes in the form of encouragement from someone, or from my bible study time. But it is always there, just when I need it.
This morning, my bible study happened to be in Joshua, right at the time when it's time for the now-nation of Israel to cross the Jordan river on their way to Jericho. God told Joshua to tell the priests who bore the ark of the covenant, "When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan." I grew up in eastern Oklahoma, and one of my favorite memories of childhood is swimming and fishing in the rivers. I cannot imagine someone telling me to just climb in and stand still. It'll stand still with you, I promise. Oh, I can imagine them telling me that all right. I can also imagine laughing in their faces!
But they did, and God held the waters back for the whole nation of Israel to pass through.
Sometimes, being "strong and courageous" as Joshua was commanded so very many times has very little to do with action. Sometimes standing still and being obedient in being still is the best thing we can do. Clinging tight to what we know to be true, even when it may not look like even we thought it should look, and carrying on in His name and for His sake in the face of the unknown is the not so popular side of courage. Believing hard on the hope we profess in Christ is at its most powerful when the world knows they don't want to play the hand you've been dealt. When it's three o'clock in the morning and you've been up and down over and over with the sick one, or the one who can't sleep (never will I forget that many ASD kids can't... mine can and I am forever grateful), or you're heating up that same pizza, cleaning up that same mess, scrubbing out that same underwear, watching that same video, remember that although no one with skin on sees, they also cannot do what you do the way you do it. No one can. No one can be Mama but Mama.
Because on some level, they know. They know and their siblings know. They know you have seen them at their absolute worst, and they see the grace, mercy, and love, and the faithfullness that your actions show. And since they see these things, it makes it so much more powerful when they hear you whisper, every night, with a hug and a prayer...
God has big plans for you, baby. God's gonna use you, and I can't wait to watch.
Because He does, and He is. And I can't wait to watch. So I will try again tomorrow.