Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stop... Take a Deep Breath...

There's so much randomness that goes on here, even with the routine.  Right before I started this post, Richie came to the kitchen table and held up his little bare foot.  "My foot hurts."  Big pouty face.  Sweet pouty blue eyes.  "Where does your foot hurt, sweetie?" He looks at me like I obviously shouldn't need to have that explained, and says "Onna floor."

Alrighty then!  I smiled, kissed his foot, and he was on his way. 

Back to typing... thinking...

Realize I heard a toilet flush. At the same time, realize I sent Ryan to the bathroom because I caught him trying to hide and uh... "use" his pants.  CRUD!  I forgot.  So I hop up and run to the bathroom, where I find my son experiencing the wonders of sticking the end of the toilet paper, still attached to the roll, in the toilet and flushing.  No idea how much WAS on the roll, but now there's hardly any.  Oh dear.

So I start to freak out, and call my Mom... the usual putter-downer of my freakouts.  Hearing her laugh calms me down, and yes, the toilet isn't overflowing.  Whew. 

Back to work.  Sorta.  Soon Mae toddles up clutching her bedraggled pink bear, spouting "shish?" through her binky.  "Yes, sweet pea, you can have some goldfish." 

Richie again... "Wanna go downna swiiide?" He loves to use me as a slide.  Housekeeper, cook, playgym... that's me.

Start typing again, and I hear a thud, then a scream.  "Richie, what happened?" After some prodding, I learn that Mae was jumping on the couch.  Then she fell.  No, I hadn't been gone for more than a minute or two! 

This is what happens when I start to do anything I start to do, and even if you haven't any special needs kids, I'm sure you can relate!  Kiss a boo boo here, hunt down a lost lovey there.  Hug a teddy bear or dolly here, put down a revolt there.  Put out a fire here, clean up accidents there.  Don't even get me started on the autism end of things... Ryan has had a meltdown stemming from my refusal to out a sweater on him three days in a row.  It's only 107 outside.  And no, it's not cool in the house.  It's cool enough to be healthy, but not to need a sweater! In the afternoons, it's time to wrestle... well, drag his brother all over the house by the arm, kick him off the couch, etc.  It gets interesting.

Now I know that all these things are important... after all, it's the daily day-to-day where kids learn who they are, who we are, what to believe in.  The day-to-day is where the rubber meets the road, folks.  The hard part is in the staying afloat through all the crazy.  The mundane.  Literally, every morning from 7:00 to about 11:00 is spent on others' toileting habits for me!  We're almost through potty training Ryan, though there are still accidents at times.  Richie's just starting potty training, and Maelynn is still full-time cloth diapered.  To tell the truth, the completion of the tasks of changing, wiping, flushing, coercing, rewarding, scrubbing potty accidents from the carpet, even picking up poopy pebbles from the carpet isn't a problem.  It's easy to do those things joyfully, because I always wanted kids.  SO very grateful for their presence in my life.  The thing that makes me frustrated? 

What I don't get done. 

I love to make bows.  Haven't made a bow in forever.  I have patient friends, thank goodness.  I have project after project looming on the horizon.  Mae's room was painted, so was the bathroom when Eric was still home and able to work from here.  I cinched up my big girl panties and painted the walls of the kitchen last week with the kids here under foot.  I'm so glad!  It's this beautiful, cool, clean, soft blue, and I'm hoping it will help calm all of us... but I digress.  There are books I want to read, have started to read, and haven't finished.   I can barely keep up with dishes and laundry and cooking, much less everything else.  The stuff I feel the worst about is the keeping up with what the kids need.  I want Richie and Maelynn to be as educated as the next kid when they do start school.  I want to be sure Ryan has the tools he needs to succeed... and that's such an amazingly loaded-down statement there's not a way to describe it. 

Sometimes chasing after all these things at once catches up to me.  There are times when I cannot feel hope.  I just can't feel it.  Nothing is inspiring.  Everything is too hard.  Being screamed at so much, peppered with requests for this that and the other, protecting the littles from their brother's insistance that they're toys...  and there are the changes looming on the horizon, and the ones we've already been slapped with... nobody tells you that there will be a time when, all of a sudden, he's a "big boy".  All of a sudden, all the people who thought, or acted like they thought, you were just an overprotective, diagnosis-as-an-excuse-for-behavior type of parent begin to see that you weren't kidding.  This autism thing becomes real in an instant.  No, a gut-wrenching, heart-dropping series of realizations.  Several slaps.  Hits to the gut.  Many of them below the belt, underhanded... dirty.

The funny thing is, though the numbers are growing, with 1 in 110 kids diagnosed with and ASD, so few people want to help you deal with it.  You become a member of the "it's just too hard to leave the house and no one understands" club.  You are handed a house on "Autism Street", and whether you like it or not, you get to deal with it all.  Your online world of people who get it grows.  Face to face relationships with people who really know you, who trust that you're doing your dead-level best to keep the ship afloat, have wealth far greater than diamonds.  They become like oxygen. Somewhere in the middle of neverending potty training messes, toys, meltdowns, the big boy who's become like a venus flytrap, snagging his brother and yanking him around every time he gets the chance, and the usual kid drama over toys... the little things become huge.  One little thing that someone says on the outside magnifies itself in your stress-roasted heart.  So much energy is spent staying calm, being his (their) rock... their lighthouse... their outlet to learn to stay calm and deal with things... that it's like the old cartoons where Popeye or Bluto is holding up this ginormous barbell, only to have a feather float on it, sending him crashing through the floor. 

I go through the floor about once an afternoon on an average day. 

There are so many times I look up when something goofy happens and ask "REALLY?!?!?!"  When I'm not calm enough to ask "to what end".  Usually this comes as something happens like finding a yellowjacket in the house.  The last time that happened, I cried.  I actually yelled to God, "Really?  Do I really need this right now?!"  You just take and take and take the stress, working hard to stay calm, reasonable, rational, until something happens and something has to give. 

What gives, you ask? 

You do.  More and more.  You learn what it means to die to yourself and your own desires and even dreams, sometimes several times a day. You learn that this is the greatest gift one can give.  You learn that you can do this and still revisit that old person sometimes... just within reason.  You learn what you can take, and that you can take more than that.  The tears roll, you spill your guts to the nearest person to you or just flat to heaven or both, then jump back in with both feet.  You find a way to relax just a little... even for five minutes.  The online support group I've found and continue to find is such a blessing.  Somewhere between that, the comfort that I take in God's sovreignty, and curling up in my husband's arms is where I survive. One of the days last week, as I scanned my Twitter timeline, I ran across a tweet saying simply to stop, take a deep breath, smile.  And I did. 

The crisis that underscores this whole mess is that I have three beautiful kids.  Those three beautiful, amazing creatures are growing and changing.  They will not be the same forever.  There may come a day when this house doesn't ring with the tinkling bell-like giggles of a little girl being tickled.  There will be a day when I wish my sweet girl would stick her bear in my face for kisses.  When I wish I could hear Richie's "I wove you Mommy!" given over and over and over.  When I wish he'd ask "Mommy pick up a Richie?" with his arms outstreched, eyes wide and innocent.  When I wish that Ryan would still fit in my lap... oh wait... we're almost there.  I'm honestly a little disappointed in myself.  There was a time when I sat in the emergency room at St. Paul's in Dallas, wishing I could back up and do something differently. Anything differently.  I remember wishing I could do something that would make the child within alive again.  They had to be wrong.  They had to be.  But at the rate I was losing blood, I knew they were right.  As I watched ceiling tiles go by as they ran my bed down the hall to an emergency procedure, I remember begging God to give me another chance at this.  And please, please don't let me remember anything.  And please God, just let me live to see my Ryan again. 

I awoke to the reality that I wasn't going to have another baby in June.  But I also awoke to Eric, his sister and her husband.  I went home in those wee hours the day after Christmas to my husband's dear parents.  I woke up with what felt like a large hole in my chest. My body kept moving, my heart kept beating, but I wasn't there. 

Somewhere in between that hurt and autism's hurt is a reminder... or a few reminders.  For one, every pain has to be felt and acknowledged as real.  No, your pain is no less just because someone else's experience is "worse" or "more complicated".  Don't compare.  It just causes more hurt. Be there for each other, listen.  No judging.  None of us are qualified for that.  Both the world of autism and the world of miscarriages carry with them stigmas, lack of wanting to acknowledge that anything is wrong- sometimes because it's just too hard, I guess.  There's an underground, grass-roots type society with both... and they're both starting to speak out.  More and more of the ones who made it or are making it through the pain are reaching out to others on cyberspace, in person, in support groups, on chatboards... and I pray that this will only get stronger.  Life is too short to live in pain in secret.  It's also too short to let others do the same.

So reach out today.  Start your own blog.  Stretch out your own arm... your own neck... and take a risk.  You might make someone upset or uncomfortable... but you also might make someone's day, make a new friend, or even save a life. 

And that crisis of having three beautiful kids? 

The crisis is that I might be so busy with the stress that I miss their smiles, giggles, voices... that I might not feel their sweet, soft, pudgy little hands touching mine.  God has given them to me for a short time.

So stop.  Take a deep breath.  Peel your shoulders from your ears.  Smile. 

I'm gonna do that right now... because it would be a tragedy to miss Moments Like This. 

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