I have a confession to make.
I absolutely adore my kids. They're awesome. Because I think they're awesome, I want to make them feel special, and make sure they have every shot at being happy, well-adjusted, and content. Seems like 90 percent of the time I spend making sure they understand the rules of the game. You know, the big one. The one we all play with spoken and unspoken rules. The one where the only thing you can control is yourself, and there's just not always that much one can do about oneself at times.
But having been on this rotating globe for a bit over 33 years, which is or isn't very long depending on who you talk to, I can tell you that I stink at the rules and the unspoken rules. Especially the unspoken ones. I like face-value, honest communication in love. Believe it or not, this doesn't always win friends and influence people. I really don't care who you know or what kind of car/phone/clothes you have. I care who you are. Over the course of the first 27 years of my life I absorbed enough emotional abuse to make me completely uninterested in anything but honest, forthcoming, and true. Don't get me wrong... I'm no angel. I make more than my fair share of mistakes. But the core idea remains the same. It's an attitude; a heart condition. I want to do my best to live the way Christ would live, and give others the benefit of the doubt that they're doing their best to do the same. My biggest problem there is having the gastrointestinal fortitude to say things like, "no, I don't agree. Yes, that hurts my heart. Please stop saying that." I'm not good at calling people on things, especially when I've seen how they've hurt others with words and/or actions. Drawing boundaries... lines in the sand, if you will... is something I have to work hard at.
The shortest way to say it? I make a great doormat.
Not with my kids... not with my husband. People I know I can trust to have my best interest at heart are different. Take my husband. I can tell him I have a problem with something he said, calmly and respectfully, and the biggest thing I worry about is seeing the hurt look on his face as he apologizes. We talk through those differences, sometimes agreeing to disagree. But when someone else disagrees or says something that I could contest, my brain often turns to mush. Depending on the situation, of course. I'm also one of those people who doesn't want to bother anyone. Not one to ask for help. And there is no "man's work". I was raised by a single mother. We put furniture together, we moved, we shopped, we fixed things, we painted, we lived... all with just a 30-something, gorgeous woman and a little girl. How does this translate to doormat? There's a whole other story there... one usually has two parents. I had a great mother. The rest is a whole other series of posts.
That said, read the term "warrior mothers" and have the hardest time applying that to me. I think of "warrior mothers" as the ones who speak up on behalf of all of us in the trenches with our kids. Those who are smooth enough to keep the sword moving with one hand and keep her own house going with the other. The ones who are fighting this law and have raised money with that fundraiser, all while fighting their own battles with ASD in their own families. The way I fight autism is more the way Hiccup in "How to Train Your Dragon" taught the villagers about dragons, using his accidental friendship with Toothless, the most horrible dragon known to vikingkind. Hiccup sought to be like the other vikings. In trying to kill a night fury, he found himself faced with a dilemma. After cutting the dragon loose from his bindings, Hiccup begins the process of getting to know Toothless. My favorite part of the whole movie shows Hiccup feeding Toothless a whole raw fish. Realizing that Hiccup doesn't have a snack of his own, Toothless regurgitates half for the boy, sitting back innocently on his haunches after dropping the "treat" in his lap, expecting the poor kid to chew into a half of a raw fish. Blech. Following that little scene, this one touched my heart.
Of all the crazy-tough, leathery Vikings, the weakest of all is the one who reaches Toothless and changes the village. Humility, giving, sincerity are more important to learning about the dragon and explaining them to everyone else. Gentleness and a willingness to listen and learn and adapt to learn about this completely foreign character. As I watched Hiccup dance around Toothless' drawings, looking for his reactions, I can't help but think of Ryan's teacher from the last three years, his teacher this year, his aid at school, his aid and teachers at church, his Daddy and I, and all of us who come into contact with Ryan. We have to think out of the box, learning about him, teaching him about us, teaching everyone about him... but remaining gracious and respectful. In our situation, for the time being, it works. There will likely come a time in the future when we have to draw our parental swords, but for now everything is going rather smoothly. We have a kindergarten teacher and aid who are humble and willing to listen to not only us but the teacher Ryan had for three years. And I'm thankful that the teacher Ryan had for three years in PPCD loves him enough to take the time to make sure she communicates everything that would be helpful, that all of us are willing to stay in communication about him.
In feeling through these still early years of raising a child who has severe autism, it is inexpressably valuable to have the school system we have, the teachers, the administrators who care for our guy enough to make sure he has what he needs. Everything dovetails so amazingly, so intricately, that I cannot explain it. Coincidence just doesn't do it. Even with the rough times we have dancing around the lines autism draws in the sand, it is more clear every day that "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will." (Ephesians 1:11, ESV)
We are held in His hand, called according to the purpose He has for us. I cling to this because it has not failed me yet. It gives me peace and hope for not just Ryan but Richie and Maelynn... for everything. The belief that God is soverign gives me the only confidence I have. That faith is the only thing I've always had with me to rest on, the thing that never leaves, has never changed, and will never change. It is the greatest gift I can give my children in addition to my love and care. I have heard in the past that belief in a higher power... I've even heard God referred to as "an imaginary sky friend"... exhibits a weakness.
Jesus Loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.
I am weak. I need help. He is strong, He is real, and He loves me. Proof? All I have, other than the Bible, is experience. Some hard miles. Lots of hard miles. And through those miles I've learned that sometimes, nothing helps you become stronger more than admitting you're weak.
Because it's all worth the times I get to touch the real Ryan.