Then we get Ryan. A twentysomething looking man brought him out, letting him run ahead of him... turns out he's the sub. Ah. Upon inquiry, I find that Ryan has had a good day but wasn't too thrilled at missing recess due to the rain. Yeah, typical. Change in routine throws him almost every time. He climbs in the van, and I immediately notice his hands are covered in something... marker, maybe? Very unlike mister fastidious. Spill a drop of milk? Get a little catsup on his hands? "Wipaatoweeeeel!" Mr. Sub Guy didn't explain, but hey... he made it through a class of 21 kindergarten kids, at least one of whom has special needs. Gotta hand it to him though. He did lack that deer in the headlights look that subs for PPCD usually had.
For a while now, Ryan's been attached to Stevie Wonder. The old funk-sound type. He's been hooked on one song for about a month now, and just recently has been listening to more on that CD. When he got in the van, I had been listening to my iPod, and let's just say after a loud button-mashing fest I managed to get things settled and we were on our way. He settled on the one song on that album I"m not crazy about, but it's not so tough to listen to something over and over when you have a little guy dancing in his own way and thoroughly enjoying it.
We pull onto campus after averting what could have been a huge meltdown when road work caused us to detour past the children's museum. "Go see trains?" "No sweetie, it's time for Ms. B." He accepted that. So relieved! After the usual stroller out, two kids unstrapped, harnessed, unbuckled and one restrapped into the stroller we were on our way to the building. The "big elevator" has been sick lately, so we've been using the "little elevator" on the other end of the building. This time it was working, but all the way in Ryan wanted to know which elevator. "We're going to the LITTLE elevator," he said over and over, in between my explanations that we'd like to use the big one if it's well.
At the elevator, I put Ryan on my back and picked up Richie on my front, pushing the stroller onto the elevator as a nice lady held the doors for us. She was friendly, which is such a relief to any mom... but not being treated like a cheap circus sideshow when you already feel like one is just fabulous. I explained that one kid had a love/hate relationship with elevators while the other just has to be just like his big brother, and she totally seemed to get it. Love it when that happens!
As we try the drop-off, Ryan shows off what we like to call the "waternoose jump n stim" as he watches the elevator from his elevator-watching perch in the hall (not too close, but he can still see it open and close). When Ms. B arrives, Ryan continues his thing and Richie thinks he has it made. Nope. When Ryan went in and the door shut, Richie fell nine kinds of apart. This was no longer fit mode. This was real tears, pouring from the pain of unfairness and just flat not understanding why in the world brother gets to go and he doesn't. Such a cool place with such cool toys!
Just before this, as we waited, Richie told me it was his turn to go see Ms. B. I have tried everything from explaining Autism in kid-terms to focusing on what cool things he gets to do that Ryan doesn't, but when that door shut in his face, it just didn't help to know that he gets to spend time with Mommy and Maelynn. During our waiting time, he even tried to tell me that he has Autism.
NO. YOU. DON'T. Thank the Lord, you don't.
We've visited this topic before in Knockin' Round Baylor. I've continued to do my dead-level best to help this feel less like a sacrifice of his time and help the time be such fun that he really doesn't notice that we're taking two three-hour chunks of his days every week to drive Ryan to therapy. I want all of our kids to feel special, loved and heard. I want them to know their parents love them and that their feelings matter to us. Every other time I've managed to just stay happy and drag him away to a more fun activity, but today?
Today I sat and held my precious, curly-golden-haired baby boy and cried with him.
As a band director, one of the first things you learn about picking music is that slow and pretty does not equal easy. It takes great control in several ways to play musically as you play softly. Nothing wears you out faster when you *ahem* haven't played much in a while than to play something slow and pretty. I'd even argue that it can't be done without hours and hours and days and weeks and months or even years of daily practice to perfect the art of playing an instrument. Once you have that ability, you could even make someone cry with the Alphabet Song. If you lack the practice, it can't happen. The muscles haven't been built; therefore the strength needed to support gentleness just isn't there.
It hit me earlier this week that it's much the same in life. It's easy to tell someone to suck it up. It's a lot easier to tell someone to get over it, and let's go do so-and-so than it is to sit and cry with them. It's a lot easier to tell someone they need help than to be the help. And more than that, it's easier and simpler to look at someone and tell them what you think they need to be doing. Handing down a judgment, shaking your head, and walking away is not tough. It may make you more calloused and tough... but it takes far more strength to hold your opinion and open your heart. Part of this is relinquishing the idea that you can make someone feel happy, special, loved, comforted, etc. No one can make another feel anything. All we can do is give gifts of our time and hearts, and when given out of the right heart, those things can change someone's world. When given with no strings attached, nothing expected in return, no price tag of guilt, no gain of pride... just to inspire another to turn their countenance upward and hearts light... the gifts of time, money, things, even just our presence can completely change a life. But to go with the impulse of anger, frustration, a need for control, or even the latest thing you heard that someone else did or does can do irreparable damage. What comes naturally and easiest isn't always best.
I still believe in helping my children feel loved and special and making sure I do what I can to help them be who God made them to be. But I also believe that ultimately all any of us can do for anyone is listen, give real, true, abiding love... but mostly, and most importantly... carry them to Jesus. Pray for them, with them if they will let us. For Richie, today, the best thing I could do is teach him with my arms around him and the tears on my face that his hurt is real. It is real, and I hurt too. Because when you're hurting, the last thing you want to hear is "just don't hurt" or "if you'll just listen to me I'll fix your problems" or some such nonsense.
When we picked Ryan up, we found out he'd had a rough therapy session. They're working on trying new foods, and at one point he even threw up. Tonight, he's already melted down over having to wait his turn. It's so hard to watch as he just doesn't understand. It's excruciating to watch any of the kids hurt. To try to explain what's going on is so often not helpful. It might soak in an help later, but not at the moment. Even as we picked Ryan up, Richie threw down because he wanted to go have "his turn". Ms. B looked at me and said, "If he only knew how hard Ryan works in there..." and all I could do was thank her and walk away. Well, lumber away with a screaming three year old on my hip and a jumpy, stimming six year old at the side of the stroller. Of course, all Richie knows of the therapy room is the cool toys from the times we've had meetings there. Ms. B and I talked about how Richie probably thinks all Ryan does in there is play with all those cool toys while we're out waiting for him to be done. In reality, he's learning life skills... like how to wait, how to take "maybe" for an answer, how to try new foods, and, skill by skill, how to just live in the world without screaming and hitting constantly.
What do I do when it hurts them and I just don't know what to do? Show them I love them by listening and hugging and just bearing with them, holding the advice, frustration, control, and at times the discipline for later. Because as we've all learned at one time or another, sometimes whatever it is, it just hurts. Whether it's Ryan's meltdowns, Richie's disappointment at not getting to go, or Maelynn's being told "no", sometimes it just hurts. As Crystal and even as Mommy I can't always fix it, but I can bear with them, support them, and lead them to someone who can. So from the bottom of my heart, to all of you who are in my path daily and to those who I've met in the ASD community... I can't understand, but I hurt with you. I can't know your pain, but I will cry with you. And I will carry you to the one who can understand.
I will not pretend to feel the pain you're going through
I know I cannot comprehend the hurt you've known
And I used to think it mattered if I understood
But now I just don't know
Well, I'll admit sometimes I still wish I knew what to say
And I keep looking for a way to fix it all
But we know we're at the mercy of God's higher ways
And our ways are so small
But I will carry you to Jesus
He is everything you need
I will carry you to Jesus on my knees
It's such a privilege for me to give this gift to you
All I'd ever hope you'd give me in return
Is to know that you'll be there to do the same for me
When the tables turn
And if you need to cry go on and I, I will cry along with you, yeah
I've given you what I have but still I know the best thing I can do
Is just pray for you
I'll carry you
I'll take you to Jesus on my knees~"Carry You to Jesus", Steven Curtis Chapman
And I know you do the same for me. Thanks for reading. :-)