At the risk of sounding whiney... which is fitting, since I'm feeling quite that way... I'm not proud of my decision-making skills today. Just when I think I've scrubbed the last bit of preconceived notion from my mind and heart, just when I think I might be hitting a stride in this exclusive club into which I've been thrust, just when I thought I was able to "just do it" in regard to dealings with the differentness of dealing with Ryan, autism deals another dirty low blow.
Nothing is sacred to autism. Nothing.
If you'll bear with me, since I'm just recovering from having the wind knocked out of my already allergy-ridden self, I'll attempt to explain.
This morning, I got Ryan off to school, came home, played with the littles a bit, got Richie to school, and dug deep into laundry. I sat working on another post that I'd planned for today, thinking I'd finish and then head off to Ryan's school for lunch, then take Maelynn with me to vote on my way home. Ms. K, the classroom aid, and I had talked about how we were going to handle this. No problem, we both thought. I'd just pop in, have lunch with him, and pop right back out, continuing with my day's plans as if nothing had been different.
So I gathered Maelynn and headed off to lunch with Ryan. When we got to the lunchroom, I could see Ryan sitting by himself, munching on his chips with his sandwich laid before him to eat next. Every day he gets the same lunch, consisting of PB&J with the crusts cut, ranch chips, fruit snacks, and a drink pouch. Noting the long line, I chose to turn down the chance to eat a cafeteria lunch with him.
As I approached him, I could tell I had messed up. He wouldn't look at me at first.
When he did look at me, it wasn't the usual grinning, stimmy, hand-flapping "hi Mom" I usually get when I show up to pick him up. No, I had definitely made a breach of routine. I was out of my place.
"Mom will go home."
I explained that I would go home after lunch, and he would stay and come home after snack.
Well, uh... son, you'll go where you always go after lunch. Mommy's just here to visit.
Silence. I attempt a couple of pictures. But since I wasn't supposed to be there, well, you can see the response I received.
I'll keep eating my chips, thank you.
He cycled through a few short clips of things he usually says, trying desperately to place why in the world I was in the lunchroom.
You will go to the hotel.
Yes, son. In February.
You will go see Grammy and Grampy.
On Friday, baby. After Ms. C.
You will go see Ms. C.
That's Friday, baby. This is Tuesday.
Right around there is when I looked around and saw the other mothers, fathers, grandparents, and children enjoying lunch together. Smiling, snuggling, sitting in laps. No big deal. Yay, mom's here. Oh, it's time for her to leave. Even if they left and the kid threw a fit, they were able to enjoy haivng mom there. On our side, he just couldn't figure out why in the world I was there. Evenutally, he reached a critical mass of confusion when he told me this:
Ryan will go home after sandwich.
He would not take the idea that he had to stay. I tried explaining, but this is when my heart broke.
He started to cry. Real tears. Frightened, confused, frustrated tears.
That's when I couldn't stand it. I put my arm around him and promised he'd go home with me. After several promises in a row, Ms. K, the classroom aid, came to check on us, and immediately smiled warmly and said she'd go get his stuff. She knew.
Until she came back, Ryan stood up, took my hand, and held it tight.
It was all I could do to hold the floodgates. This was my decision. What in the world did I think would happen? That he would start telling me about his day? That he'd say "bye mom" and I'd run off merrily along with my day's plans? I knew it could happen this way, I chose to try to show him I love him by showing up, and well... it backfired.
So he's home now, happily having some iPad time while his sister naps. I'm still trying to convince myself that I wasn't mean to show up. But it felt mean not to show up. I can't pretend that I didn't know what could happen. I was hoping for the best. But what was I thinking? Good grief!
I was thinking that I was going to see Ryan, my son, at school. I wasn't thinking about seeing Ryan, the autistic boy who thrives on routine. Because when I look at Ryan, I see my son. I see sparkling blue eyes, a heart-stopping smile, and kissable cheeks. I see my first born baby, my eldest. I see a boy who loves trains, iPad, VSmile, and his grandparents. I see a boy who I love with all my heart.
I see a lot of things when I look at him, but I don't see autism. Oh, I have learned techniques for dealing with his behaviors and I will tell people that he has autism, but he isn't autism. He is Ryan. Autism is a name for his set of behaviors, a key to unlock the door to services that he needs to function.
While I'm heartbroken that I upset him today, I know in hindsight that what I did for him I did out of love for my son. And when I realized I'd messed up, I did what I could to make it right.
And sometimes, dear reader, that is all I can do.
Thanks be to God for holding my hand while I hold Ryan's.