Monday, December 17, 2012


Just like so many other parents around the nation... maybe even the world... on Friday at about 3:30 I stood in my driveway, hugging my eldest.  He seemed to know that I needed to cling to him for a minute.   It's times like those that I'm thankful he's a sensory seeker.

Mother and I had been wrapping presents all day.  Trains, ponies, Minnie Mouse sets, puzzles, blocks, and little pajamas and a nightgown.  A new robe for Ryan, a hoodie for Richie, a new dress for Mae.  All the packages with cartoon-characters wearing Santa hats and red clothes... except for the princesses, of course.

And I couldn't imagine all of a sudden not having children to open them.

I kept pedaling, as you do, and enjoyed my babies more this weekend.  But in everything, even with nothing said, we silently agreed our hearts were broken for those who lost their world.

At one point in the day, it was brought to my attention that the shooter may have been on the autism spectrum.  In an instant, that world hit my world.

I felt sucker-punched.  After all we do to demystify, de-stigmatize, and yet make others aware of the challenges of life with autism, there goes the media again.  Thanks a lot.  I was already angry at the idea that the media would use accounts of children who had already been through so much in their reporting, and now a knock that could undo so much.  Another slap in the face to the cause of acceptance. I was tempted to start a post then about how the media shouldn't be diagnosing people, and how damaging that can be.

Thankfully, I was too busy.

Sunday afternoon, while my kids rode their bicycles and Eric put out some more lights, I read this.


There is always another step back to be taken.

Ryan's violence is largely self-directed.  But it is violence just the same.

The past few days have been hard.  He hasn't wanted to do anything we ask if he's already doing something.  Homework has been a throw-down.  Getting dressed a near wrestling match.  Leaving a store yesterday was like herding an angry bull.

I don't want our home to be driven by fear.  So much of my life around my father was based on keeping under Daddy's radar.  Don't say anything to set him off.  Just agree.  Just go with it.  Just make him happy.  Just make him proud.

Or else.

I hated living in that fear.  And now, I fight every day to keep the elephant in the house at bay.  The one that runs a desperate balance of what we just do, what Ryan can tolerate, and what we can tolerate Ryan attempting to tolerate.  How far to push.  We must keep him going, we must make sure his life is as happy as possible, but at the same time we must not forget to protect our other kids and live our lives.

We can't pretend that autism is cute.

Yes, Ryan is cute.  He's adorable when he's calm!  He is funny, loving, and shows more empathy for others every day.  But at the same time, he does not respond well to being told no.  His anger is not cute.  He is bigger every day, and with every meltdown I have to wonder how much longer we can realistically deal with him.  We pray that as he grows, the need to hit himself and the intense slavery to routine will fade.

But even though he may become super-compliant, even though he's not at all the worst it could be, even if he grows past the need to melt down, there is still an elephant in the room.

In the house.

In the nation.

Mental health is not something we can continue to ignore.  The thing I was missing is that it's not about autism.  It's not about defending autistic people.  It's about the desperate need for help for all families and individuals with mental and emotional issues.

Too often these people are shoved aside by society.  We don't want them in our schools, so we find a way to keep them in a separate room "for their safety".  We don't want them in our churches, so we systematically ignore them until they fade into the black.  We preach that depression is due to a lack of faith, causing those of us who needed chemical help, whether temporarily after a death or the birth of a child or somewhat permanently to function to wade through even more guilt at the thought of yet again not measuring up.  At the same time, we don't want to appear unsympathetic, so we shut down mental health facilities when they are corrupt and abusive instead of repairing them.  Insurance doesn't pay for so many of then things that actually help, such as ABA therapy, and support groups are few and far between.

What's left is desperation.

What's left is exhaustion.

What's left is not necessarily a killer.

What's left is a call to remember that whatever parts of our minds are intact we should be grateful for.

What's left is a great need for compassion, not judgement.

After reading this, I'm in a blizzard of thought.  But the most prevalent thought is not that I am also but by the grace of God Adam Lanza's mother, though that is true.

The most prevalent thought is something brought out in the sermon yesterday.  Well, two things really.

The first is the notation that in Mark 6, when Jesus walked on the water and calmed the disciples in the boat, he came at the darkest hour.  At the last second.  At the hour of greatest need.  They could not decide when that was... only the Lord knew.  They were to keep moving.  Keep believing.  Keep doing what was before them.  He was watching, and when his time came, he calmed them.

Once you have been subject to the pain of judgement, the temptation to judge all but disappears. When the loneliness... the isolation... the pain of those things and the differentness of your decisions and the paradigm shift rocks your life, making it personal, all of a sudden you are less likely to tell people how to live.  How to think.  Who to be with.  How to act.

The importance of the pious, puffed up list of "what we don't do" items shrinks.  Fades.  Its force in your life decreases.  Less and less you say, "I would NEVER..." and "If you would only..."  and more and more you find yourself listening.  Trying to truly feel what others experience.  Admitting that you can't possibly know what it's like.

More and more you see the wisest answer is at times the simplest... the most innocent... "I just don't know."

More and more you see that the identification of the question is far harder and more important than the search for the answer.

More and more you see how inadequate any human question or answer is to covering the issue.  The more you step back, the more connected and complicated the question, the more distant and vague the answers.

More and more you realize your inability to look up, and are drawn to the love that comes down.

Thanks be to God for his sovereignty and providence.

And indeed, for His grip on me and mine.

1 comment:

  1. Well spoken, Crystal. I'm friends with your sweet in-laws and often enjoy their links to your posts and the thoughtfulness therein. Thanks for pointing us again to Christ.


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