Normal is an illusion. After all, what is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly. ~Morticia Addams
It's cramped in the hotel room. It's scary to walk the streets of downtown San Antonio with a little boy who, to put it lightly, does not like to hold hands. The bigger problem is that he isn't afraid of traffic. Candles, yes. Birds, he's not excited about. But traffic? Meh.
Take last night. Dinner was great, although we had to hurry a bit. We took Mother, who's with us this time, to our newest favorite place on the riverwalk. Not as touristy as a lot of the places, and we've had some fun there. I mean, how many times have you seen someone serenaded by live Mariachi in an Irish pub? And the corned beef and cabbage is the stuff of dreams. So is the lamb stew. Actually, their kids' chicken rocks too, because the first words out of Maelynn's mouth this morning were, "That chicken was weeawy good wast night, Mama!"
After a fabulous dinner, we walked back to the famed blue elevator in the Hyatt, then left daddy to help with the ATSSB All-State chair auditions and walked back to the hotel ourselves.
We hit the street to cross in front of the Alamo, not a block from where we left daddy, and Ryan violently refused to hold my hand. Or stop for traffic.
Things escalated to Mother sitting with Richie and Maelynn while I tried desperately to stay calm, keep him from hitting himself, talk him out of screaming, and shut out the world that swirled around us. Nothing worked. Not the new stuff we learned from school, not the old stuff, not first/then, nothing. Just a swirling torrent of fists and anger and screaming. I almost had to sit on him to keep him from running into traffic.
For a while, I was doing well. Speaking calmly, doing my best to be the lighthouse in his storm. But somewhere along the line, waves of frustrated exhaustion and heartbreak crashed over my heart and brimmed my eyes, spilling down my cheeks. My voice warbled. No longer cool and calm, no longer together, I kept repeating the only things I know that work.
First calm down, then hotel.
Yes calm down. Yes hotel.
Eyes clamped tight to avoid the stares, I tried to hug him and love him and not just keep him from hurting himself.
I don't know if it was right. I don't know what you would do, or what experts would do. I can make guesses at why he melted down, and they're probably pretty accurate. But as for answers? Real answers that can make it possible to walk down the street hand in hand with the kids, pointing at this and that, saying yes to ice cream and no to the silly rides or even yes to both?
Not afforded to us. I don't know why. And honestly, why isn't important anymore. "Why" pours fuel on anger's pilot light of the already scarred heart. Not that it's bad to ask why. But at this time in my life, with this stuff, I need an anchor more than I need a cloud of questions.
We did make it back to the hotel by the grace of God.
The littles even got to pet some horses on the way, still looking for that one who was named "Mae" a couple of years ago.
I still can't overcome the hurt of the autism thing. It's still the little things I wanted to do with him that are really big things. All the things I took for granted that we'd do. Telling myself that what I want doesn't matter and that all that matters is learning to love him the way he needs to be loved does just that... it makes sure I'm doing all I can to make sure he feels loved. And that is huge! The thing that bothers me is the pushing of the idea that autism moms... or this one, anyway... are tireless. I know it's meant to be a compliment, but...
I guarantee you, we are tired.
I can also guarantee you, at least in my case, that the exhaustion isn't from Ryan. It's from watching him suffer.
It's wanting to share things with him, and share him with others, but it's just so hard.
So we keep trying. Over and over. And yes, we expect... we pray... for a different result.
But so far, it's more of the same. Playing with the thermostat in the hotel room. Begging and being quite insistent that he wants to go for a walk, but still lacking the social skills and danger intuition to make it very far.
So maybe I should admit I'm a bit nuts? Okay, sure. But it's like a rollercoaster... on the bottom and the freefall kills, but the tops of the hills are amazing even though they're close together.
This is how we roll in the mornings. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the ol'Macbook, Cheerios, and whatever else Mama brings from the breakfast buffet.
Much pretend play... which is quite new, praise God... in his favorite place in every hotel room. He pulls up a chair and stays pretty much the whole time.
Isn't Zurg cute in Mr. Potato Head's black derby? And check out Mr. Potato Head in Woody's hat. All Ryan's doing.
And happy Valentine's Day shots for Daddy, who's off working hard today in the convention, soaking up information like a great band director.
That would be extreme cheese. That's my Richie roo!
As much energy as it takes to quiet my panic and remember, this is our normal. As different as it is from what I wanted it to be, it is what it is. Here's the trick I'm learning somewhat slowly... the sadness and longing I have for what I thought doesn't mean I'm a bad mama. It means that I'm human. In this case, it means I love my friends and what I used to do, and it's okay to want to share that world with the kids.
While I was working on this post, Eric sent me a text with a picture of friends in the ATSSB meeting, waving at me via photo. Everyone was napping, and I choked up as I sent a hello text back. Maybe someday, if we keep trying, I can introduce the world to Ryan.
Until then (and even if it never happens), we will hang on to the great things that happen, to the giggles and smiles, to the wonder and amazement for a moment that we all shared looking at lights on the river last night. And we will try again, no matter how crazy it is.
Thanks be to God for all of it, no matter how strange it looks.