Monday, February 18, 2013

The Way Home

After clearing the hotel room and playing the big game of Tetris that is loading the van, we headed home.  Well, home by way of our semi-annual trip to the outlet mall on the way.

It was not our best shopping trip, but it was definitely not the worst.  We have a few stores we always frequent, and with the added one or two Mom wanted to check out we stayed into the late evening.  The coupons and sales and outlet prices are great for kids who grow quickly and play hard in their clothes, but the process of obtaining these things is a little tiring.  Still, we are grateful for the opportunity.

We plodded around together in a state of controlled chaos, looking quickly and moving on.  I struggle to find the best way to describe shopping with Ryan.  Richie and Maelynn are pretty easy.  They sit in a stroller or walk along side, just running out every now and again, but no more than any other kid.  In the stores where we like to buy the kids' clothes, I try to get Ryan interested in making decisions about t-shirts and the like.  It looks a bit like this, with added chasing of my subject around the store, keeping him out of display windows and off mannequins:

"Ryan, look at this shirt!  It has a monkey playing guitar! Do you like it?"

No response.

"What about this one, buddy?!  It has a pirate thing (skull) wearing headphones!  You love headphones!  What about this one?"


"Look at this one, buddy.  It has Perry!"

"CURSE YOU, PERRY THE PATAPAAAAS!!!"  His newest "thing" is for Perry the Platypus. So that's a big "Yes please!"

I ask about a pair of shoes that is deeply discounted that would be the ideal successors to his current shoes, and I get what I think is a soft, whispery, "I like the black shoes." But I'm not sure, so I ask again.

"YAYA DISNEY STORE!" He tightens his soft, still baby chubby fingers into a fist and wails on his head.

Guess I asked one too many times.

The kids know we always go to the Disney store last.  Usually, the little stuffies are on sale and they each pick one, then we go happily with our treasures to the nearest Cracker Barrel to celebrate.  Last time was magical.  So easy.  Yes, we had a few moments, but on the whole it was lovely.  This time wasn't terrible, but it wasn't what I'd call easy.

But then, easy is a matter of perspective.

There were times we had to force ourselves to stay calm and convince him we had to keep going.  Then there were super sweet, precious times that we wouldn't trade.

And that pretty much sums up the trip.

As we finished dinner, the boy who can gobble a hamburger in just a few minutes... the same one who violently, emphatically refuses to hold my hand... said simply "sleepy" and made his way to my lap.  He ended up with his head and shoulders in my lap and his legs stretching across his own chair at the table, feet touching the wall.  And he fell fast asleep.

So often, in a kindhearted manner, folks tell us that we're special.  We're special parents, given a special child.  And to that I will always smile and be grateful, for the heart behind it is certainly kind and giving.  The only thing is that we're not special.  If we are, then so are you, and let's not forget that Richie and Maelynn are special, too.  They're just as special as their brother.  I have a hard time singling us or any other family out and deeming it/them super special.  We certainly did nothing to earn our three kids, just as autism, Richie's allergies, Maelynn's bout with the flu, or ear infections or anything else like that are most definitely not God's punishment for something we did.

It's just what God had in store for us.  I have no idea why, and that's truly okay because we choose to trust that he knows what he's doing and can see the way the rest of our stories play out.  Yes, I can tell you great things we've learned.  Yes, I can honestly say I would not want to be the person I was in the before time if that meant giving up all the knowledge and wisdom we've gained through dealing with the things we deal with on a daily basis.  But no, I cannot say honestly that the struggles that come with autism are a reward for good behavior.

If you saw us in front of the Alamo the other day... if you had seen the desperate tears falling from my tightly shut eyes in a last-ditch attempt to focus... if you had seen Ryan's confusion and utter lack of ability to control the need to hit and scream... unable to overcome his disdain of holding hands to keep himself safe... you might say that our patience is amazing.  You might think it's too hard to watch, or you might think how sad it is that we have no control over our child.  But you wouldn't think it was a gift.

If you saw me with that big seven year old boy draped over my lap, exhausted, giving me a rare chance to stroke his hair and kiss his cheeks as much as I want... or if you could see him giggling as he talks about his beloved Toy Story friends in words we've learned to decipher... you would definitely not see autism as a curse or a burden.

It's all in your perspective.

Thanks be to God for caring hearts, three wonderful children, and providence to believe in. 

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