Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Finding Ryan

Sometimes it starts with a snap decision on our part as parents.  Other times, something we didn't know was coming in a new place rears its ugly head.  Surprise visits form candles, elevators, etc. have taken down many a good day.

This time it was a bad decision on my part.

Okay, so it was technically just not thought through.  I picked him up from CE, happy and stimmy.  Eric went the other way to get Richie.  Instead of going the long way, I took the way that takes us past the cafe-ish, kitchen-ish type area.

It happens in an instant. He throws on the brakes.  His eyes lock his entire body on the object of his obsession.  Quite literally, nothing else matters.

What could it be?  What could draw such devotion from my little guy?

The microwave.

He wanted to stare at the microwave.

In a flurry of if/then suggestions, blocking, and pleading in different ways and staying calm as best I can, back and forth with those blasted self-injurious behaviors, he plummets to the bottom.

The whole time... with every hit, with every grunt, yell, and thrash, I reach to find him in the only ways I know how.  Calm, measured first-then statements, clearly stated requests, calm and even as I can muster... did I mention I have to stay calm?

My child is falling into the mist, and I can't reach him.  All I want to do is reach him.  Grab his hand.  Pull him through and back to me.  But nothing I can do is working.  Not a thing.

It's a matter of minutes but it feels like hours.  His heart can't hear me.

I'd say I'd give him anything to get this to stop, but I've tried that.  It doesn't help.  Not in a down-the-road, you'll-be-sorry-later kind of way.  It just does. not. help. When he's like this, it's beyond his control.

In that moment, I don't care what you call it.  Tantrum, meltdown, fit, whatever.  I just want my son to come back. I want to reach him and help him.  Right then, I don't care if you call him autistic or a person with autism.  I don't care if he hits me on the back-swing... I don't want him to hurt himself anymore.  There are times I wish he'd haul off and smack me instead.

I wish I knew why he does what he does.  How I wish I could understand, so that maybe I could figure out a way to help.  What I wouldn't give to be in his body for a day.  To see through his eyes, hear with his ears, feel with his nerves.  Think with his mind.  Feel with his heart.

Just as quickly as it starts, it ends.  He turns on a dime, completely unexpectedly every time.  Sometimes from screaming to giggles in less than a second.  There may be a few aftershocks, just a few hits and moany-squealy-yells, but for the most part, he's just left sweaty and tired.

And I'm left processing what just happened.  What was it?  What triggered it?  What do I do the next time?  I've even come to putting notifications in my phone so that I remember to do something differently if I'll approach it at the same time next time.

I wish I could take his place.

I wish I could take his place and let him have my functional, although oversensitive and awkward, social understanding.  I wish I could give him my ability to say a cheery, "Hello" to any random person who asks without a prompt.  I wish I could make the hard things easy... or at least be able to understand them enough to really help.  He's not choosing not to tell me.  He just isn't yet able.

And I have faith.  God has given me the faith to see that Ryan's sufferings, mine, and everyone else's are what they are, and that the mountain of my heart's misunderstanding and upset can be moved with his peace.  Not mine, because I have none myself.

I still wish I could take it away.  Just the hard parts... the parts that seem to hurt him in ways he can't resist.  But autism, like life, is not a buffet.  You get the delicious mac and cheese and the brussels sprouts, and you have to eat them all.

There are no platitudes that really help here.  Nothing makes this okay, and nothing certainly makes it enjoyable or desirable.  But I will tell you that if I can hang on and by the grace of God be calm, holding myself together while Ryan makes his way back to me, it's worth it.  He is worth it.  His electric, captivating smile and newscaster-tone speech, his giggle, the way he draws me into repeating one random syllable with him over and over until he loses it in laughter, the breathy way he says, "I love you, Mama" which I know he worked hard to craft, the amazement at his drawings and his sweet stim... they are... he is... worth it all.

Thanks be to God for him... the good, the bad, and the loud and scary.

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