Last Sunday, we were looking forward to a nice, calm, family afternoon. What we got was pretty much as calm and family as it gets around here. The weather was beautiful, and even a little cool, which is pretty off the norm for Texas weather. While Eric went about his chore of draining the pool to put it away, I brought the kids out to play in the backyard. Soon they became a bit bored with that, and wanted to ride bikes in the driveway.
We live on a busy street, so we just back the cars out of the carport and let the kids have at it. They ride in circles... okay, so they are supposed to ride in circles. I spend most of my time out there reminding them not to run in to each other.
The flowerbed just outside the breezeway needed attention. Since I was right there anyway, I started slinging weeds and chopping away at the out of control shrub that blocked my garden flag with Snoopy jumping into leaves. It's one of those little things that makes you kinda sad when you pull in the driveway... and I saw a chance to nail it, so I did.
About halfway through, I looked up and sister had some serious mosquito bites. Crud. I think she's more allergic than most of us, and although it doesn't seem to bother her, I grabbed the bug spray and hosed her down. I got Richie too, and intended to get Ryan, but he was in the backyard with Eric. These days, my brain seems to be a lot like a coffee filter. Only the big chunks stay in.
When we came in the house, I was about to get the allergy spray stuff from Mom and cover sister's leg when I noticed Ryan crying. Wailing, really. Big tears rolled down his terrified eyes as I approached him. As I sat next to him on the couch, he reached for me like he needed rescue.
"What's wrong, buddy? Can you tell Mama what's wrong?"
His answer was a bit alarming. "It hurts!"
After a long back and forth of "show Mommy what hurts" he finally reached at his shin and grunted.
A stupid mosquito bite.
"Is that what hurts, honey? That bump there?"
His usual breathy, quiet yes followed. He scratched it. I got the anti-itch cream and covered every bite I could find.
For the rest of the evening, if he discovered another one, he's start wailing, "Mooommmyyy!!!! Mooooore!!!"
That's autism for ya. This kid was a champ when he had a stomach virus in May. No big deal, just find a bucket, lay around and watch movies. But a mosquito bite?! Heaven help us.
There are little things like this that remind us, constantly, that there is a difference here. There's always something nagging, or at worst jumping up and slapping us... like wailing like he'd been shot over a few mosquito bites.
They don't make sense. There's no stopping most things from upsetting him, and there's little talking him out of being upset. Some are bigger, like his inability to wait in a line for something in a setting outside home, or his unwillingness to hold our hands to cross a street, or the lack of understanding that he has to stay with us in a crowd. Then there are little things like mosquito bites that we have to feel our way through, validating his fears and yet trying to bridge the gap of understanding that it's okay, and hey, buddy... next time it's "itchy" not "hurt"... but yay for telling us.
And people ask how I do it. How Eric does it. How those who love to visit us for a few days at a time put up with it.
It's our life. He's our son. He's their nephew, we're their friends. It is what it is. You just do. You get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other. Honestly, once you start really embracing the ways you have to adapt, I'm tempted to say it's just another way of life. Maybe not a lifestyle choice, but it is a way to live, and we're living in it. And when these things crop up, you do what you can and move on.
Not because you want to, not because it's always fun or easy, or because you've figured it all out. Because you never figure it all out, and just when you think you have, here comes a blasted mosquito or a candle or a butterfly to remind you that the best control is to realize you don't have any.
Life with a kid with autism is different, yes. It's not at all what I thought I wanted. It's not at all anything I aspired to. But it is what we have, and life... although it's hard sometimes... is still worth it. Still wonderful. Not easy, not perfect, not always fun or always a cake-walk, but it is full of wonder.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go buy some more Deep Woods Off.
Thanks be to God for the things that make us uncomfortable enough to truly enjoy comfort.