Monday, October 21, 2013

The Smile

After the hike from the parking lot to the third floor, he bounds through the quiet to knock on the door.  Okay, he diverts to the elevator that he refuses to ride on the way up.  Maybe he thinks I like the stairs, maybe he's realizing that Mama needs the exercise.  Either way, he's only going to ride the elevator AFTER therapy, thank you very much.

This time, the littles are with Granny.  It's just me, my headphones, and my book.  A nice, long breath and a look out over the lush, well-trimmed lawn and trees of campus later, it's mama time.

Not very long into mama time, another child bounds up the stairs through the quiet.  Now it's pseudo quiet anyway, with the headphones and all.  They sit at the end of the long table.

Well, sorta.

He's about three or four.  She's likely in her twenties or so.  He's in jeans, a well-matched t-shirt and hoodie, obviously well cared for.  She's in jeans and whatever sweatshirt she could grab, with her hair pulled back and little to no makeup.

It's like a mirror.

She's trying desperately to keep him calm and quiet to no avail.  He wants to play with the iPad, but grows frustrated quickly and expresses himself in squeals.

I get it.  I do.  She's not bothering me at all, neither is her boy.  But the bother is all over her face.

Soon as I can, I try to give her the smile, and let her know that they're not bothering me.  Not one bit.  But the smile seems to make your stress worse.  My heart sinks... I fear you're mistaking it for pity. But it's the farthest thing from pity.

I've talked over this smile with other moms, especially autism moms.  It's that smile that says so much.

I get it.

I may not get all the ins and outs, but I get it.

I know you're trying.  I know it's not working.

I know you're bringing him here because it's something you CAN do, and because those CAN do's go a long way to combat the list of CAN'T do's.

I know you want him to be quiet and respectful.  I've been there.

I know you can't get him to eat anything but goldfish and croutons.  I know you've gone out of the way to try and it just doesn't work.

I know you can't even go to the grocery store.  I know.

I know you have the recurring nightmare about losing him in the mall or at a huge public place.  I know what it's like to wake up tired because you've been chasing him all night in your dreams.

I know what it's like to wake up to screaming every morning.

I know what it's like to dread putting your feet on the floor, begging God for the grace to make it through breakfast, much less the whole day.

I know what it's like to wait to hear "mama" in a meaningful way.

I know what it's like to go to bed with the place locked down and alarmed so that if a door or window opens, all hell breaks loose... but still with your heart pounding just in case he gets by it somehow.

I know what it's like to not be his comfort, and to not know where it is.

I know you want to strangle or slap or maybe both the next person that says anything that starts with, "Why don't you just..."

I know you don't know what to do next.

But I also know you don't know that I know.  And I know that words have become cheap and meaningless in so many ways.  So I keep my head down, stay in my book... not just because I have a deadline for reading it, but because you don't know you can trust me.

Then the clock tower chimes the hour, and out bounds eighty-five pounds of pure joy, right at his mama.

I throw down my book, scoot back fast in my rolling chair, throw open my arms, and receive a little boy who has worked hard for the last hour on transitioning to a non-preferred activity.  He then runs around and tries to bang on every glass surface in the waiting area while I talk to his therapist for a second.  You watch me block him with my body from running away, while he giggles and enjoys the pushing back, being the sensory seeker he is.

Then, as I'm scrambling to beat him to the elevator, I glance back and see that you know.

You're seeing yourself in a few years.  You're seeing that it will be okay.  Different, yes.  But definitely okay.

Maybe next week we can talk.  If you want.  Or maybe the smile will be enough.  After all, it may be all you can muster.

I get that too.

Thanks be to God for the smile.

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