One year ago, we were sitting in a speech pathologist’s office as she told us our son most likely had autism, and then proceeded to list all the things that he wouldn’t do.
The air was sucked out of my lungs. As we left, I called the doctor she said to NOT call, because we detested her that much. I then freaked out in a McDonald’s parking lot, shredding an entire box of McNuggets (box and all) with my bare hands.Much like my life, I’d find pieces of nugget strewn around the car for months to come.
I called insurance. I called to get therapy quotes. I cried, and I prayed. I pushed my husband away and formed a wall around myself and filled it with information. I had patient friends who helped me try to keep everything together.
And I started walking the road, not sure where to go or what to do.
And I lived, afraid.
What a difference a year makes.
My sunny boy laughs at me, and then laughs at his sister as she cracks up at something. She sees him laughing, and then laughs harder, which makes him laugh more. And I laugh from the simple joy of it all.
O sings the alphabet. Granted, he sings it about 100 times a day, but I can tell what it is. He spells, he sings, he labels WITH WORDS. He speaks.
Dear Heavens – he speaks.
He stims. He tantrums. He also hugs children, and kisses us on the mouth. And he loves his little sister fiercely.
I sit with my husband and talk about therapy plans, but also about dream vacations, politics, a new desk, job options, books I want to read, music we like, movies…and our future. A future that I very nearly squashed as I tried to handle everything myself, like a fool.
I have learned to lean on others, and to forgive myself when I fall short. I’ve learned to shut out the criticisms and opinions of those who have no idea what they’re talking about. I can’t be angry at them in their ignorance; parenting, like life, is relative. But I can choose how I allow them to affect me, and realize that if I become upset, it’s because I allowed them into my life and my emotions.
And some people don’t deserve admittance.
I have learned to balance providing MB with what she needs and delivering O’s therapies. She is, perhaps, his most talented therapist, teaching him to love baby dolls; he now stops and points at me if she cries. Finally, I’ve found a balance between therapy and allowing him to be a child, with all of his special talents and quirks.
I have cried. I still cry, sometimes. But I cry for joy, too.
I have gotten help for myself when I was trying to claw myself out of a Sisyphean well. Because I’m a grown up with a family that depends on me. Because I am a person with loves and passions and…well, a life. And because there was no other choice.
I have learned to extend my calloused hand to the smooth ones that are starting the work with their own children; it’s comforting to hold theirs and walk with them for a moment, or every day. It’s comforting to tell them that while this completely and totally stinks, it’s not necessarily the end of the world.
I’ve discovered friends over the internet that I wish lived within driving proximity. But they’re always just a text message, phone call, or email away.
I’ve learned to trust more in myself and my partner, and in my family. I’ve become a little bit more of an introvert, and a lot more of a listener. And still, when I am around people that I enjoy, I tend to be a stream of words gushing out, grateful for the adult conversation.
“Look at him, Molly. He looks amazing. Look at that smile; what an adorable boy.”
I beam into the webcam as I hear the words and see the face of O’s developmental doc grinning at O as he jumps, and I count the bounces. The same man who a year ago hugged me and told me it was going to be ok. He laid out a timetable for when he felt things would happen – and, amazingly, they did. And we outline plans for dealing with current issues and concerns, but overall, the tone is one of pleasure and progress. His partner developed a therapy program that helped us reach our son. He, with O’s therapist, taught us to be what O needed – and now they guide us in finding balance between parenting and therapy. When it’s ok to ignore a tantrum, and when it’s not. When to laugh and be silly. And when it’s ok to cry.
And when it’s ok to tell the world where they can stick it.
As I click the Skype connection closed, I sit back on my heels and smile. O and Steve have just left to go tubing with the neighbors; O was so excited that he kept telling his therapist “Bye, bye,” and pointing at the door. Out he tottered, with aqua socks (sensory, sensory), a red life jacket, and his floaties. He knows the drill.
The ever-important drill.
I look down at MB, who grins her silly, gummy smile at me.
“What shall we do now, girlie? Does chocolate sound good?” I nod yes; and she nods as I do.
A few minutes later, we are driving out toward the sunset, toward a place that makes s’mores and chocolate crocodiles, and where we can look at pretty things for girls like us. She will wear her sunglasses and giggle at everyone around her. She teaches me happiness, as does my boy.
What a difference a year makes.