Monday, September 28, 2015

Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars....

I am over at Mom Babble today, talking about finding magic when you have a child with special needs! You don't need magic wands or vehicular produce (although how awesome would THAT be?). You just need to believe. Do me a solid and stop by Mom Babble to check it out! 

Saturday mornings mean soccer. Now that fall is
upon us, Saturday means cleats and soccer balls and the amazing support and love PJ gets from his soccer buddies, Anthony and Nick. This particular Saturday, PJ insisted on accessorizing with a vaguely Freddie Krueger-ish hat he found in my in-laws basement. As one does. It was cool and cloudy and slightly Pope-y, and PJ had a great time.

After soccer, we headed a few minutes away from the field to the Air Victory Museum, a small airplane museum in Lumberton. We met my in-laws and the younger boy cousins there, and the kids took in all of the planes and aircraft memorabilia crammed into the space. Everywhere you looked hung some small piece of aviation history, and the boys were drinking it in.

After a bit, though, the museum started to overwhelm PJ. There were a lot of things that he couldn't touch, and yet so many things to see. He held up well but as the visit started to come to a close his frustration started to mount. As Pete walked him out of an exhibit, he flopped to the ground, rolling away and kicking at Pete.

Pete's dad wanted the kids to pick out a toy plane as a souvenir, but by then, PJ was past the point of being able to make a decision. I tried to calm him, but he was angry. I caught a head-butt to the cheek just as a package containing an airplane kit appeared between our heads. It was held there by the elderly gentleman who ran the front desk of the museum.

"Hey, buddy," he said. "If you're a good boy you can have this."

Dude. I felt the last of my patience drain out of my ear. The kid was slapping me across the face. It was like putting your hand inside a beehive and let me not even get started on giving a toy to a child who is behaving that way. Of course, I knew where his behavior was coming from (a good, old-fashioned case of fatigue and hunger, exacerbated by Autism) but to anyone else, it looked like a bratty kid having a fit in the souvenir section. Whyyyyyyyyyy would you butt in and hand this child a toy right now?

Thankfully, I managed to gather some semblance of grace, and switched gears.

"PJ, our friend said that you can have this plane if you are ready to show me your best behavior. Are you ready?" I asked. He agreed, and the tantrum seemed to melt away. He thanked his benefactor and we went outside to open his new package and check out the large military helicopter on display.

The boys ran to see the helicopter and I thought about what had just went down. Not so much the tantrum- it was not the first or last time PJ would lose his mind in public. I couldn't stop thinking about how a stranger was willing to jump right into the fray, and an elderly stranger at that. Autism can be a difficult thing to understand when you know what is happening. If you're a bystander who happens upon a kid losing his shit, it looks like a kid losing his shit. Older people, in particular, can have a hard time understanding Autism because it just wasn't a thing for them the way it is now. He could very well have yelled at PJ. He could have asked us to leave. He could have made of of those judgey "Can't you control your kid?" statements. He could have ignored us and avoided eye contact, which is the response I get from 95.3876% of people.

Instead, he saw me struggling, saw an unhappy child, and tried to help. It didn't matter that PJ didn't deserve a toy just then, and it didn't matter that if his meltdown got worse it could have put all of the tiny planes on the shelves in peril. He came over with a green plane in a paper package and said "Here. This is what I've got. If it helps, it's yours."

It made me think of one of my favorite internet finds- a TED talk by Ash Beckham. I have mentioned it on this blog several times- it's something that I come back to often. The message from the top has to do with coming out of the closet, which is something I personally can't relate to. But the sub message is that it takes a lot of bravery to have a conversation you are scared to have. She gives an example of an awkward conversation with family friends, who desperately wanted to show their support after she came out. The interaction, on the whole, was a hot mess of sweetly misfired attempts to show that they still loved her. She admitted that it could have irritated her, but instead, she realized that it may have been just as hard for these folks to start the conversation in the first place. She could take it for what it was- a show of support, no matter how weird.

It occurred to me that just before the gentleman thrust the plane between our faces, he may have wondered if it was the right thing to do, if the crazed child was going to destroy his gift shop, or if I might yell at him. But he decided that above all, he wanted to fix the situation. So, plane. And in the end, I was so grateful that he made the decision to connect rather than ignore.

Thankfully, we made it through he rest of the visit without incident. The boys got to check out the inside of a helicopter and have lunch together. PJ wore that weird Freddy Krueger hat the whole time. Our day wasn't ruined by a moment that could have tipped over into disaster.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

I'm going off the rails on the crazy train.

Motherhood is one of those things that has an ebb and flow. There are days when I feel like a rushing river, crystal clear and moving with a purposeful force. There are also days when I feel like low tide- so far from the beach that it seems like I will never reach the edge again (not to mention the smell. Low tide. Gross.).

What I'm getting at is that this week was straight up low tide. I felt a million miles from where I wanted to be almost 90 percent of the time. We were moving- it was school, therapy, sports, doctors appointments, errands, volunteering, back-to-school night, on and on and on. In my old life, being busy was what propelled me. I liked the feeling of having a full plate and being able to keep it spinning. I thrived on multi-tasking and gloried in my ability to keep things together. This week, I felt sluggish and confused most of the time. The culmination was losing my temper this afternoon when PJ was having trouble controlling his body. He was swirling around the room like a tornado on crack and when he's at that level of disorganization, I often become his punching bag. Well, perhaps not punches, but there is much pulling of hair, kicking of feet, and slapping of hands.There is almost always an elbow to the boob. Spoiler alert: Autism isn't always pretty, folks. Eventually, my loss of temper looked a lot like a crazy lady raising her voice while her face was very. very close to her sons.


PJ was so crazed that he didn't take it personally at all, thank goodness. But I felt out of control and disappointed in myself for losing it. He plopped into my lap and pulled my arms around him. With his head snuggled under my chin, I burst in tears. This prompted a flood of head pats and a stream of "Mommy, it's ok-aaaaaaaay, it's ok-aaaaaaaaaay, it's ok-aaaaaaaaaay," from my son. The whole thing felt like something I would shake my head at if I was watching from the outside. It was a hot mess and I was ashamed of myself.

I would like to say we rebounded and that the rest of the night was lovely. Really, we simply made it to bedtime without any further incident. I guess I can consider that a success in comparison to the rest of the day. I tucked PJ in and it seemed that he still liked me, so I guess it was a wash.

In what will, hopefully, be a long life of days there are bound to be a few duds. Hell, I don't even think that I would want a short life to be all 10's. How on earth do you learn anything if things are perfect all the time? I try to remember that the crap days are meaningful, too, but, jeeze. Watching my baby struggle makes it even worse. But, he's asleep in bed, wiping the slate clean, and I will follow suit shortly.

Wishing all of you a week full of 10's! Bring on the Pope!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Let's get dirty...

Hey guys! I'm over at Reedman Toll Auto World today, talking about some great places to take a road trip to! Pile into the car and check out the Elmwood Park Zoo! Just click HERE to check it out!

When PJ was an infant, I was a crazed psycho helicopter mama a little over-protective. PJ was my first, my only, my brand-new little piece of joy and it felt like that much joy must be a breakable thing.

Because of that, I flinched any time someone breathed too close to him, or when he shoved things that were decidedly NOT edible into his mouth. Gross. I feared scrapes on his pale baby skin and anything that might dull the bright blond cloud of his hair. I felt the need to protect him from every little germ or fleck of dirt. 

Fast forward a few years, and am in a place that has let me learn some lessons. I can relax a little bit and enjoy motherhood as PJ’s mom, versus my original methods acting as a general in a battle of germ warfare. This means that if the situation warrants it, PJ can get as dirty as he wants, and his propensity for filth is astounding- PJ could get dirty in a bridal salon. But the germs haven't killed him yet, and it makes letting go a little easier. PJ can jump in the occasional puddle, and he can surf the occasional wave. He can dig his fingers into a mud pie, or he can splay his fingers in to a high vee on stage with his cheer leading team. It seems like the dirtier PJ get, the more opportunities for growth appear, and I can only assume it's because as his mom, I finally just shrugged and said "Pffft. Get dirty. Whatever." 

A few weeks ago, PJ and a classmate had a late summer play date. We met at the playground and watched the kids swing and run and soak in the lovely morning. They circled a puddle much the same way the Earth circles the sun- powerless to its gravitational pull. Finally, the mamas said "Pffft. Get dirty. Whatever." Magic words as my sweet boy and his beautiful friend made imaginary potions, giggling and smiling. 

Of course, I fear that our “let the dirt in” attitude could be a challenge come puberty, and I feel like I should apologize in advance to his future life partners about any off roading, surfing, ditch digging, gardening, mud runs, insert dirty activity here that he might have an interest in. I am deeply sorry for the laundry this will cause. But maybe, just maybe, if PJ has babies of his own someday, they will learn the same lessons, and he will remember when I was learning mine.  Letting the dirt in means letting joy out, and it can be worth the risks. Right now it’s my job to be brave enough to let go. Later it will be PJ’s job, and I hope to set the right example.

PJ and a sweet school buddy enjoying a mud puddle during one of the last days of summer vacation. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

I'm taking what they giving 'cause I'm working for a livin'.

Kim Davis. Bless her heart.

In case you have been so busy clinging to the last days of summer that you haven't turned on a TV or perused the internets, let me briefly fill you in:

Kim Davis is a county clerk in Kentucky (say that five times fast) who has refused to issue marriage licences to gay and lesbian couples seeking one in her fine, fine state. This decision is in direct defiance of the Supreme Court ruling marriage is a benefit that everyone can lawfully take part in. Ms. Davis, however, feels that this decision goes against her personal moral safe zone and will not issue the licences. This decision has landed her in jail for contempt of court. She remains there as of tonight (Sunday the 7th), not willing to back down from her stance but also with no intention of quitting her job.

It is almost too easy to start pointing the finger at her personal choices, the irony in a woman who feels such conviction for the sanctity of marriage having entered in the blessed union four times. Divorce is most certainly frowned upon in the Bible. Having children out of wedlock is, also, another biblical rule that Ms. Davis has tossed aside. There is a saying about glass houses and it did not take very long for the world to take some Windex to the home this woman has built.

My main problem with her is this:

When I was a working woman, in a magical time before I had children, I was a work-a-holic. I often had two jobs and worked seven days a week. I liked my work, but I certainly did not always agree with every decision my superiors made. Some of those decisions hindered my work, made things more difficult in some way, or were down-right dumb. But I wasn't signing the paycheck, I was merely earning it, and the decisions were not mine to make. My job was to perform in the manner that was expected of me. I could think something was dumb but if I wanted to be paid, I sucked it up. There was even a time that I chose to leave a job because I disagreed so strongly with my superiors.

You should always stand up for what you believe in. If you believe that strip clubs objectify women, don't patronize them and, certainly, don't become a stripper. Becoming a fully-clothed stripper who only used the pole to lean on while reading chaste literary classics is not meeting the requirements of the job and will not make you any money. You can have your religious beliefs, and you can have a job. Your boss can't fire you just because you have your beliefs, and you are free to practice them as you will. It is not your privilege to not do you job because of those beliefs. You are not forced to work any particular job, and you are not forced to stay in any job that is not in line with those beliefs. But if you are not in charge, just collecting a paycheck versus signing them, that you are expected to carry out your job duties whether you believe in them or not. Kim Davis is not doing her job, and therefore should be relieved of her duties.

Of course, right now Kim Davis sits in a jail, gaining notoriety and, no doubt, crafting the first chapter of the book she'll have someone ghost write for her write when she gets that inevitable book deal. She gets to be a martyr for her cause, and I don't doubt that she enjoys it. Personally, I would let her ride into the sunset. Let's not let get used to the idea that you can just up and stop doing your job and still get paid.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Your faith walks on broken glass...

So, I wrote this last night while I was drinking wine. I forgot to hit "Publish" because, wine. So, that.

Today was the last day of summer vacation.
I wanted the day to be full of magic.
I wanted it to be a day that PJ and I could enjoy the last little bit of freedom
 before we are back into the swing of things with school.
 we started the day off with a haircut-
an auspicious start because PJ spent the rest of the day
being defiant and contrary.
He did get to spend the day with his cousins,
 splashing in a wading pool and eating donuts which,
by five-year-old standards,
seems like a pretty good day.
But he was pesty and wearing on my nerves and
 I found myself relieved when I tucked him into bed...
...and than immediately felt guilty for that feeling
and empty thinking about an entire school year stretched out ahead of us.
A school year, by the way, called Kindergarten.
This is the big leagues, folks.
And if this is the big leagues than this summer was his time in the minors.
We sacrificed a summer, our golden time with our only son,
 to spend a summer going to therapy.
I think we made the right decision.
I almost know we made the right decision.
Tomorrow, it will be in the hands of someone else,
 and I am nervous, mistrustful.
But my baby has worked hard this summer and
 he has so many new tools with which to build.
Bring it on.
PJ has grown and stretched again and always despite Autism,
 despite misunderstanding,
 despite the million and five mistakes every day as I try to mother
that subborn, blond, firey soul we created.