Parenting PJ In Alphabetical Order

Always bathe before bed, because this child has a propensity for getting dirty like nothing you have ever known.

Believe in him, even when it is hard. He is capable of so much more than anyone might think.

Cleaning up the trains is a useless endeavor. Just hang a "Sodor" placard our the mailbox and call it a day.

Discovering the amazing things about your child has no end and will always surprise you.

Everybody knows your name at two places, Cheers and our house, because PJ remembers everyone's name. Truly. He did not get this skill from me- I am the WORST with names. I am embarrassed to admit how many time I have had to ask PJ to remind me of someone's name.

Failures will happen. It's okay. Learn, even if "learning" is the thing that leaves a scar on your heart.  Dust off. Move on.

Growing like a weed, this one, but I wonder: Do girls end up in awkward in-between sizes? Right now PJ is between an 8 and a 10 and it's driving me nuts.

Haircuts are torture for him, but he gets through it and gets better every time. I try to imagine how intense the feeling is for him and can't, and somehow that breaks my heart even more.

Intense: PJ is not a cry baby, but he feels emotions very intensely. He might not cry if he falls down and gets hurt, but if he is frightened, sad, or apprehensive, he can be intense in his display. That is something he is grapples with often, as Autism has left him with little by way of organic tools to deal with these emotions. Instead, he may start to make threats, or throw things, or become aggressive. He has grown and improved and learned so much thanks to years of therapy and work (isn't that a weird thing to say about an 8 and-a-half year old?) but they can still sometimes float to the surface. PJ is old enough now to understand the repercussions of his negative behaviors, and I, somehow, seeing the shame on his face is a pain that is sharp and stinging and permanent in my mama heart.

Joy is hiding everywhere. It might be in bubble letters, it might be in farts. But my kid can extract happiness from the mundane like, whoa.

Kisses are still on demand, and I dread the day he decides he is too old or too cool.

Lettering and fonts hold huge interest for him. I wonder if maybe PJ will be a graphic designer. He is an amazing artist and his handwriting is even better. Astounding, really.

Math is his jam. Pretty soon I won't be able to help him with his homework.

Nikes. The Boy is partial to his Nikes. I am dying to get him in a pair of red Chuck Taylors but he will have none of it.

Ocean. I think PJ may have come from mer-folk. The ocean speaks to him and is the happiest of his happy places. He is basically Moana.

Parkour has been a blessing! We stumbled on lessons after he had a phenomenal parkour birthday party a few years ago. The sports has an amazing, inclusive climate and it is perfect for PJ, who is not yet ready for team sports. Parkour is individual, but the community is close-knit and welcoming.

Quiet? No thanks. He might be talking or he might be singing or he might be stimming, but my PJ knows how to make a joyful noise. Lots and lots of noise.

Religion is not a thing we have touched on yet with PJ. He has been welcomed into both of our faiths, but we have not pursued any sort of true religious following for PJ. It wasn't important before, but as he gets older, I find myself wanting more. I want PJ to know and love God, to be a good human and have a faith that he finds comfort, community, and guidance in.

Surfing. Again with the ocean, but riding the waves has made my Boy smile like I have never seen before. His first time on a board, the instructors only brought him back because he was chilled to the bone- practically turning blue. His smile is carved into my heart forever, and hearing some of the volunteers talking about the kid who was "so awesome" and a "real surfer" filled me with pride for my brave, mer-man of a son.

Thomas the Train. PJ is a little less mature than the average 8 year old, and Thomas is still his best guy...er, train. Still, as PJ has grown, the way he plays with Thomas et al has grown as well. As a toddler, lines of engines would cover any flat space- our kitchen table, the tv stand, a windowsill. Now, he builds whole worlds with his tracks, and if he doesn't have a piece that he's looking for, he creates one out of Lego's or magnet tiles or, once, Ritz crackers.  His original playmate might be the same but the way his creativity had blossomed is really something else.

Understanding my Boy can be a tricky thing. It takes work, lots of work, and without it, it is easy to simply see a misbehaving, aggressive brat. Sometimes, I see something in his face when he is in the throes of a meltdown that looks like shame, and it chips a piece of my heart away every time.

Victories come in huge doses, like his happiness when he surfs of the first time he cheered in front of hundreds of people. But they also come in small doses, like when I showed him the "Griffindor" shirt I bought him (side note: I'm a Ravenclaw) and he asked me "Where did you get that?" Follow up questions have not been his bag until recently. Small sentence, large victory.

Warrior is the term most often used for Autism parents. I get it, but I don't know that it's an accurate description of me. Frankly, I feel like I'm a cross between Napoleon and a honey badger with a smidge of Dorothy from the Golden Girls thrown in. If you asked our school district, the description would be similar, but with more swear words and eye rolling. Warrior kind of gives the impression that one is storming the castle with a plan and all their wits about them when, truth is, I can spend hours preparing for an IEP only to dissolve into tears ten minutes in because this is my baby we are talking about.

X...you guys. I just don't have anything for X. What do I look like, a sorcerer?

Yes is a word that PJ has become used to hearing. Picture it, our living room, almost 7 years ago. PJ had just been diagnosed with Autism and we were like lost souls, trying to find their way to Holland. We were desperate for PJ to have language, and when he finally started using more than just word approximations, the word he said often ended up in his hands. Come back to the present where PJ now has tons of words and...uh...is kinda spoiled. While we have certainly pared way back since  our "YES PRECIOUS CHILD HAVE THIS!!! AND THIS!!! AND SOME OF THIS!!!" days, we are still dealing with the fallout of a child who has difficulty with social skills understanding that "no" is a thing.

Zest. PJ is full of it. Some of his color is part of his sensory disorder; PJ needs to FEEL things, hard and strong, in order to get any input out of it. But I also like to think it's his nature and pure love of adventure that makes him want to jump into the roughest waves or ride the tallest ride or hear the loudest applause. He wants to feel things under his feet and in his hands, feel the wind whipping past on a roller coaster or the water engulf his body when he jumps into the pool. And sometimes it's subtle- he stopped a teenage girl the other day to talk about her bright red lipstick (and also asked to hold her hand, LOL!).


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