8.28.2013

Dear Dad: Vol. 1



Dear Dad,

I know we didn't get to hang out a whole lot the past 36 years I have been around, so I thought I would start a regular installment of letters to catch you up!

My first letter just had to be about my sister, Lisa. Oh man she has been such a great sister. When my mom was a single mom adjusting to caring for us she really stepped up and filled the gaps of caring for me instinctively. I wish you could have seen it, you would have been so proud of her!

She read me books at a time I was so little I only knew how to drool and eat. My boys have to be PAID to do this for my little girl. And even then they usually refuse. She corrected my language, taught me to coordinate clothing (I didn't pick up on that one too well), and even broke up with my very first boyfriend for me because I was too worried about hurting his feelings (our voices sound very much alike on the phone).

Once we had a not-so-good neighbor who lived in the apartment above ours. She stole things from the grocery store and gave them to us. We didn't know the lip gloss and Smurf coloring books were stolen, but once Lisa found out she felt really bad about it. Mom was at work and Lisa had no choice but to take me with her in the covert return-hot-items operation. We wore sunglasses and walked casually around the make-up department and dropped the merchandise between shelves of Wet N' Wild nail polish and lip stick products.

She is so brave! I watched her fall in love with dance and perform on a stage for years. I wished I could remember routines and do as well as her. It was definitely a talent she enjoyed a lot and even got to be a Pom Pom girl in Junior High. She ruled her advance dance class and rocked at teaching kids at a dance studio when she was in High School.

I was first chair in flute when I learned how to play in 6th grade because she offered to spend time teaching me how to play the week before school started! I had such an advantage over all those other suckers. For the first time I felt so happy at being the best at something.

She always knew how to put on make-up and wear fashionable clothing; she hung out with all the cool kids. She always had a boyfriend and they were always the cutest boys in her grade. She listened to college radio before it was even called 'alternative' and encouraged me always to follow what I liked, not what the crowd was doing. I wasn't a dancer, but a runner (I am not coordinated at all!) and she told me to keep doing it because it was important to be part of something active. She always had good advice, trained me to use good come-backs if someone was mean, and made it clear if I was embarrassing (social norms are important).

She always got A's, rarely anything less. School was a happy place for her to be and she learns quickly and easily. She has amazing organizational skills and a sharp memory. I am opposite of her that way, I admire that about her. When we watched reruns of I Love Lucy we always laughed that I was Lucy; she was Ethel figuring things out and fixing problems. I always could make her laugh, though, and that was my favorite part of being her little sister.

She is more sensitive and delicate. I am a bull in a china shop. She is an amazing mother who had been given a heavy load. I have always admired her way of working hard to press for the unique things Lindsey has needed over the years.

She played Monopoly with me all the time (probably more than she wanted to) and let me hang out in her room while she listened to her latest music obsession (examples: The Monkees, Michael Jackson, WHAM!/ George Michael, Mariah Carey, Pearl Jam). When I was too young to drive, she let me hang out with her and her friends because she knew getting out of the house was important.

While growing up she always kept an eye out for me to protect or help me like a parent. No one asked her to, she just did. I hope my boys can be like that for each other and their little sister.

I watched her my whole life to figure things out big and small. She was and still is a great big sister.  I am so glad I got to look up to her all my life. She made my world less stressful as I grew.

We always wondered about you, together, and would look for your name in the yellow pages at the library for years. I am glad we are corresponding and hope this letter makes you smile.

Sincerely,
Liz

8.06.2013

Autism Taught Me

Yesterday was an extremely hard afternoon and evening. My oldest was not himself and I was hating what Autism does to him at times. He had trouble using his words and anger was overcoming him heavily while sensory needs were high. The siblings of this child are too little to understand when this is happening and it's not always easy to comfort them through the process of Autism Child Getting Regulated. Unfortunately, days like that happen when you don't expect it and you may never know what event(s) or variable may have triggered it. You go to bed begging for God to help you know what the child needs and hope it's not a new long-term phase. In our case, I throw in a wish for no night terrors. Stress triggers them and can keep him up crying and screaming in the middle of the night. Luckily, these kind of days are not a regular occurrence and he woke up happy and calm this morning.

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Refreshed at the lease of a new day, I thought of the less experienced and more youthful version of me. The me before Autism and how she might have expected (unrealistically) for my 4 and 5 year old to sit still for an hour in the heat while we watch my 9 year old have a swim lesson today. The phantom version of me may have worried about what other parents around me thought or said of the way my children acted during this hour. I might have developed anxiety over this concern and even more (plus sweat) at the process of trying to force little kids to behave in an unreasonable way because of what others around me might expect. That version of me might have also worried that people around me would snicker or glare at the boy in the pool who gets corrected more, tends to swim into another lane or splash inappropriately at others. What kind of parents does he have?

Thankfully, Autism has taught me to know better. It has taught me to not give a damn what people around me think. It has taught me there are two people on earth and you can't change them:

1) The person who gets it and smiles at the love you have for your kids.
2) The person who judges because they just simply have no idea (or life experiences to allow for understanding).

Today I am happy for what I have learned. I had the chance to allow myself to bask in the joy of a boy swimming who didn't splash other kids a single time. He worked so hard to correct himself on the strokes they worked on without splashing the coach. He never got out of the pool to sit on the cool deck; refusing to swim like he has in other sessions. He lost his fins and still walked himself over to the lane and got in (!). He tried his best and even if it looked different than the others and he complained about being last, he kept going. THIS IS A GREAT SWIMMING DAY! These kind of days brim my eyes with tears of joy while I sit on the bleachers next to parents whom are usually texting or reading.

I also had the chance to set realistic boundaries for my two little ones who would have to wait an hour for the lesson to be over. I enjoyed seeing them seek out other kids their age to initiate play under a tree. My girl kicked off her shoes and pressed her toes into the dirt. They played with branches and leaves while the ipad sat unused in my lap. I was so pleased for that moment to know from Autism what a beautiful thing it is to watch as they formed friendships easily in ways my oldest is still learning how to do. I am glad Autism has shown me to capture such simple little moments, soak them all up, and hold them tightly. Tonight I can thank Him for this evening. I will go to bed smiling at the memory of hearing their laughter under the arches of an old olive tree. I will grin at the image of those long sun-kissed arms reaching up and over the aqua water in perfect rhythm. It was a great day. Without Autism it would have been just a regular day.

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