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.
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.