Radio Silence

You’ll notice I’ve been fairly quiet on the autism front lately. Honestly, he’s been in such a good, stable place, and I’m trying to take it all in, revel in the sunshine, because I know the dark days will return.

School is going so well for him this year. I chalk it up to him  having two teachers and an SAI who have found the perfect balance of tough-love and compassion. They push him to his limits, and sometimes a little beyond. It’s helped him grow and center this year. It’s truly a relief to see him out the door in the morning and not be a basket-case of stress all day, waiting for a phone call or email. He forgot to take his ADHD meds Friday morning, and I couldn’t get them to him all day, but he survived, and said he had a great day (his teachers may have had something else to report on that, but I’m of the opinion at this  point of don’t ask if you don’t want to  know the answer).

He did well over Break too. Oh, he had his usual Holiday anxiety, and a couple of small meltdowns. He does struggle yet with lack of routine and changes in routine. He did pop out of the Star Wars movie three times to go to the bathroom (read: take a break from the sensory input), but only once when we went to see Fantastic Beasts and once during Sing. His general anxiety comes and goes. But honestly, he’s with his friends more than his neuro-typical siblings are with theirs. I hear him laughing, talking, engaging, leading, compromising. He has his moments – times I need to tell him to check his tone, deal with his siblings and friends wanting to do something other than what he’d rather do – but for the most part, he’s just in a GREAT place. So we’re taking it for what it is, and going with it.

We watched The Accountant last night. Definitely saw it through different eyes than I might if I didn’t have an autistic child. It was a decent action movie, but it did make me think about what my precious boy goes through, how he sees and interprets the world. I was also reminded he will find his way, his own path, learn  how to deal in this world. He will be okay, and that’s what matters. He’s a brilliant boy with a huge heart. I couldn’t ask for more from any of my children.

Came across this picture of him on his second birthday, and it just made me smile – there’s such joy on his face..little-man-in-balloons

 

You don’t know her

I was downloading performance pictures from Nutcracker this week, and, like any good dance mom, posting them to my social media. It hit me that most of the Princess’ friends have never seen her dance. She lives in two separate worlds….her school world, and her dance world. They don’t overlap at all. There’s an entire side to her that her school peeps have never even glimpsed. I don’t hold it against them  at all. I just find it interesting.

I looked at those pictures of her dancing, knowing exactly what faults she would find and point out, which she would like, which she would tell me to not download. She sees herself critically in the photos. I just see her when I look at them, and I realized, you don’t really know her if you’ve never seen her dance. She bares herself when she’s dancing – her passion, her drive, her emotions, her intent,  her strength, her vulnerability. Every time she performs, I learn something about her, and I think that’s what makes me cry when I watch her. I see her, and I know all the work she’s put into it.

I hope someday her friends get to see her dance. They’ll see a side of her they’ve never known, they’ll maybe understand why she frequently has to say, “I can’t, I have dance”, and they’ll know her better, because you don’t really know her, all of her, unless you’ve seen her dance.

That’s not how it’s supposed to end!

The Princess and I went to the movies the other day. I won’t give anything away about any story lines. There was a happily-ever-after, but not the one we usually get. Both of us were kind of torn up about that. It was still haunting both of us last night.

When you go to see a movie, or watch a tv show, you expect to be able to suspend reality – your favorite characters don’t die, good wins over evil, the underdog defeats the bully, and the guy gets the girl and they live happily ever after. That’s how it’s supposed to go  in movies and television, right? We want that, because we know reality is so much uglier. Favorite people pass away from horrible diseases, evil seems to win over good, the bully defeats the underdog, the guy and the girl break up, there’s no happily-ever-after.

We’ve had an emotional couple of weeks. We loved the movie, but we needed a different ending than what we saw. We both walked out of that theater just kind of dazed and saddened, because, dang it, that’s not how it’s supposed to end!

Before you find him

My dear P –

You are just making your first forays into the land of boys. Tuck it in, sister, you’re in for a ride.  You  have (hopefully) a long way between now and when you find HIM (capitals intended).  You’ll likely have many crushes, many attractions, break some hearts, and have yours busted/cracked/shattered at least once.  Here’s what you might go through before you find HIM:

  1. The Unrequited Crush – This is that one boy you crush hard for, for a long time. He may be a bestie or good friend, or you may just have some classes together and nothing more than that.  He sets up some ideals for the rest of your life. It’ll be so completely bittersweet…exciting and heartbreaking at the same time…exciting because every day brings the chance he’ll notice you, heartbreaking because that’s what unrequited crushes are.  He may or may not know how you feel.
  2. The Reverse Unrequited Crush – Some boy is going to crush hard for you, but you won’t like him, or won’t like him that way at least. Be kind. Be gentle. Be respectful, but don’t give encouragement that anything more is possible. That’ll just make it worse for both of you. Never play with someone’s feelings. That just sucks.
  3. The One That Got Away –  Ohhhh…..sometimes, timing is everything. Right boy, right girl, wrong time. You’re not ready, or  he’s not ready. You both know you like each other, but for some reason, it just doesn’t happen all the way. He moves away, you leave for college, one of you graduates, life pulls you in different directions. For a long time, you’ll wonder, “What if?”. Eventually, that fades, but he will likely always be in the corner of your heart as the one that got away.
  4. The Boy Who Wants You….Someday…But For Now, He Just Wants to Make Sure No One Else Has You – Oh yeah, that. One guy told me, and I kid you not, that I was the girl he would marry, but he wasn’t ready for that, and he wanted to put me on a shelf until he was ready so no one else could have me in the meantime. Seriously. It was flattering in one way, and completely pissed me off in every other way.
  5. The One Who Makes You Question Everything About Yourself –  Ugh. I hope you miss out on this one. This is the boy who makes you feel less, who treats you horribly, who maybe cheats on you or abuses you in any way. Be strong, dear girl. Knowing who you are, your worth, your value, will help keep this boy away, will keep you from falling for his charming words.
  6. The One You Break – This is almost as bad as being the one getting broken. Realize when you are the one treating the other person in the relationship badly.  Walk away before you do much damage. Recognize when you’re in a bad place, and stay away from dating anyone until you’ve reached a better place. It’s difficult to treat anyone well when you don’t like yourself much.
  7. The One Who Breaks You – This is one that you really care for, but he walks away. You will feel like you can literally feel your heart breaking in your chest. This is the one you will cry for  months over, the one you will never forget, and will take a long time to forgive. This is the one you will write so many letters, sing so many sad songs over. It sounds awful, and this one has every chance of breaking your courage, self-esteem, confidence, trust. It’s so humbling (and somewhat humiliating) for someone to love you, take your heart, and then tell you he doesn’t want you anymore.

Don’t let fear of what the future may or may not hold, your fear of getting hurt, your fear of hurting someone else stop you from experiencing life. We aren’t promised tomorrow, much less next month, next year. So jump in….crush, like, love, hurt. It’s all part of life, of learning.

I’ve told you before, kiss a lot of boys (that doesn’t have to be literal). Learn from each friendship, relationship, love.  Take those lessons into your heart.  Learn who you are, and learn to love yourself, learn to be okay with being alone and on your own. You can’t Love anyone fully,  nor be fully loved until you love and accept yourself. HE will not complete you, he will just complement who you are.Don’t rely upon any guy for happiness. Be happy yourself.

I will tell you something my mom told me (I think she got it from some advice column or something, but I did it, and it really did work) – from every boy you like/date/love/are friends with, write down the one trait/characteristic you like the most about him. When you find HIM, if it’s the right him, he will have all of those traits/characteristics, or at least most of them. You’ll have a good idea he’s HIM if he measures up to those standards.

 

If she could see what I see

Navigating the  path of raising a daughter is fraught with many perils. When the Princess was born, I was determined she would always know her worth, never suffer from self-esteem issues or lack of confidence. I’m learning no matter  how you raise your girl, no matter how often you tell her she’s loved, you’re proud of her, no matter how many A’s she earns, how many times she’s successful onstage, on the field, in the pool, in whatever contest, she’s still likely to suffer from a lack of confidence and low self-esteem. PS – if you know the secret to overcoming this, please share.

I suffered severe shyness growing up. It was so painful, and resulted in so much daily anxiety over even the tiniest of things. I had no confidence, and zero self-esteem. Nada. Zero. Zip. I never liked what I saw in the mirror, never felt I was ever good enough or worthy. It took leaving for college far from home, and the opportunity to reinvent myself, be who I WANTED to be, to overcome most of that. It still resurfaces more than I’d like.

I wanted so much for my girl to never experience that. We put her in various sports, groups, and activities. I tell her – probably more than I should – how proud of her I am in all that she does and who she is. I wanted her to look in the mirror each day and be content with what she sees. I wanted her to know her value comes from within. But lately, things she says seem to show her confidence in herself isn’t there, her self-esteem is failing. She seems to feel she is less, scared, not-as-good-as, not good enough, not cute enough, not-as-smart-as. Fear and insecurity seem to be the winners lately. Does every teenager feel the same? Are some just better actors, hide it better?

I wish she could see what I see when I look at her – a beauty that flows from inside of her, her precious, infectious smile/laugh. I wish she could understand how proud we are of her hard work at school, in dance, in cheer; how we treasure the fact she deeply cares about her friends and makes sure everyone is treated fairly. I love her compassion, her physical and mental strength. I wish she understood that no matter how many times I see her dance, every time feels like the first, most-amazing time, and I am in awe. I wish she understood that just because math takes her longer doesn’t mean she isn’t good at it. I wish she knew that everything she does to help with her brothers and around the house is recognized and truly appreciated.

I wish she could see the witty, funny, adorable, beautiful, smart, hard-working, well-loved, well-liked, inspiring girl we see when she looks in the mirror.  She isn’t less. She is worthy. She is blessed and she is a blessing, not just to her family, but to everyone who cares about her.

This fierce, fearless girl is who I see…..My wish is she would see the same, all the time.

First and Last

Do you remember your first love? Do you remember how much you had invested in that relationship? Do you remember what it was like to have a crush on someone in high school? The “Oh my god, what if he doesn’t notice I’m alive? Oh my god, what if he Does? Oh my god, what if he doesn’t talk to me? OH MY GOD,WHAT IF HE DOES? What will I do if he asks me to dance? What will I do if he actually asks me out. OH MY GOD HE’S WALKING THIS WAY!” Yeah, that. Lucky thing school came relatively easy to me because I spent an inordinate amount of time dissecting my days, dissecting my friends’ days with my friends….who talked to whom, who didn’t talk to whom, who said he said he liked who, who passed on what rumor, and so on….Do you remember your heart pounding and your stomach fluttering when you knew you would pass him in the hallway between classes? Do you remember your stuttered, clumsy talking when you sat next to him in class?

I remember all of those things so well. But here I am on my  last love…..a love I’ve been with for nearly 21 years. I’m with my last love, watching our teens going through all the drama of all those firsts….how every little event is so HUGE for them. We have the experience. We have the wisdom. We have the longevity.  We have the memories. It’s so interesting to be on this side. We see the bigger picture, because, well, we’ve lived it. Every minute, every minute happening doesn’t mean everything to us. But we have been there.

Truly, my heart aches for the heartaches they will endure, and endure them they must. That’s just part of life….the unrequited crushes, the beginnings and ends, the breakups, the broken dreams, the fears, the insecurities. But I’m also excited for their excitement, for their new experiences, for them realizing that someone who doesn’t have to will love them.

There are times I would they could skip all that – just go on being and have their first be their last, years and years from now.  I remember how all those endings felt – how I literally felt my heart would fall out of my chest, broken and bruised, how hard it was just to breath much less go on with life as if nothing momentous had happened, how the mere sight of him hundreds of yards away would throw me right back to my room and my already-soaked pillow, how unworthy I felt, how hard a hit my self-confidence took each time. I remember hating myself for causing pain to anyone when I was the one to end things.

I knew my last love was waiting for me. I knew each of those other loves was preparing me for this love.  My hope is my children learn that lesson, have that outlook.  My hope is that each first brings them closer to their last.

Invisible

I’m learning that when you are the parent of teens, you must become invisible in their presence, especially if any of their friends are around. This is really hard, as I spent years figuring out how to stop making myself invisible. I feel like I’m becoming smaller, disappearing from their lives, that I’m not really allowed to be part of their day-to-day stuff.

When your kids are in the car, you are to be a silent chauffeur. Don’t say a word, don’t ask any unnecessary questions, don’t comment on their conversation, don’t greet their friends, don’t even let them know you’re there. Above all, don’t even consider singing along to the music as you normally do. Just drive, wherever they need you to drive. You are an “old person” and not the least bit cool, so just keep anything you have to say to yourself. You can tell your spouse about it later, and whine over wine with your friends.

Pretend you don’t notice your kid is on her phone. Don’t ask who’s texting her, or what her friends are up to. You aren’t even supposed to know their friends’ names most of the time. Don’t acknowledge you’re aware who’s on what team at school, or who is dating whom. They seem to forget my friends – whose kids are in the same school – post status updates and photos all the time, and that sometimes, I actually have MORE information than they do. So there!

I have learned if you’re a silent observer, and can become invisible in their world, you hear more and see more. I’ve learned that sometimes, if you play your cards right and their friends aren’t around to witness it, they will actually talk to you. They might even talk about their day during dinner. If all the stars align in just the right way, they might – SHOCKER! – sit on the couch and watch a game or movie with  you. Very, very occasionally, they might allow you to hug them (just don’t even dream of that happening in the school parking lot when, “SOMEONE MIGHT SEE!”)

I keep finding myself struggling against these restraints. I know – we complain for years how needy our kids are, then suddenly they want us to essentially disappear, and we complain all over again. I don’t like having to be invisible. I’m used to being smack in the middle of their lives. I like knowing everything that’s going on. But now, I find myself telling myself, multiple times a day, to keep my mouth closed, and to become invisible.

They come back from this stage, right? At some point, I’ll be able to be a real, talking person around them? Tell me I won’t have to be invisible forever……