We took the kids to a Padres baseball game Saturday evening. As usual, I was mentally prepping for dealing with Ethan. We actually bribed him to go with promises of dinner out and a treat at the park. He’s not a fan of anything involving large crowds or anywhere it might be noisy (noise sensitivity). It didn’t help matters much we were sitting in the same section where we saw a lady take a foul ball to the head. She ended up getting a neck brace and was taken out on a stretcher. This sticks in Ethan’s memories of baseball games, and he was pretty anxious the same thing would happen and he would end up being the one getting hit in the head. As we took our seats in front of an older couple, he was asking question after question about this particular thing. Michael and both reassured him it was highly unlikely to happen, we sat him to our right so we would both “be able to protect him” from a potential foul ball, and reminded him he needed to pay attention, especially when right-handed batters were up. We also tried to distract him with all the other things going on around us…..we were 8 rows up from the Diamondbacks bullpen, the Padres’ padre mascot was a couple of rows in front of us, asking him to count all the video screens in the park, etc, etc, etc. The couple behind us paid particular attention to all the conversation. They were really very nice, but I wasn’t in the mood to explain why we were going through this process with Ethan. I wasn’t stressed out at all, it is just how our world works now. But I could tell the woman had questions in her eyes. She was very compassionate, not at all rude, but I just did not want to explain Ethan. I just wanted to be…..
Early in the game, Ethan asked if there would be fireworks. The last game we took him to was a minor league game last year and there were fireworks afterwards. He HATES fireworks. I told him that was a special occasion when we saw the fireworks and there would be none at this game. Well, apparently the Padres have added a bit to their park, and as soon as the home team hit a home run, there was a big boom and fireworks out in center field. Ethan quickly slapped his hands over his ears, curled up in his protective ball, and started rocking. Poor baby – I felt awful. He recovered quickly, thankfully, but then he was pretty ready to go home. The woman behind us was very concerned for him. I just got to thinking, this is our normal. This is what our family looks like now. We take headphones with us many places to help lessen the noise for Ethan. We use all our techniques from therapy to help him in social situations. We prep him and stay alert. We distract, we talk, we calm. A year post-diagnosis, we have our own normal. Sometimes I explain it, sometimes I don’t. We are who we are, our family is what it is. It could be worse, yes, but it could be better too. We’ve gotten better at taking it in stride. As when the boys were diagnosed with asthma and then ADHD, we’ve adjusted to the things that have been added (or taken away from) to our routine. Life with a child with an autism spectrum disorder is, hmmmmm, interesting, quirky, challenging, often frustrating, sometimes heartbreaking, and definitely not everyone’s “normal”. But we’re here and we are getting better at rolling with it.
I was sitting in church yesterday morning. Ethan was sitting next to me, hands over his ears to block out the music, and I had somewhat of a revelation. I am blessed to be his mom. It’s not that I didn’t know that before, but it just hit me that God specifically chose me to be Ethan’s mom, challenges and all. Not that I’m proud of me. I often have my moments and days of losing it, but to know that God trusts me with this precious boy just made me feel so much more at peace. (Likely that peace won’t last, but I’ll enjoy it for the moment) He’s my son. I love him so much it hurts. He is beautiful. He is a gift, diagnosis and all. Our normal has made me a better person, and definitely a much better mother. We’re learning together how to navigate this. His therapy has helped me in so many ways. Learning how to parent a PDD kid helps you parent “normal” kids much better as well. I’m so far from perfect, but I’m better at this than I was a year, two years, five years, twelve years ago.
I don’t know what tomorrow might bring. We’re not always going to be good at prepping him and handling this normal. I’m going to have mommy-fail moments when impatience and frustration take over. We are going to have to keep learning and keep teaching. Our normal may not look like yours but that’s okay. It’s ours, like it or not. While I would do anything to change this path for him and make it better, I wouldn’t change the lessons I’ve learned, nor would I let go the knowledge of what a blessing each of my children is.