Thursday, December 23, 2010

All I want for Christmas is...

Andrew sits in our office, trying to figure out if he actually likes the new iPad (and all its really cool apps). He was so happy to get out of school early today and begin his vacation.  He was in sensory overload with all his classmates and their parents crammed into the small gym of his equally small special education school.  (Admission: I was in sensory overload, too).   My girls, of course, are equally thrilled with school vacation and a visit from their grandparents.

I, on the other hand, feel a bit lost in the hubbub of the holiday season.  The gifts I have for the children are small:  I am not the parent with money.  As I bought the M&M's and Hershey Kisses that will go into their Christmas stockings, I thought of the Christmases when my family was whole. The Christmas Eve services, Julia dressed as an angel for the pageant, friends to share the holiday with, our children playing and the adults enjoying good food and good company. I think of last year, spending Christmas Eve with a dear friend and her husband's family, feeling included yet still not really belonging.  This year, at my suggestion, because they get to see their out-of-state grandparents so infrequently, I agreed that their dad keep the children Christmas Eve and all day Christmas. I had made grand plans to go skiing with other single mom friends.  And, then,  it hit me like a ton of bricks. I just want to be with my kids. (At this rate, Andrew wants nothing to do with his dad or grandparents, so at least I'll have 25% of my kids).  Since our newly restored "getting along" would probably just confuse said people, it's all good.

Christmas is about family.  I have given up thinking it's about a tiny baby, born in a stable, to a virgin mother and a carpenter father, where sheep lie and where wise men visit.  The pain of not having a church tugs at my heart. The past four years have been a roller coaster of emotion, and things are finally as close to "right" as they have been with my children.  Yet, my sense of self is not at peace. I'm sad. Five years ago,we celebrated the last "normal" Christmas as a family who hadn't yet been affected by divorce.  My son doesn't care about presents, or stockings, or Christmas itself. Autism has robbed him of that.  What he is is an amazing little boy, or perhaps boy-man, who makes me smile, gives me hugs, and occasionally starts his day by saying, as he did yesterday, "I just wanted to tell you that I love you".  (The day ended awful, not even my Mom's Group annual dinner and Yankee Swap at Jade Garden could redeem it).  Andrew and I play, we laugh, we cuddle, we run errands... He has replaced Maddie-the-cat as my best buddy.

Thanks only to my amazing friends who are kind and tell the truth, I am here. Wrapping presents and getting ready for this holiday.  I was born in the slums of India, and left in front of the door of Mother Teresa's orphanage. This must have been for a reason.  Early stage breast cancer and subsequent lumpectomy and radiation must have also happened for a reason.  Maybe it's so I can be the parent that Andrew loves and accepts.  Autism has taken so much from him, but not his affection or his love.

I wish all a very Merry Christmas and a new year filled with peace, joy, good health, and much love. I hope we are lucky enough to be gifted with peace, as well.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A visit to Channel 7

Andrew and his friend Emma had a fabulous time visiting Channel 7 (WHDH-TV), hanging out with Andrew's meteorologist buddy Jeremy Reiner, and talking to Dylan Dreyer, Adam Williams, Anne Allred, and Steve Cooper. (To show my age, I was excited to see Andy Hiller, the long-time political reporter). 

Everyone was wonderful to the kids, and it was definitely the experience of a lifetime! 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do we listen to autism?

As parents, it's our job to listen to our kids. We don't always have to agree with what they say, but we have a responsibility to hear them out.  Today, Andrew's autism got the better of him and I tried to keep pushing him. In all my attempts to calm him, or make him re-focus, in the end, he ended up having a major tantrum and crying.  When I was tucking him into bed, he was able to verbalize that he was sorry and said "I had a bad day, Mom, I was just tired". The tears came as soon as I turned off the light and walked out, my head spinning wondering why I did such a poor job respecting the communication he was attempting to have with me.

Autism doesn't reason well.  Things are very black and white.  Things either make sense to a kid, or they don't.  Because of this rigidity, he misses out on so much.  Even things he likes, like the Wii, he has meltdowns over if he doesn't do as well as he'd like, or if his Wii "me" doesn't look perfect. It's very sad to witness.

I think about all the missed weeks and evenings when I should have been supporting him and have been more present.  Instead, I had entered the dating world.  Would it have made a difference? I have no idea.  What I do know is this all feels helpless sometimes and autism for my boy-man is more challenging than ever.