Autism Awareness

April: here we are again. Daffodils spring from the ground, the pear trees are about to flower and a month of autism awareness, a month of opportunities stretches before me.

This is my autism.

Two boys so identical and yet so different. Sam says, “Mom, can I stay up late tonight?” I ask him why, what does he have in mind, maybe 8:30? “No. I was thinking that I could stay up from 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock. That’s a.m.,” he adds. Uh, no I say, that is way too late for a six-year-old but I offer to let him stay up until 9:00. “Okay!” he says, happy at this unexpected extra half hour. “When I’m a young man, though, I can stay up late, late as I want, right?”

Yes, baby, you surely can.

John skips skips skips through the house, the sound of his feet hitting the floor has become so familiar in our household, even the cats barely blink as he tromps by. Sometimes, when I am stressed out and trying to do a million things at once — make dinner or fill out forms for school or do laundry — sometimes the pounding echoes the beating of my heart and I’m afraid it might leap out of my chest, fall to the floor and break. Like now, so I yell, “John! Slow down, buddy!” I breathe deep and listen: he has stopped, I count 1…2…3… but he’s off skip skip skipping again.

This is what autism looks like in my house.

Sam is building a diorama of the Sprout Sharing Show. He has dumped toys from a plastic box and put it on its side, used an entire roll of Scotch tape to adhere mini cutout stars and a pig, a pig that he cut out himself, and then brings it to show to me. I am super impressed and I tell him how great it is. He is so proud. John comes up to look, not look, skips by again. I ask him if he has to go potty. “Potty?” he says, his affirmative. We run to the bathroom but we’re too late. It’s all I can do not to scream.

This is our autism.

They both have the longest eyelashes — people tell me it’s not right that they’re wasted on little boys, but I disagree. They frame eyes so big and brown that when I catch them, even for an instant, my stress fades away. Especially John’s, whose looks are fleeting and rare.

Tonight I hold a sleepy sleepy John on the couch. Every few minutes he raises his head and says “Animal hands? I. Want. animalhands?” those awesome tattoos that seemed made just for him. I stroke his hair and tell him not tonight, we’ll do one tomorrow. I know he can hear me, does he understand? As 9:00 draws near, he is fast asleep and curled up beside me. I carry him up to bed, tuck him in and just as I’m about to walk away, his arms reach up for me and pull me close. “Iwantanimalhands. Mommy, ok, tomorrow.”

You got it love.

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