Archive - October 2013

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Flexibility, Feelings, and Fun
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It’s YOUR Story. Own It.
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Scouts and Such
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Fresh Start

Flexibility, Feelings, and Fun

Ihave been combing through the past of late, sitting with my boys and watching videos of their early years. This is Sam when he was just three years old. I first posted it back in 2008.

I realize that John is doing now, at nine, what Sam, at three, insisted on every single morning: A schedule.

autismtwins.com“John’s schedule?” he asks, after fetching orange construction paper and a crayon and handing them to me — a demand. He is eager to see the regular things: Get Dressed, Eat Breakfast, Go to School, but he is waiting for his favorite activities to appear too: The Library, DVDs, The Beach. It is very important that I think this through — what new activity will I need to ask of him today? How must I couch it between his favorite things in order to avoid upset if we have an unscheduled stop at the grocery store? I must be precise as well as build in room for the unexpected, and so I will add a question mark or two or indicate a time and underline it. For example: Walk on the Beach IF IT’S SUNNY. Or Go to Library AFTER SCHOOL, and just hope that he can go with the flow.

Sometimes we are successful and sometimes, well, we are not.

On Sunday he woke up at 6:00 a.m. and asked for the days’ events. I pondered (because I had just brewed my first cup of coffee and was in no hurry to leave the house) and slowly I wrote: Wake Up, Sit with Mommy, Eat Breakfast, Watch Sesame Street, Read a Book, Draw a Picture of Elmo, Get Dressed, Go to Library. He ran to his room, emerged with clothes in arms and said “Get Dressed. Go to Library. John’s Schedule.” — all before 7:00 a.m. “LATER,” I said. “Library is CLOSED,” I said. “Leave for Library at 10:30,” I sighed. Meltdown.

Not always successful.

When Sam insisted on these schedules, he did not wait to see his activities for the day appear like magic. I took dictation — it was his schedule, his order of events and I dutifully captured it as he ordained (within reason because he was only slightly more agreeable to alterations). Obsessed with the weather (extreme and otherwise), his daily schedule usually starred current conditions, along with any books or DVDs in rotation at the time.

Coincidence? John is watching the same DVD on a loop, Family, Feelings and Fun. I think his favorite part is the Feelings Song, mostly because he puts his elbows on the table and presses his face near the screen while it plays and sometimes I actually hear him hum. Probably because of that and the fact that he pauses and rewinds to it over and over.

“What are you feeling?
Don’t keep it bottled up inside
Try try try
Try to tell me what’s inside —side —side
Don’t keep it bottled up inside
Try try try
And tell me what’s inside

Do you feel EXCITED?
Do you feel SILLY?
Do you feel SCARED?
Do you feel GRUMPY?

What are you feeling?
Don’t keep it bottled up inside
Try try try
Try to tell me what’s inside

Do you feel SICK?
Do you feel SURPRISED?
What are you FEELING?”

Exactly. I ask this question of John countless times a day. In an effort to get a spontaneous response, I sometimes make my voice rea-lly LOW and I intone: “JOHN. Do YOU. Feel. MAD?” and he’ll mimic my facial expression and say “MAD!” Or sometimes I’ll make my voice high with sadness and say, “Boo-hoo, Mommy cry,” and then turn it over to him: “John cry?” He’ll mimic me down to my last inflection and say “Boo-hoo! John cry.” I get up, take his hands in mine and we twirl around until I stop suddenly and say “Woah! SURPRISE!!” He startles then laughs. I tell him it’s his turn and he makes his eyes big, rounds his mouth and says, “SURPRISE!” What a mimic, he has a gift.

I love that he is studying and exploring, just like his brother did so long ago, because in addition to being able to tell others how he feels, he is learning about how others sometimes feel and that is a link to community, to empathy, to a bigger world.

It’s YOUR Story. Own It.

autismtwins.comFor a long time, longer than I care to admit, I’ve been pushing the past away — like a coat that no longer fits. I awake in the morning and in those moments when my eyes are still closed, buried in half-dream, I imagine it is someone else’s coat, someone else’s story.

I’ve been trying to tell it, this story, for so long and am stuck. Each time I sit down to write I am pulling rabbits out of hats, performing sleight of hand in order to avoid putting that coat on and owning it. That coat is a coat full of regrets and a past that puts all I thought I knew about my life into question.

I can’t believe that this will always be a part of my storya condemnation, an indictment, a judgement — all self-imposed. This: that I trusted. This: that I was conned. This: that I loved. This: that I was a chump.

Just this morning I sat with my son who berated himself: I’m a loser, he said. All because I told him to stop dawdling and get his shoes on. All because I was impatient and lost my temper after the, ahem, fourth request. His self-flagellation irritated me more than the fact he dawdled.

As we waited for his bus and after the umpteenth time of telling him that Mommy was upset with his behavior and not with his inherent goodness as a human being, I said, “Child, the more you say ‘I’m a loser,‘ the more others will believe you. Even worse, the more you say ‘I’m a loser,’ the more YOU will believe it.’

He quieted and listened.

“Fake it until you make it.” I said. Instead of ‘I’m a loser’ try ‘I’m a winner!’. Instead of ‘I’m bad’ tell yourself, ‘I’m good!'”

Negative self-talk vs. positive self-talk. Fake it until you believe the good.

If I’m going to deliver life lessons like this to my son, I should at the very least practice what I preach. Put on that coat, own it like I’ve never owned it before. Wear it with pride. It’s my story, after all.

I can’t believe that this will always be a part of my storya congratulations, a celebration, a fact. This: I am trusting. This: I am loyal. This: two boys, twin owners of my heart. This: the past only illuminates my path — it is not my future.

xo

autismtwins.com

Scouts and Such

autismtwins.comWhen I was six years old, I was a Brownie / Girl Scout for all of ten seconds. I remember the mint green uniform, mostly because of this picture — here I am tucked between BFFs, Lisa and Greer. (It’s been forty years but I still remember those names, wouldn’t you?) I love that we each have the Brownie Guide tucked into our skirt pockets and I also remember, like it was yesterday, that I really wanted that (optional) yellow neckerchief.

Sometimes you have to look back in order to see ahead and what I see is innocence. I wonder at the cares of young girls who dreamed and read of magic mirrors, elves, and Brownie friendship. I wonder about my hair and why it is so flippy and short. I wonder what was going on behind the camera, in the lives of the adults who snapped these pictures, because soon after this was taken my parents divorced and we moved far away.

autismtwins.comWhen Sam asks to join Cub Scouts I pause before answering. Do I want to go camping or hike outdoors or build rockets and soapbox cars? Er, no. Mommy likes to knit and draw and walk on the beach. Mommy is not Daddy, but truth? there is no Daddy here. So I sign him up, order the uniform, the Webelo guide. We practice the oath and the handshake and he takes great pride — his memory is made for this, after all. He is eager to belong to something bigger and male even if it’s Mommy bringing him there.

We meet in a clearing in the woods, scouts and parents and… nature. Bugs. Outdoorsy things. Sam joins his pack and John skips into the field. I watch warily — John no longer runs away, he runs around, but still. I am primed for a chase.

autismtwins.comSoon I relax because they both seem at ease. Sam and his scouts assemble for the Pledge, and John sits in the grass — “Picnic?” he says. We hike to the pond and scan for frogs on the bank. John runs up ahead and then behind, impatient for us to first get there then get back, yelling with frustration when we stop. “GO!” he says. We eat hot dogs and chips, we swat flies and soon it’s almost natural and not so preposterous. I guess I am some sort of Den Mother.

autismtwins.comThe next time we meet at the clearing in the woods I leave John behind — I think it will be easier for all and especially for him. Surely he’d rather be at home doing the things he loves best: the ipad, with his DVDs and CD covers. But when we return, he runs up to me. He says, “Cub Scouts?” Then he looks at Sam’s uniform, touches it and says, “Cub Scout shirt?”

Oh, the sorrow of realizing I erred, that I assumed he would not want, could not be a Cub Scout too. His face is growing angles and he is still a young boy — but still so much of his thoughts remain a mystery. Sometimes with the frenetic pace of our days I forget to look deeply into his eyes. Sometimes I forget that I am his conduit to the world and to new experiences, and that he needs me to lead him there.

autismtwins.comThis is what I’ve come to know: John does not prefer to be alone. He would rather be among the bustling activity of others but it’s so hard to be among those who can effortlessly just be.

He sprawls on my lap and brings my face to his face. I ask him, “A kiss?” He makes a squashing sound to the air. His limbs are long and heavy like logs, and I hold him and spill out my heart like a pitcher of juice. I want to fill him up and I want him to know that Mommy is sorry. I want him to know that I see him, that I see how his thoughts are rattling around inside looking for expression. I want him to know that I know. Of course he can be a Cub Scout.

autismtwins.comAt the end, I’m empty with sorrow and he touches my face. “So. John. Do you want to be a Cub Scout? Yes or no.”

“Yes!” he yells quickly and jumps down from my lap, excited. And so now I have twin Webelos — Twebelos, if you will. And we have gone camping and touched bugs and built rockets. And even though it’s harder for John, and he protests along the way, he lets me take his hand and lead him through it.

It is not lost on me that, despite our best efforts, history has a way of repeating itself. I will not lie, it has been hard for them, hard to leave the only life they ever knew. It is hard for me to gather the debris, push and mold it all into this new life, hundreds of miles away from our old life, but I am gathering the debris, transforming it with magic mirrors and holding on. But this time it is my boys leading the way.

Fresh Start

Each day after I drop the boys off at their bus, I return home on a one-lane dirt road. The early morning sun chases me to this one spot where literally, I am unable to see and the light bleeds through the trees like a stain.

This lightness is heavy and it momentarily blinds me.

I keep my foot on the gas, and it’s only for five seconds but it’s five seconds of pure faith. Faith that if autismtwins.comI move slowly enough I will repeat yesterday’s safe journey home and avoid the calamity of the unexpected: a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle. he one with the barking Lab and a racing Land Rover). (Perhaps the neighbor, the one with the errant cows or t

Out here in the country this is not out of the question.

The light this time of year crackles and makes me feel slightly off-balance, like I’ve been missing something. If I knew what the something was I wouldn’t be missing it, but this is exactly how blogging has been for me. Missing it and dreading it and needing it. I’ve let so much of my life fly away with the wind, free and undocumented.

There is both so much and so little to say. I am still catching my breath. ♥

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