My mind is going in so many different directions this morning, I’m having trouble sitting long enough to focus on the task at hand. Errands to run, articles to write, work projects to finish (or, um, maybe even start & finish), house to clean from the weekend, dinner to prepare, and yes, Girl Scout Cookies to sort and distribute. I keep going over the list in my mind because I haven’t focused enough to even write it down. About the time I feel like I’m making progress in heading one direction on one particular task, my youngest blessing says, “Mommy…” and my focus shifts again. What a treasured blessing to share these morning moments with her, especially when she wants to snuggle, but then I realize, oh wait, I’ve got a gazillion other things I need to add to the list. Shoot! I still need to start a list…
Sound familiar? This was my morning as of about an hour ago. That’s when it hit me: I wonder if this is how Ben feels at times. So many different thoughts bouncing around in his mind, all leading different directions, making him wonder which one to follow and it’s almost overwhelming. Seems this morning was one of those mornings. Thankfully, the thoughts he was able to share with us in his own way were all happy thoughts. At least that’s what we’re going with since there were lots of smiles and laughter over breakfast.
We bounced from praising God through a song from Duncan and the Donut Repair Club, to giggling over fish flying into a boat when Ernie calls, “Here fishy fishy!” while Bert struggled with a hook and a worm, and wrapped up the morning with a happy boy running out to greet Mr. Terry, who is unquestionably the best bus driver ever.
Watching him run out this morning took me back in time a few months, watching him walk out to the bus his first week of school, waiting to see if he would get on, mentally willing myself to let him to do it on his own without rushing out to help him, and watching with tears of relief rolling down my cheeks when he climbed the steps on his own, and realizing we aren’t alone in this when I saw Mr. Terry give a silent but very exuberant cheer “YES!!” (presumably silent so as not to frighten Ben) complete with double arm pumps and everything. Yes, Mr. Terry is the best.
That was the week after the Avon Fat Steer Show, our local fair of sorts, a week when the entire community comes together to celebrate our agriculture roots and focus on our kids. Remembering this took me back another year, before we had an autism diagnosis, before we had any clue about SLPs, ST, OT, DT, ABA, DIR and a host of other acronyms which are now a part of our daily language. And again, I’m so thankful to live in this community where people come together. It was that week of the Fat Steer Show in 2011 that I began to see a glimmer of hope. Hope that although our son may be different, he is still very much a part of our community’s family. And that caused me to sit and write again. It began as a simple facebook status update, but it had been a while since I’d tickled the keyboard and really put me into any writing and oh my goodness, it was like coming to life again. The result was much more than a status update, it turned into a facebook “note” entitled ‘Perhaps’ and really what got me back into writing again.
And because my appreciation for Mr. Terry is just as great as it was on Ben’s first day of school in August 2012, and my love for this community is just as deep as it was in August 2011, I’ll share that note with you here. Perhaps, it will have as much of an impact now as it did 18 months ago.
As I peruse through the “most recents” here on Facebook, I often relate to the musings of my friends as they share snipits of their days. Lots of smiles & some laughter, too; feeling like in some small way we’ve reconnected or stayed in touch. It’s amazing as we get older & the miles multiply between our homes just how much those few seconds can boost my spirits. And then there are times, that I realize what a varied group we are and sometimes, we just see things differently. I’ve decided this is pretty much just due to life circumstances as many of the comments that get to me most are very similar to what I may have thougth as recent as a few years ago. Tonight’s gander through status updates has lead me to to some reflecting. Or perhaps it’s because we’ve enjoyed an amazing couple of days with so many from our community, relishing the simple things, soaking up the moments focusing on our kids. Perhaps it’s a little of both.
Our son has autism. He seems to be fairly highly functional, but there are still struggles. In a week of hustle & bustle like this one, I usually just hope to survive without a major meltdown for Ben (or me) but sometimes, that is even too much to hope for. So far, this week has not been one of those weeks.
Wednesday night was Scrambles Night. The kids are divided by gender & age & get to chase & attempt to catch chickens or pigs depending on their ages. I got to watch my three middle children participate; two of them with HUGE grins. One even won their heat. The third did not so much enjoy it, but he tolerated it. That’s our Ben. He found comfort being by mom & not touching the chicken. Two days earlier, we couldn’t even get him to go near our chicken pen, much less go IN it, so just getting him inside the gate was a major milestone. I’m the photographer for the scrambles, so I didn’t get any pictures of Ben & the chickens, not that he got close enough for that anyway, but it really warmed my heart when one of the organizers reached for my camera & said, “Here, let me do that.” and took a picture of me & my boy. He didn’t have to do that, but he did. I don’t have a lot of pictures of me & my kids because I’m usually the one taking them. And it wasn’t a great picture because Ben wasn’t looking at the camera, but that’s Ben. Eye contact is hard for him; especially with a stranger, in a pen with chickens, and a lot of people and loud noises. Noise is also hard for Ben. But it’s a picture of me & my boy & I love it. Thank you, Frank. I’m sure you didn’t think twice about it, but you have no idea what that picture means to me.
Thursday night was the Pedal Tractor Rodeo. Again, kids are divided by gender & age to maneuver through a course of cones on a pedal tractor. Sounds simple & fun, right? For most kids, yes. For Ben, fun to sit on the tractor, but not so simple to coordinate the legs to work the feet to move the pedal, not to mention the eye/hand coordination of steering. And oh yea, the speakers – more loud noise. It helped it was his dad’s voice, but it was still quite loud for his little hypersensitive ears. He was the last one in his heat & honestly, I never thought he’d do it. But he climbed on & sat there. And sat there. And sat there. Instead of his turn being up, the helper really helped – as in pushed him through the course; the entire course. They were about 1/2 done when I noticed the deafening silence as the stands had grown quiet. My mommy heart began to pound & my mind raced wondering “What are they thinking?” I know it doesn’t matter, or rather shouldn’t matter what others think, but let’s face it, as moms, we want our children to be accepted. And that’s when I heard it. One small voice. (Remember the loud noises thing?) One voice I recognized from way at the other end of the bleachers saying, “Goooooooooo Beeeeeeeeeennnnnnn!” And the helper kept helping all the way to the finish line. And everyone clapped & said “Yay Ben”. It was a pedal tractor rodeo and his time put him dead last, but for a moment, I think I almost knew what the parent of an Olympic gold medalist feels like. Not because my son won the gold, but because this amazing community we live in treated him like he had. And why? Because he got on the tractor & held on while someone pushed. Thank you, Jay for being my son’s horsepower. And thank you, dear friends, for encouraging my son through your cheers & clapping.
Friday afternoon was the annual Afternoon of Fun for Kids. It really is a remarkable day for the kids – no high tech video games, just a bunch of kids running races. Boring? NO WAY! Our kids look forward to it all year long & this year, Ben was old enough to participate! But would he? I thought not. Once again, this little guy surprised me! And the compassion of the leaders made me so thankful to be living here in this snapshot of America. I made a mistake & took him down a heat early for one of the races so we stood off to the side to wait our turn. The leader gave us a gunny sack so Ben could “get used to the feel of it.” I hadn’t even thought of it, but what a great idea. He wasn’t all that sure of it at first but b/c he had that extra few minutes, he was all about the jumping in a sack. Mind you, he didn’t get but a few feet from the starting line, but he was there & he was participating just like all the other 3 year olds. And that did my heart good. Thank you, Shelly, for thinking of my boy, when even I was not.
And Friday night, while gone with our oldest on a quick trip to convenient care (an entirely different story) I received a picture via my phone. Can you imagine my surprise when I saw it was Ben on a stick horse prepping for the stick horse race during the horse show? Add to this scenario that Chris was there with our four younger children, without me. He is an amazing dad, but Ben is sometimes a handfull. Thank you, Chris, for never backing down & never saying anything even remotely close to “deal with him” or “he’s yours” or anything else that would indicate I was on my own with whatever situation we faced. You are my rock. I am so blessed to walk this journey with you. And thank you, Shelly for helping Chris while I wasn’t there.
All the while through these milestone moments for our Ben, his siblings (ages 13, 9, 9 & 2) were all cheering him along; encouraging him as only a sibling can. And again, my mommy heart melts.
It’s moments like these that I am so thankful that God has put us here and blessed us with these amazing children. Ben has good days and he has not so good days. Our 13 year old said to me tonight, “You know, Mom. Everyone has a bad day sometimes.” He is so right. Why should a bad day for Ben feel like such a letdown & failure to me as a mom (Where have I gone wrong? Why can’t I do more for him / be better for him? Aren’t I supposed to be his best advocate? How can I do that when we can’t get through the day without major issues?) Why do I obsess over these “bad days” when we all have our days? Thank you, Rob, for your ever-so-enlightening observation. Kinda makes up for that trip to convenient care.
So here’s what I’m thinking tonight, when you’re out & about & you get frustrated b/c someone else’s child is screaming, please try to remember: not every screaming child is a brat or needs to be “disciplined” & not every parent who calmly sits by while said child screams is a slacker. Perhaps the child has special needs. Perhaps one or both of them has had a really tough day & this dinner out, allbeit at McDonald’s, is the one bright spot & that spot just got a little dimmer. Perhaps this is the only few moments they’ll have together all day & it’s still not going well. Perhaps we could all benefit from a deep breath & a friendly smile…