"Look At Me"

"Look At Me"
monotype and screenprint

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Trial, Error, and a Little Bit of Luck

I'm going to be completely honest here.  I threw away my "What to Expect the Toddler Years" book a long, long time ago.  I'm pretty sure I did it the week Derek was diagnosed.  Tyler was no longer a toddler and nothing in that book was relevant to Derek, so...into the trash it went.  I should have used it for kindling.

Instead of reading about what my son "should" have been doing, I devoured books about autism.  But, no matter how many books I read, there were no manuals that really, truly prepared me for being a parent--not to Derek or Tyler.  I had to wing it.  Everything I've learned in the past 7.5 years, has been through trial and error.  I make a lot of mistakes.

Today, after school, Derek was downstairs working with one of his ABA therapists.  Tyler must have been bored, because he wanted to go down and visit them.  He even said, "The therapists don't mind when I come in."  I told he couldn't bother them and he started crying.  Actually, no...he started sobbing.  I was shocked.  I remember thinking, "What in the world is going on here????"  I finally got him calmed down and had a little discussion with my son.  

I didn't expect it to break my heart.    

I explained to Tyler that, even though it seems like Derek is getting special attention from the girls that come to our house (4 different girls rotate Monday-Thursday), the girls do not come to play with Derek.  They are coming to work with him and give him extra help with the things he is struggling with in school--like writing his letters and his numbers and drawing pictures. We are paying them to come, and in the two hours that they are there, Derek has to get his work done.  The girls don't have time to play with him.  

Tyler is getting to the age where he is finally realizing how different his brother is.  He gets frustrated that Derek can't talk and play with him.  He has a hard time understanding that Derek struggles with things that have always come easy to him.  And lately, he's been telling me that things "aren't fair."

Today, with tears streaming down his cheeks, my son told me, "Sometimes I wish Derek didn't have autism!"

I pulled Tyler into my arms.  I couldn't say anything.  I couldn't agree, because then I'd be wishing Derek was a different child.  And I love Derek--exactly the way he is.  So I just hugged Tyler tight, knowing that what he really needed was attention and reassurance that he was loved.  My eyes filled with tears and I didn't try to wipe them away.  

I told Tyler, "I can't imagine how hard it is to be Derek's brother.  But you're doing an amazing job.  I'm so proud of you."  And then I asked him, "You know how much I love you, right?"

"To the moon and back," he answered.  

Trial, error, and a little bit of luck.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Long Walk

Whenever we go to Lake McConaughy, we stay at a small house owned by my in-laws.  It is a cute little house, right near the beach.  When we want to go swimming, we walk about 1/4 of a mile (maybe 1/2 mile at the most) down to the water.  It's an easy walk--down a hill, through a small field of sunflowers, and across a stretch of sand and stones.

For most people, this walk would take maybe 10-15 minutes, at the most.  A lot of people that live in the area don't even bother walking.  They drive trucks, golf carts, ATVs, and even tractors so that they don't have to carry towels, chairs, and other beach gear back and forth.  I don't have that option.  Derek refuses to ride in anything "open," so unless his grandmother brings her truck with her, we walk.

Sometimes, on really hot days, I think it would be nice if Derek would consider riding on the ATV.  But most of the time, I don't mind the walk.  I know Derek enjoys it.  Instead of taking 10-15 minutes to walk down to the lake (or back up to the house), it usually takes us at least 30.

There has been a blog post circling around called  What the Dying Want Us To Know About Living.  In it, the author addresses what her mother and grandmother both said on their death bed--to slow down.  This quote especially, stuck with me:  

 "My mother and grandmother were telling me loud and clear that as we live our lives, we have to stop running and chasing what we think leads to happiness, and slow down before we rush past the very thing we'll wish we had more of at the very last hours of our days."  --Alexandra Rosas

When I read the post, I smiled.  It didn't take the death of loved ones to teach me to slow down. All it took was a 5 year old boy who refused to let me put him on an ATV.  Since Derek has his own time-table (he can't be hurried), I have never really been in a rush to get down to the beach.  If I was in a hurry, I could easily have missed out on something just as enjoyable--the walk down to the beach.

On our walks, I let my son take as long as he wants to.  I just enjoy watching him explore.  He smells the sunflowers.  He looks up at the brilliant blue sky and the white fluffy clouds.  He talks to the insects.  He drags his feet in the sand and makes footprints.  He examines the charred remains of old bonfires.  He picks up sticks and pokes at things.  Derek doesn't just walk.  He walks.  He doesn't miss a single thing.  And because of him, neither do I...