Sunday, 15 April 2012

Something New

Welp, it happened.  After 5 years, we finally left our children with someone else for the weekend.  For the first time.  Unless you count that night when I was in labor with Nathan- technically he had not been delivered, so that counts as a night without kids, right?  We told a couple that this weekend and their eyes just about bugged out of their heads.  I have always had a pretty severe case of mommy guilt- I never planned on being a "working" mom, away from my kids during the day.  So that's one of the main reasons we have never left the boys.  Especially, of course, since their diagnoses.

The fact that my parents are nearby and have cultivated a close relationship with the kids is really what made me feel ok about going.  Even then, this wasn't a leisure trip, but I won't bore you with those details.  Every parent out there is cognizant of the fact that while children bring so much joy to a family, they also bring significant challenges.  I felt naked all weekend without the boys, much like any parent leaving their kids for the first time I would imagine.  However, I won't deny it, it was liberating.  We got stuck in traffic- so what?  No one was in the back seat screaming "it's our turn" or "mommy go through the cars!".  We ate gluten, and lots of it!  When we arrived at our destination, I sat there and let the car run for a good 30 seconds, just to enjoy the lack of a little person screaming "turn it the car going to die???"  Waking up in the morning and just taking care of myself?  Putting on makeup BEFORE breakfast?  Showering whenever I wanted to?  How did I ever think I was busy before I had kids???  Like I said, every parent can relate to most of these issues.  It's difficult for me to put into words how intense Jack is, or how touchy Nate is with transitions and new situations.  I feel like trying to understand parenting a child with autism when you have neurotypical kids is much like trying to understand being a parent at all before you have kids of your own.  It is impossible (and God does that for a reason :))  All of the adjustments we have made for the boys' needs have taken place gradually, so it's hard to remember specifically what they are.  I mean, most people don't call a restaurant at least twice before taking their kids there to ensure their dietary restrictions will be met.  Most parents don't start prepping their 4 year old days in advance to go out to dinner- do they?  "Jack it will be noisy, there will be lots of people, lots of lights, you will have to wait for your food, please don't scream at the waitress..."  Even with all of this, he needs constant reassurance and often ends up with his hands clamped over his ears in a matter of minutes.  Yes, we prefer to eat in or get take out these days.

I have spoken several times about how challenging this year, since diagnosis, has been for our family.  But I often forget, our family has been dealing with the daily issues that autism brings for at least 3 years.  And in some ways (SOME), the diagnosis has brought us some relief.  I no longer have that feeling of "I'm a bad parent".  I don't wonder (as much) why I can't soothe my children a lot of the time.  I don't wonder why they tantrum so often.  Or why Jack has such a hard time writing, or cutting with scissors.  It's nothing we, as parents did.  We love, take care of, and nurture our children as well as any other parents.  They are not going to react the same way to discipline, or comforting, or new situations.  As parents, my husband and I have taken on too much ownership of these issues for too long.  In some ways, it is freeing to finally understand that some of this is out of our hands.

To be away from these issues for two whole can I describe it?  I missed the boys terribly, but....I could breathe.  I am an anxious person by nature- trying to anticipate the reactions of two children on the spectrum is tricky and definitely has me wound pretty tightly most of the time.  This weekend I actually felt....calm, for the first time in a long time.  I had the ability and energy to focus on other areas of my life that are also very important.  The boys come first, and they should, but I am finally realizing that this doesn't mean I have to give up myself or sacrifice my relationships.  Having complete thoughts and conversations is a valuable thing, and should not be taken for granted.  And this benefits the children too....sane mommy = happy kids!

My parents had the boys, as I mentioned, at their house.  I packed up all of their food, supplements (in cups labeled for each child for each day) and the other usual accoutrements.  The trunk was pretty full.  And when we got to my parents house it looked as though they had robbed a Toys R Us.  Who knew they still had the play table and chairs, the little kitchen, the Little Tikes car, the doll house?  When I spoke with my mom Saturday night she was "arranging" the furniture in the doll house so they could play with it in the morning.  Ummm, mom, have you met my children?  With one sweep of his hand, Natey will send those carefully arranged furnishings flying- mark my words!  I received multiple texts to see if various foods were "ok" for the boys.  I couldn't appreciate that more!   Per my mom's report, Natey was glued to grandad's side for much of the weekend.  I am thinking he didn't mind too much :).

Over the phone, my mom said that phrase that every daughter longs to hear, "honey, if you ever wondered if we respect your parenting....we do".  Well actually, I think I should replace "we do" with "ugh", but same idea!  Thanks again grammy and grandad!  This weekend was very valuable for our family and it would not have been possible without you!

And now, I am back in my FAVORITE place!!! Are these children precious or what? 

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