Luck

I was chatting on Facebook with a cousin of my dad’s whom I don’t know altogether well, and he said he had been following my posts about autism, in particular a link to this post, describing how much of a struggle some parents of children on the spectrum face every day.  He said he hadn’t realized how bad it could be, and hoped we didn’t face those kinds of challenges.

I filled him in a bit on The Boy, and how well he’s done in his new program, and predictably (albeit sweetly), he said how lucky The Boy was to have such a strong advocate for a mom.

The truth is, I am the lucky one to have The Boy.

I look at him every day, amazed that this boy is mine, that he has half my genes, that he has grown so big and so clever and so funny.  That he has grown into this fascinating human being with moods and thoughts and interests ranging from cars to space to recording and sound editing.  That he is so capable, and so vulnerable, yet so strong himself to be on the spectrum and deal with all of his challenges with fairly little complaint.

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I just wish I could know him better.  I wish I could communicate with him more easily about his deep thoughts and feelings (as if he would, pre-teen that he now is).  I wish I understood him better, and I feel like I have failed him when I can’t understand something he is trying to make me understand.

I love this boy of mine, more than I ever thought a human being was capable of loving, and the bonus is that I like him, too.  I wrote recently about everyone falling in love with him, and most people who get to know him end up knowing he is a great kid.  The kind of kid it is easy to be strong for.  My job is simple, and I’m the lucky one.

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Enjoying Work

I have to say that I am really enjoying my new job.  And it’s been since about 2007 since I could say that.

It’s a great feeling.

I Need You on the Job Every Day - NARA - 534704

For many, many reasons, teaching became less and less enjoyable over the years to the point that I would cry on the way to work in the mornings because I really just didn’t want to go.  Might sound juvenile, but it’s a pretty desparate feeling, especially when you are a single mom and have to provide for your son.  There is no opt out, there is no quitting to try to find something more enjoyable.  And teachers really don’t have that luxury like some other professionals do.  They don’t have the possibility of quitting and making the same pay in a lateral move, which is absolutely ridiculous, but I digress.

And it hasn’t been easy being unemployed for half a year, either.  I wouldn’t recommend it for the weak of heart.  Your self esteem takes quite a few dings.

But opportunity arose when The Man bought this house outright, and I had to take it.  I didn’t want to be miserable anymore.  Today, I’m so glad I did, and I’m so thankful for my new job that I enjoy.  I feel capable and trusted, appreciated and challenged.  I’ve been waiting a long time to feel like this again.

Have a great day, People! 😀

There’s This Mom

I’ve joined an autism society group in our community, and made quick friends of the few that are the do-ers (every group has a few people who do everything, while the majority… well, don’t).  Recently we had a “support group” meeting, which has been more like a friendly get-together at someone’s house, and we also set up a group Halloween event so the kids could trick or treat in a friendly neighborhood.

These were the first encounters I had with one particular mom, who has a teenage daughter on the spectrum.  The daughter is incredibly sweet, but is overly demonstrative, which can make people uncomfortable.  Her mom reminded her that shaking hands is more appropriate than hugging people when you first meet them, but she continued to hug everyone, multiple times.  No big deal here, and it cam off as rather sweet.

Mom, however, also veered into inappropriateness at the meeting, describing her daughter’s voice as screeching and unbearable, and voicing many times how she would just like to get away from her.  Now these are things we all may have thought at one point to ourselves, but not voiced aloud.  In any case, I worried for her while she rubbed others the wrong way that evening.

Key

Key, zebble

On Halloween night, things took a turn for the worse.  The daughter attempted to hug every person who gave her candy that evening, leaving the dads from the group (who had volunteered to take all of the kids out) at a loss for what to do, surreptitiously calling and texting their wives for advice.  The mom who had stayed behind with the other moms was oblivious, I think.  A group of kids (her daughter included) returned to hang out inside the house, while the moms continued to hang out on the porch, chatting and passing out candy.  While the daughter continued her inappropriate displays of affection, now centered on an 8th grade boy on the spectrum inside the house, the mom continued to make her bizarre and inappropriate statements on the porch.  At one point, the daughter went to change clothes, but found the car locked.  She called to her mom that the car was locked, and her mom yelled back for her to “come get the damn keys.”

The mom who was hosting us that night took note of that exchange, and also took note of the PDA happening in the house, because the 8th grader happened to be her son, and finally pulled the mom into the kitchen to discuss the behaviors we had all witnessed.  I’m not sure what happened in its entirety, but I know she did it with tact and care.  I believe the mom and the daughter left shortly after that.

Here’s where I get uncomfortable.  I completely support the hosting mom’s actions.  To ignore the behaviors would not help anyone.  And I firmly believe she did it in the right way.  But this mom clearly needs help and support, for her daughter’s sake if not for her own.  A mom voicing thoughts like that is very near a breaking point, I believe, and maybe it’s not within the realm of this group to help someone that has reached that point.  But maybe it is.  Maybe we do a disservice to her and those like her by being so informal in our approach, by assuming friendship with everyone.  We shouldn’t have to like her to help her.

What do you think?

5 Tips to Being the Best Mom Ever

I don’t claim to be the best mom ever, but I did have the best mom ever, so I have some familiarity with the subject.  This list is from the perspective of a mom of a tween, so bear that in mind.  I still think it applies at many levels of development (both yours and his):

  1. Never stop showing them how much you love them.  I’m lucky that The Boy still allows me to hug him, kiss his face, and cuddle him from time to time.  He even holds my hand sometimes!  I tell him I love him when I wake him up, when I say goodnight, and any other time I feel like it.  To me, it never loses its meaning.
  2. Try to remember what it’s like.  The Boy is in middle school, and unfortunately, I remember middle school.  No one wants to re-live it because it’s not a fun time for anyone.  When I can remember this, I am much more compassionate towards him.
  3. Put down the phone.  Step away from the TV.  I still struggle with this, and truthfully, he does, too.  But we have so much more fun, and make so many more memories when we spend time together, often outside, doing stuff.  And that’s what builds relationships.
  4. Make him a priority.  Notice I didn’t say the highest priority.  But moms need to be involved and know what’s going on in a child’s life.  If you don’t know every teacher’s name, and who he gets along with best, you’re behind.  You don’t need to be a nuisance (like I am becoming, albeit for very good reasons), but you need to show through your actions that you are present, to both your child, and the school.  Education works so much better that way.  Trust me.
  5. Try not to take it personally.  When he gets snippy or disrespectful, doesn’t want to hold your hand, or seems aloof, it isn’t you.  He’s figuring it all out, so give him the space to do so, while realizing that every kid does this.  He still loves you, and may even like you 😉  Conversely, when his behavior needs to be corrected, take the personal out of it.  Pretend you are the teacher (you know — the one that can’t scream back at a kid or curse) calmly trying to teach him a lesson about life… Because that’s exactly what you are.

As I said, I don’t claim to be the best mom ever, but I’m the best one The Boy’s ever had 😉  I’ve seen a lot of good moms during my time in the classroom, and I had the best mom ever growing up.  The biggest thing to remember is this:

No one is the best every day.  Just keep trying.

Your kids will love you for it.

Winter at the Beach

Mama Bear, You’re Not Always Right

Mother Bear with Her CubsI’ve had my share of trials over the past week or so.  Not more stress than I can handle, but more stress dealing with The Boy’s schooling than I’ve had to deal with since he was in preschool.  I’m not sure I handled every day and every communication in the best way possible, but I try to remain respectful, even when I am pretty sure the person with whom I’m conversing wouldn’t know an autistic trait if it hit them in the face.  I don’t mind being the pain-in-the-ass mom who emails daily, because I wouldn’t have to if my son had more verbal communication skills, but he doesn’t.  And if school personnel are not going to offer information, I obviously have to ask for it, respectfully.

I posted the other day on my personal facebook page: “Seriously. Between dealing with the ex and (The Boy’s) school this week, my big-ass Mama Bear is showing – watch out!!”  In my world, “Mama Bear” is this walking-a-fine-line-between-angry-and-composed-mother side of me that rises up, out of protection of The Boy when someone or something is repeatedly threatening his happiness and well-being.

Mama Bear does not come out when someone looks at me funny.

Mama Bear does not come out when the teacher “forgets” to tell me that The Boy left his classroom without permission twice in one day.

Mama Bear does not come out when the ex forgets to call, again.

Because I am not Mama Bear.  And Mama Bear is less effective if it is the face you wear with the people you deal with on a daily basis.  If you ARE Mama Bear, you are being written off as crazy, I guarantee it.  “That crazy mom emailed me again, today…”  “Crazy Mom is in the main office, watch out!”  “Take everything That Crazy Mom says with a grain of salt…”

I follow another autism mom blogger’s facebook page, and she posted about her son’s first day riding the bus today.  A little later, there had apparently been a snafu, because her son had been found “wandering the halls”.  She said she was livid, and the great majority of the commenters were calling “Off with their heads!”  I would never take a situation like this lightly, but I put in my two cents, calling for calm, pointing out that everyone makes mistakes, and got called out for my response by another commenter: “Things should NEVER go wrong with our children.”

Listen, people will make mistakes with our kidsI make mistakes with my kid!  That’s how I learn, that’s how he learns.  Yes, it’s scary when a little one is wandering the halls of school, not knowing where to go because someone screwed up the procedure for drop-off.  And a phone call and/or even a meeting would be in order here to straighten out the situation ASAP.  But do you think that little one might be less scared in a similar situation later on because it has already happened to him and everything turned out OK?  If this happened two or three times, why yes, I would be livid.  But living your life in a constant mode of battle-readiness, expecting perfection from school staff, and wearing that Mama Bear mask whenever you come across someone who looks at you the wrong way is no way to live, and it’s not a good model for our kids.

Wedding Day

Well, today is the day.  Today I marry The Man (does that make me “The Woman”?), in a short, simple, civil ceremony under a gazebo, in a park across the street from where his great-grandmother (and grandmother, and mother) lived.  Today I become a wife again, and cease to be a single mom.  Today, we become  family.  Today, it all becomes official.

There was a time when I never thought this would happen again, indeed there was a time I never wanted it to happen again.  But this isn’t “again”.  This is the first and only time with the right man.

We didn’t hire a photographer, so as soon as people at this shindig start sending me pics, I will share.  Until then, it might be a few days.

I’ll get back to you real soon. ❤

More Liebster Answers…

Awhile ago, I was nominated for the Liebster Award and decided to take my time answering the 11 questions, because you’ve all heard plenty about me, and I didn’t want to be all in-your-face, yet again…  So here is another gripping installment of Liebster Answers…

tombstone4.  What would you like written on your tombstone?

When I graduated high school, our principal, who was a rather small, forgettable man in most ways said something that I have never forgotten: “Live your life so that no one has to lie at your funeral”.  I have always remembered this and tried to live up to it.  Along those same lines, I would be proud of a tombstone that quoted my grandma (in a way): “She did her best, and that’s all she could do”.

5.  If someone is reading your blog for the first time… which post do you want to make sure they read?

It really depends on their perspective – are they a single mom, a special needs parent?  Both?  Just looking for crafty ideas?  What I usually do is read the latest post.  If I like the style, I read back a few, and then really dig into the archives.  Some of my personal favorites are this one, this one, and this one.

6. “Hypothetically speaking, If my kids have allergies but they are not really affecting them right now, is it still okay to give them Benedryl so I can take a nap?”

Ummm.  I’m not a doctor, but in your situation, I would make absolutely sure their allergies were not affecting them…

Hope you are all well, and looking forward to summer!

 

Why I Chose to Date as a Single Mom

“Don’t let your struggle be your identity.”

Yes, I actively pursued dating after divorce, as a single mom, as a special needs parent.  Yes, I did.  Some moms in similar situation choose not to, choosing instead to, “wait until their children are grown,” or maybe even give up the idea of ever being with someone again.  “The kids come first,” they often say.  And I don’t disagree.  Not every child, nor even every special needs child is like mine.  Some have more intense needs, and I am not judging anyone who has made this decision for themselves, because I can’t know your personal situation – only you do.

I love being a mom, and that is an integral part of my identity.  I would never give it up, I would never trade that for anything in the world.  But it isn’t all of me.  I am much more complex.  I have my own desires, needs, dreams, foibles, interests, and personality quirks.  I have my own life.  Being a mom to a special needs child is part of it, but it isn’t it.

We only have one life.  I want to live with as little regret as possible, which means doing the best I can, while stretching my personal limits a bit, growing, and learning all the time.  Having a non-existent social life would be a huge source of regret for me.

Also, I want my child to understand that I was put on this planet to be his mom, but also to be a lot of other things, just as he was put on this planet to be my son, and also a lot of other things.  He has autism, but he has a lot of other really cool stuff that make up his identity.

“Don’t let your struggle be your identity.”

That is what I wish for him, and I hope I am modeling that for him by living my life to the fullest.

PS ~ I couldn’t find an attribution for the quote – if anyone knows, please mention in the comments!

You Are Not a Failure

A mom posted on Single mothers who have children with autism’s facebook page about feeling like a failure because her son was being pulled from mainstreamed classes, and placed into a special education classroom.  My heart breaks when I read things like that.

Adaptation of above image illustrating an Inte...

I think every Special Needs Parent has those moments, hours, days, weeks, or even years, when we feel like we are the biggest failures on the planet, and we feel that pain so much more deeply because we know how much our kids need us not to fail.  But.  We can not allow ourselves to feel that way for too long, for that very same reason – our kids need us to pick ourselves up and keep rolling that rock up the mountain.  It’s OK to fall, to stumble, to crawl into bed and lock the door once in awhile (assuming everyone else is relatively safe).  But we can’t stay there, and we definitely can’t get into the habit of pointing fingers at ourselves too often.

Maybe it would help to remember those naysayers we have all encountered.  The ignorant, mean-spirited people we have come across.  And then in our weakest moments, imagine what kind of a job they would do in our place.  You see, no one is perfect, and none of us were prepared for this job.  And there was certainly no manual.  But we are some of the quickest studies on the planet.  We can read our children’s faces down to the slightest waggle of an eyebrow, and be able to interpret emotion from it.  We can come up with backup plans on the fly, salvage nasty situations, and calm our children when no one else can.  In the eyes of our children, we are MOM (or DAD), the one and only.  Learning from mistakes is part of the game.  It’s not learning from them that is a failure.

Be nice to yourself, parents.  Try not to beat yourself up too bad.  It’s a waste of energy, and you’ve got too much other stuff to do!

Men and Boys

There are things in this world that boys need to learn from adults.  I find that as a single mom, some things slip through the cracks, and I’m surprised when I realize The Boy doesn’t know something (like what the phrase “laughing like a hyena” means).  Since The Man has been in our lives, he has often stepped in to teach The Boy something that boys (and really all growing kids) should know how to do, like ride a bike:

First Time on Two Wheels

Today, we had an up and down day, which ended up being mostly up.  Luckily, we were able to turn around a dramatic morning and spent most of the beautiful day at the park.  When we eventually came home, The Man immediately set The Boy to work, teaching him how to wash Mom’s car:

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The Man even points out to me the times when I am doing something for The Boy that he could be doing himself.  I bristled at this at first, but it didn’t take me long to realize that he wasn’t telling me how to parent The Boy, and that he was usually right.  Now I find his insights invaluable, and these lessons he teaches The Boy are so important.  And even more important is the relationship that comes from these lessons and insight.  This stuff makes me smile. 🙂