Floating

We are spending a long weekend at the beach.
I’m on dry land now, and have been for hours but my inner ear hasn’t registered that fact yet. I still feel like I’m floating in the water.
It’s unquestionably the most soothing place on earth to me. There is nothing better than lying on a float, bouncing along with the waves while the sun dances across the sea.
The sounds…
The smells…
The sensation of the cool water on hot, sun drenched skin.
It’s all paradise to me.
Walking along the soft sand, barefoot, searching for that perfect seashell with my little family beside me is my idea of heaven.
Building sand castles with my little boy and searching for shells with my young lady are my ideal ways of passing time in the summer.
When I was a little girl, my Daddy-Dear (thats what I always called him) instilled a love of the ocean in me. We used to collect shells and rocks and loved to be by the sea as often as we could. When that wasn’t possible, we would walk along the bay which was just a few blocks from our house.
The times I spent with my father collecting our treasures were the best times of my childhood. Now I get to share the same experiences with my own babes.
Thanks Daddy. It’s because of you that these times with my children are so special.
But I still miss you tons…

I Hate Being Right

Yes. You read that correctly. I wrote “I Hate Being Right”. Well, ok. I exaggerated a little. I hate always being right about people. Since I was a kid, I have possessed the ability to read someone accurately within ten minutes. I have never been wrong, either. Well, I have gone against my gut and tried to see the good in someone only to learn that I should have followed my instincts from that first tingly meeting. Unfortunately, family is not exempt from my ability, although being wrong where they are concerned is a lot more painful.

If you have read my “Vicious Cycle” post, you know that I didn’t grow up having a rose colored childhood. My shades were definitely more of the black and blue variety. Shortly after my father died, my mother took me to see Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. She told me that if I made a wish when I entered a new church, it would come true. Since I was still drinking the holy water catholic cool aid back then, I stupidly wished for my father to come back to life. Naturally, that didn’t happen so I started wishing for something a little more possible. I wished for a family.
A REAL family. The kind you would see on tv in a 30 minute show. Sure they’d have problems but nothing that couldn’t be fixed at the end of the program and all was well again. Everyone loved each other and there was always a happy ending, right? Yeah. Not real.

My mother severed all ties with my father’s family after he died. Then she reunited with her long lost family- a bunch of narrow minded, right winged, racists. I did NOT fit in there at all. In addition to being an only child, I was the only cousin in my age range. I was too young to sit with the cool teenaged kids and too old to be one of the adorable, doted on toddlers. It’s not fun to feel like an outcast in your own family but over the years I tried ( despite my radically different opinions) to fit in. I bit my tongue a lot and stayed quiet as a church mouse at most get togethers. As I got older and graduated college, I became more accepted by the older cousins because I loved to travel and participate in adventurous things. I gained a little of their respect and tried again to form a bond. My cousin Mark took that as an invitation to stick his tongue down my throat one Christmas Eve Needless to say, ties were severed.

The day I married my husband was unquestionably the happiest day of my life. I was happy for so many reasons but one of the biggest was I felt like I was finally getting the family I had so desperately wanted. My husband had an older brother and an older sister and I was so excited to accept them as my own siblings. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out quite the way I had hoped. My new parents in law were the loveliest people. They never once made me feel unwelcome in their home. I have always felt close to them since even before my husband and I married.
Unfortunately, that closeness didn’t carry over to the rest of his family. My brother in law and I have a lot of similarities. I get him. He’s different, quirky, and likes to push buttons as well as envelopes. He is brilliant and funny and unpredictable. When he is “on” , there is nobody I enjoy being around more than my brother in law. And now, his new wife.

My sister in law however, has been a constant enigma to me. When I was pregnant with my first child, she threw my baby shower. I named her as my daughter’s godmother. I thought of her as one of my closest friends. I was overjoyed with the thought of finally having the sister I had always wanted.
When she found a boyfriend however, all of that perceived closeness instantly evaporated. She disappeared from our lives. I was left sad and frustrated. Where was this person who came over and visited weekly? Where did my daughter’s aunt run off to? I tried calling her to talk about it, I even cried to her about it (hello? I don’t cry, people. Not in front of anyone, ever). While the relationship never really got back on track, it waxed and waned and I accepted it for what it was, friendly but distant. It was ok. Until she ended her nearly ten year long relationship. Then she was over at my house weekly again, offering to watch the kids, hang out, even stopping over on weekends to take them to breakfast. The kids LOVED it. They soaked it up like little sponges.
(can you see where I’m headed with this? Because I called it three months ago).
Now she has a new boyfriend. And she has once again disappeared. I’m fine with it frankly because I know the drill. This ain’t my first rodeo with this woman. However, this afternoon my son asked me a question that I found myself too raw to answer.

My innocent little boy asked, “Doesn’t Aunt J. love us anymore? She never comes around to see us.”.

How do you answer that? I hate lying so I answered as truthfully and protectively as I could. “Of course she loves you, she is just busy right now.”. Then I went into distract him mode and put on a video game as fast as I could.

I should NOT have had to answer that question. It never should have had to been asked as far as I’m concerned.

Long ago I gave up ever having the ideal version of a loving extended family. I will never have that. After my mother died, I cut ties with her family. I felt no need to pretend anymore and I surely didn’t want to subject my children to some of their bigoted ideas. Now that my child has autism, I’m even more thankful they aren’t around. I can only imagine the comments I would have had to deal with.

A parent always wants more for their children than they had. I gave my kids even less family than I had when i was a child. It breaks my heart that my little boy, who is thankfully oblivious to most things, feels like someone he adores no longer loves him. My daughter says nothing, though I’m certain she shares some of her brother’s thoughts about this.

As their mom? My gloves are off. I’m done playing nice. You hurt my child and you have made a grave error in judgement. I’m done giving out second chances. You don’t get to pop in and out of my children’s lives on a whim. You’re in or you’re out.
You know who you are.
It’s time to make a choice.
I suggest you make the right one.

Buckle Up!

When your child has autism, the successful completion of even the smallest task is cause for a celebration. There are no small accomplishments in autism world.

It’s with tremendous pride that today I can shout from the rooftops that my son, at age 8 1/2, has learned how to properly put his seat belt on!!!

To a typical parent, that is probably one of the silliest sentences they have ever read.

To an autism parent? It is HUGE.

That one seemingly small action is the direct result of not hours, but YEARS of visual learning, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and motor planning coming together. An autism parent understands and appreciates all that it took for everything to come together for my boy to perform that one task. You see, we know that one task is broken down into so many tiny parts and they all need to be done in perfect sequence for that “one” action to be completed successfully. Years of therapy have taught my son how to reach across one side of his body and pull the seatbelt down long enough to reach the buckle. He had to know the correct way to slide one part of the strap under one part of the seat, untwisted, and then he had to know to take both straps and slide them under the other side of the seat to click the buckle together.
Then he needed to pull the lap part of the belt tightly so that it was safe and secure.
For the record, I know adults who still don’t put their seat belts on correctly. My son can now teach them a thing or two!

He started asking me a couple of months ago if he could try putting his own seatbelt on. Now, if you know anything about me at all, you know I am a safety freak. Too many years spent treating trauma victims in the ER turned have me into Sergeant Seatbelt. I don’t care if you are two days old or one hundred and two years old- if you don’t wear your seatbelt, I won’t move the car. So when my little boy asked if he could try to put his own seatbelt on, I was simultaneously thrilled and terrified. But I let him try. Today, I knew he really had this task conquered when I noticed the strap was twisted – and so did he!!!! Without me having to say a word, my little guy said “oh wait- hold on a minute” and unbuckled, untwisted, and re-secured his seatbelt. I watched silently as he pulled it snugly across his lap, looked up at me and said “let’s go, mom” with a huge smile on his face.

There are no small accomplishments in autism world. They are all huge because we know how hard our kids have to work to be able to do what most others take for granted. This was indeed cause for a celebration, autism style… we hummed the Star Wars theme song the whole way home!