Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Love wins. Love always wins.

Sensory overload? or Manipulative tactic? Sometimes I know exactly which is which. Most of the times, I am simply guessing, out of my wits. Two days straight. Kicking, hair pulling, pinching and screaming. I stop myself from crying out. I convince myself to be strong for Garret, for me, for both of us, for all of us. I must not show anger. I must not react. But deep down, I am questioning the absurdity of these two mantras. When a meltdown or tantrum occurs, no holds are barred. And it is up to the parent to hold on and be strong. How many times have I heard these two words of encouragement? Hope, strength.  But tell me, why is it that when I am in the middle of this dark moment, these words just seem to fly out the window? No anger? no emotion? no reaction? This is what parents should do to show the child that tantrums do not work. But how can it be? When my child screams, I lose control and I tell him, I shout to him, " Would you please stop!!! Stop it! STOP IT!" In my mind I am screaming, "Why God?! please stop this pain...".

I am human, I say to myself. So I have every justification to be angry. I cannot be strong all the time. I cannot be a warrior all the time, fighting for every bit of sanity. I break down. I weep. For my child. for myself. He cannot communicate as we all do, as normal kids do. Thus, tantrums arise. Tantrums are their way of communicating what they want. Then the hard reality slaps me--I am not the only one in survival mode. My son is too, every single day of his life. And if I cannot stretch my patience and sustain my strength for him, he will lose the fight. And this is when I regret every time I allow my humanness to take over. I have to be strong. I have to hold on. I have to hang on to hope.  I have to choose to be strong. My child did not ask to be brought to this life. I chose to bear him. Therefore I must choose every single day to be what Garret needs me to be--strong, flexible, open-minded, controlled, level-headed, grateful and loving no matter what.

And yes, through these tumultuous instances, once again, my son is teaching me.  He is teaching me his language. And as all languages require, I must learn to listen. Listen to him with his ears. Hear his cries with his heart. These two days, I feel I have failed to listen to him. We ended up both exhausted, with sweat and tears drenching our bodies. I bounce him on the ball, I cradle him and wrap him tight. He places both my arms to cover his ears as if to block out any noise or perhaps the terrible memory of what just occurred? He mumbles something like, "mh-hm" over and over as if to console himself. My heart is ripped. I tell him, " Garret, please don't do that again. Tell me what you want properly." As I say this to him, my mind is racing. Does he understand? Do I understand?  I tell him further, " I am sorry, anak. I love you. And I want you to learn. And I want to give you what you want and need. Just not that way."  This time I do not care if he understands or not. If my words penetrate the walls that surround him. I prod, " I love you, my darling. You know that? Mama loves you so very much... and I'm sorry I was not strong for you today."

In a little while, he starts to smile while still mumbling his self-soothing words. We continue to bounce. This rhythmic rocking up and down calms us both. Garret is now giggling. I turn his face towards me and I ask him for a kiss. He pushes his cheek forward and I kiss him. He smiles all the more. In the end...which side wins? Morrie Schwartz was right in saying, "Love wins, love always wins."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Voices of Angels

Softest, gentlest
indescribable music
Hushed tones
in crescendo
Subtle falsettos
Is there such a thing?
No words
But melodies
Unlike any other
They say angels
don't speak
They sing
from their very
That is why
God listens to them...

"One, ku, kee, kor.... One, ku, kee, kor...", Garret repeats. His very own version of One, Two, Three, Four. Then he smiles with all his heart, and flaps his hands in delight. Actually his favorite number is 8. And he articulates it with such care and precision that even the most eloquent public speakers would be put to shame. Well, I certainly think so. And not just because I am his mother. (wink, wink) Children with autism are spread across extreme borders of the spectrum-- from the non-verbal to the very high functioning individuals. Yet many share one thing in common--splinter skills, an isolated set of skills that are so highly developed, usually in music, drawing and calculation. Because their system shuts out stimuli that overloads their senses, they engage in activities that calm and soothe them, they fixate on objects and events that only interest them, blocking out any unnecessary noise that may disturb their focus.   Whether it is spinning objects, lining up cars, or seeing light reflected in just the perfect angle, or enunciating words and syllables like their life depended on it,  they are the real definition of the words, order and perfection.

"Eight!", Garret articulates. His mouth set in perfect position. Perfect. Rich-sounding. I am so proud of him.

How many of us who are so able to speak normally take the time to perfect what we want to say? How many times have we gotten so careless in enunciating what we truly think and feel assuming and to an extent arrogantly expecting that other people would understand us right away? And yet we complain when we are misunderstood.  How many times do we stop ourselves from saying three precious words to our loved ones thinking they already know how much they are important to us and how much they are loved? This may be too far a stretch from what my son has shown in saying a number as mundane and ordinary as "eight". But I have long realized, nothing is a stretch when it comes to appreciating what we have. This is one of the many many lessons my son has taught me. There is nothing mundane or ordinary in life. Everything is a gift. Every reason, an opportunity. Every circumstance, a blessing.

I have often wondered what Garret's voice would sound like if he spoke like other kids. Gentle? Commanding? Musical? crisp and clear? I have often longed for the time when he would say the three precious words to me and his papa.  But I would like to think that he chooses his words and perhaps timing carefully. Even if it is just the number eight, it would not even matter. The perfection and care he gives as he articulates it is heavenly.

Now as I write this, I hear him singing " da-da-da-da-da-da" in perfect pitch-- to the tune  of A, B, C, D, E, F, G--the alphabet song. His voice is not commanding or arrogant, not even meek. It was a matter-of-factly kind of tone--crisp and clear.  I rush inside his room and find him grinning from ear to ear, eyes twinkling. I kiss him feverishly. I am delighted as he is joyous. He is singing from the heart, he is singing his hymn. And yes, God listens to him. He is certainly God's most perfect gift to me, to our family.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Boy, he wrote today

Connect the dots
Up and down
Left to right
Round and round
Hold your pen tight
Tripod grip
static, dynamic
straight, slant
circular, angular
that form slowly
into shapes
clear as day
Then transforms
into letters
Let's start with "A"
My little boy
grasps his pen
goes to the board
and writes
His brows are furrowed
in profuse concentration
His strokes are
quick and clumsy
The he finishes
with a flourish
His square looking
more like a tic-tac-toe
board with all the X's
But it does not matter
My little boy,
He wrote today.
And when we come home
he finds a pencil
holds it like a writer does
or so I think,
He goes to the clear blue
wall of his bedroom
and scribbles and doodles
circles, lines,
with all the wonder
and focus in his eyes.
This is why we do not
need the paintings of
Monet , Van Gogh or
the sonnets of Shakespeare
or poems of Edgar Allan Poe
We have our little boy
learning the ropes
exploring the wonder
of the pen, or crayon,
if you will,
and anything that it
writes on, for that matter.
Will he learn how to write
words like the immortal writers?
Will he learn how to
paint like the great artists?
I do not know.
This is the greatest mystery
Only the cosmos know
But what I do know
right at this very moment
in a million moments
in the universe,
My boy, he wrote today. :-)

Garret is 6 years old. His typically developing peers are writing full sentences and drawing their imagination on paper. He is still exploring the shapes of letters, learning one small stroke after another. He is not in a hurry. So why should I be? He is taking his time. So should I. Again, another hidden blessing. Only today did I realize and appreciate the wonder and magic of each hand stroke just to form a triangle or a square. To simply write involves a hundred different steps-to hold the pen just the right way, to follow broken lines and dots, and to practice, practice and practice a hundred thousand times. All of these and more to create the power of the written word. The greatest works of art begin from the smallest, simple details. How often have I disregarded the million small things and preferred the grandiose and magnanimous pointless outcomes? Today, again God spoke to me. He spoke to me through the beautiful, clumsy strokes of my little boy, Garret. Each breath, each stroke of the hand, each blink of an eye, each brow furrowed, each stride, sigh of relief, each single smile that breaks into laughter-- these are the little things that make us truly live. If I were given just 10 seconds so that Garret would understand my spoken or written word, I would tell him or write him this, "Thank you, my son for teaching me how to live my life, to appreciate your life, just as God wanted me to-- to see and be amazed at every single, minute and  beautiful detail that is you."

And so now, as I write this, I only say to the heavens, "My deepest gratitude."