Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Birthday Story

So this is how my birthday went...I woke up at 5 a.m. betcha I was sooo excited! Then Papa and I went to our Koi Pond and fed my 5 Koi -- Pinky, Spot, Dot, Red and Orange and Spar our freshwater hammerhead shark, then had breakfast with Mama Bea at 7 a.m. At 9:00 a.m. we went to Tita Tiny's shop to get my balloons, my wonderful, colorful balloons, then brought it to the Sped Center where I helped my teachers Pol, Prinzer and Loize decorate the place. Or rather I jumped up and down with glee while they put the balloons on the walls and windows. By the time we were done, I was all sweaty. Then we went to Lola at the office, had everyone greet me a happy birthday and we went to buy my little brother's favorite mushroom bread. Finally, we went home for lunch. At 1:15, I got dressed with my pogi (handsome) polo and shorts. Mama and I went to the center for my birthday party!!!! We had games and oh how so much fun!!! I loved my cake so much I couldn't decide which I liked better-- the truck on top of the cake, the chocolate flavor of the cake or the flickering light of my candle number 7. I think I liked the candle better. Then I blew the candle. Only maybe I forgot to make a wish. Uh-oh, but no matter, I had a great time! When we finally went home I played at our Koi pond again. After 30 minutes, Morgan finally woke up from his afternoon nap-- you guessed it ,as usual he was absent from my party. :-D...But it was okay. I understand Morgan still needs his afternoon nap. I was like that too when I was his age....Anyway later after dinner, I ate my cake and had icing all over my face! What time did I finally sleep? 1030 p.m. Whew what an exciting day!!!!!! Thank you God for making my birthday a very happy one. :-)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Loving Memory

Morgan was fussing about a very leafy plant of one of the tombstones and I was cajoling him to begin our exercise. Bianca, our chocolate dobe, Garret and Andro were already starting the usual rounds of walking when I noticed a girl dressed in a pretty dainty white dress and wearing a medal around her neck. Her brother snapped photos of her while she posed happily. The rest of the family gathered around a tombstone talking quietly. I  figured maybe this family came from the little girl’s graduation ceremony and decided to visit a loved one.

This is what I love about our Asian culture. Strong family ties-- the closeness that goes beyond death. I don’t really know the real story of the little girl’s family I observed earlier but what I could sense strongly was how they wanted the loved one who passed away to share in their joy and pride. Don’t we all?

Tomorrow is the big day. Garret will turn 7. Although among the Chinese, Garret will be turning 8 tomorrow. A child’s first birthday is counted as his 2nd year. When you think about it, it is actually seeing life with a forward thinking kind of perspective—a certain optimism to it. It is like saying, “Today starts my 32nd year of life.” Or in Garret’s case, tomorrow will be the beginning of day 1 of his 8th year in this world.

I digress. So we were at the memorial park visiting my father-in-law’s grave, Papa Ching and doing our usual exercise with our boys and our dog. Andro and I often say things like, “If Papa Ching were alive, I think he would never get enough of the boys. Maybe we won’t even get to see them because probably he would insist in having the boys over at their house all the time.” And I would add, “ Well, if my Papa Suy An were alive, the boys would already have been brought to the Chinese temple and hundreds of incense sticks would have been lighted for them for good fortune and to ward away unkind spirits.” We both badly wish how our fathers have been alive to see our boys, their faces, their healthy and robust bodies, their naughtiness, their achievements, and their uniqueness, their vibrant personalities. We imagine many times how much their faces could have beamed with joy everyday in seeing their grandchildren up and about their business of just being who they are—Garret being delighted like crazy over our newly built koi pond, thanks to his papa and Morgan with his constant skeptical look framed in his eternally knit eyebrows and pouty mouth. And tomorrow will just be one of those days. I wish Papa Suy An were here to see his prince of a grandchild turn 7 years old, or rather starting day 1 of his 8th year of life. I wish he was here alive right now. I wish it so badly sometimes it hurts.

Maybe love is really like that. When you love a person so badly, even if they pass on, the celebrations you have in this lifetime will never be truly complete without their presence, or at least without making them a part of your triumphs and joy in whatever way. That’s how family is to us-- thriving on a love that is so much stronger than death. So I truly understand the scenario I witnessed this afternoon of the little girl with the white dress and medal and her family. We have our own kind of graduation. Not the typical one with the medals and ribbons and certificates and all. But something definitely worth celebrating, not just during this time of the year, but all year-round—good health, great job going to school and therapy without complaining, doing tasks with little verbal or physical cues, understanding 2-step instructions, humming nursery rhymes in perfect tune, plunking piano keys to the tune of Old McDonald, butterfly kisses and tightest possible hugs with eyes crinkly, Chinese-y, learning to be independent, brushing own teeth, dressing oneself, carrying one’s bag, learning to cope even when mama is not around. All these things are worth celebrating. Every little milestone is a graduation in itself. And every single day, how we badly wish Papa Ching and Papa Suy An were here to witness it all with their own eyes. So in our own way, we make them a part of our everyday celebration, our everyday graduation.

They say we channel our loved ones’ character traits, mannerisms, philosophies and values when we miss them the most or to keep their memory alive so that it may seem like they are still right here with us. They say children are an extension of oneself, grandchildren all the more what with the third generation theory that the “lolos” and “lolas” (grandparents) are seemingly replicated among the “apos” (grandchildren). Morgan has this trait where he examines and observes all things before accepting it as worth his time. He has a mind of his own, a plan of his own all mapped out in his head. Garret is so easy to please, more compliant and more flexible than his kingly of a brother. When I ask Morgan for a kiss, he will kiss me only 3 times full on the lips, no more and no less. When I ask Garret for a kiss, he willingly gives his chubby cheeks or cute lips all the time. While Morgan has physical features that resemble Papa Ching, save for his light complexion and his eyes that disappear when he grins, Garret has ears that stick out like his beloved Chinese grandpa.

So what do we know? Papa Ching and Papa Suy An are here, right here beside us after all. They are seeing with their own eyes our beautiful boys’ life. They are witnessing our boys’ graduation every single day. They are both celebrating with us everyday.

The term “commencement exercises” that is always used in graduation ceremonies spelled out in Styrofoam cutouts embossed on every graduate’s stage backdrop means the beginning, to start anew. New possibilities. Optimism. Forward thinking. And coincidentally, as I am proudly 75 % Chinese, today, I choose to channel my father’s philosophy—Garret begins his first day of his eight year in this life tomorrow. I am ready for wonderful possibilities for him. I anticipate only amazing things he can achieve. I am optimistic that I will carry on. I will be strong for my little Prince and Feisty King. I will not let myself be easily discouraged or frustrated when people judge or criticize me. For every problem that is presented to me, I will look beyond the fingers and focus on the solution. And I will choose compassion, kindness and love above all things.

Whoever said parenting ends when life draws its final breath? I refute this. Apparently my papa is still teaching me, parenting me, loving me through his most potent channels of life and love, his grandchildren—Garret and Morgan. Papa Suy An is right here beside me. Right here in my heart. I must dare not forget this fact.

Thank you Papa Suy An for showing me what life is really all about—Compassion, Kindness and Love. And in what better way to show me all these three values than in the persons of your grandchildren, Garret and Morgan.

I miss you every single day, Papa. With all my heart, I love you with all my heart. And forever until I draw my last breath, I will always be your princess.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Separation Anxiety and Letting Go

I know the title is just a bit too lengthy and too obvious and to an extent, a bit cheesy? But just because it’s that time of the year where everybody is achieving a milestone and beginning another, I hate to sound cliché, but there is no better term—starting another chapter of their lives. Yes, I mean graduation ceremonies and all that. But this has nothing and everything to do with graduation. So here you go.

Mom was getting ready for work. I was busy playing. Then she walked to our “sala” and walked through the door leaving. The details are hazy now but what is clear up to this moment in time is how I went to the jalousie window and cried pleading her not to leave. I simply did not want her to leave. Yaya Sophie comforted me saying it was okay that mom had to leave because she had to go to work and she will be back later. I don’t know how old I was. Probably 6 or 7 when this happened. Even until now, I remember vividly the pain I felt when Mom left for work. I couldn’t understand why she had to work. All I wanted was for her to be with me all the time. At all times. Eventually, of course, I learned to cope and I no longer cried when she left for work.

A few days ago, I had to go back to the Center to hold a meeting with the Sped Teachers. And Garret would not let me out of his sight. With every creak of their bedroom door, he would turn and check that it was not his mama who went out. I tried to think of ways to distract him—putting on his favorite DVD, Magic English Disney, Dora and Diego, Ice Age. Nothing seemed to work. Finally, I decided to leave the room, for better or for worse. After all what I had to do was equally important for him and the other kids at the center. So I went out and into our bedroom and locked the door. What happened next was not the “better” outcome. He panicked and went after me, banged on our bedroom door. Realizing he couldn’t open it, he went back to his room and cried and screamed and cried for 15 whole minutes. And that was the longest 15 minutes of my entire life.

You have no idea how hard it was for me to listen and not give in to him. I had no choice but to let him go through that experience. Garret had to learn in his own way to cope with his mama leaving for work. He had to be fully aware of me leaving his sight. He had to somehow process as best as he can that it was just okay. He had to comfort himself that mama would be back later. Thankfully, after 15 minutes the crying stopped. I finally left for the center.

Separation Anxiety. We all experience this at one time or another, a friend leaving for another country, a break-up of a friendship, a growing apart of a relationship, a death of a loved one, everything going through this painful process of separation. At the very least we are anxious. At its worst, the pain of letting go of someone or something is tremendous. And we have our own “adult-like” ways of coping. We sometimes pretend that it’s okay putting up a front. We crumble and break down and cry for a long time. We laugh it off with beer and whatnot. We box the hell out of that punching bag. We pray. We think, sometimes too hard. We question. We provide the answers. And then we cry some more. Then finally, we move on.

What we sometimes do not realize is that we actually learn our coping skills and self-calming techniques as young children—When our parents first dropped us on our first day of school, or earlier, such as suddenly becoming aware of mom leaving for work. So it all depends on how our parents dealt with our endless pleas of “Mama!” of “Daddy don’t leave!” .

Garret will be turning 7 this Friday, March 30th. He has come so far physically, mentally, and emotionally. He’s getting to be so smart, he knows how to push all my buttons, and he know how to strategize to get what he wants, and that includes crying so I will be with him all the time. But more than this, I wonder how he deals with this thing called separation anxiety. Unlike other kids who can verbally articulate their anxiety, he actually "non-verbalizes" it perhaps even more clearly. And then when there is nothing left for him to do about the fact that mom really left for work, he recovers quite quickly and acts as if the episode of crying and screaming and banging the door did not occur at all. I wonder whether the pain he felt has really disappeared. I wonder whether it is just locked deep in his heart. I wonder if he resents me leaving him or disciplining him. I wonder if he understands why I scream at him when he misbehaves badly and when I cannot take it anymore and just break down. I wonder how much of me as his mama does he understand. I wonder what goes on in his mind and his heart. This mysterious world of his is just that—a mystery, a puzzle that I strive to solve every single day. For every tantrum, for every scream, for every whine, for every “good job” waiting, for every smile and bubbling laughter, for every spontaneous hug and kiss, for every milestone reached, I wonder and I try to solve to the best of my ability. And because I don’t have fixed answers to all my wonderings, all the more I want to protect him from every possible hurt and pain that he may encounter in this life. Even if I know can’t, I will still protect him come hell or high water. Because that’s what you do to those you love.

But this is the greatest irony. And only now do I truly understand. To truly love is to learn to let go, to learn to let things be, to set them free, to experience things—the good, the bad, the worst and the most beautiful. To truly love Garret and Morgan, I shall have to allow them to learn coping skills on their own. They will have to experience the disappointment and frustration that mama has to go to work. They will have to go through a whole lot of other things. The crying and the screaming shall have to happen. Because there is no other way for them to learn than to face their anxieties head on. They will learn to pick themselves up after every fall. They will learn to move on. And they will only learn to do all this if I learn to let go, let them be.

I don’t know if Autism does more good than harm when they are confronted with relationship concerns. Their “impaired” socialization skills make them indifferent in some cases and nonchalant to an extent. In Garret’s case, he is quite the opposite, very affectionate, craves every tight hug and welcomes kisses. But like I said, after a screaming episode of frustration, he recovers automatically and shifts to another mode that makes me wonder again, “Is it his way of numbing the pain? Or has Autism allowed him not to dwell too long on things, which is actually, when you think about it, is a hidden blessing?”

Experts say, children learn quickly because their brain is like a sponge. They recover well from a fall right away because their bones are flexible. And yes, they cope with separation sooner or later. And the sooner they are allowed to experience things that teach them strong coping skills, the better they learn and the stronger their resilience will be.

As Garret is growing older, I am learning to treat him just like any other “normal” regular kid in discipline and in teaching coping skills. You know why? Because he is teaching me to be a better parent every single day. I just don’t have all the answers to the puzzles that his world bombards at me every day. But it’s okay. It’s all going to be okay. Garret will be okay. He will learn how to cope. He will learn to be resilient. He is coping. And he is doing very well. I think it may be me who is actually suffering from a serious case of separation anxiety (just like all parents do, I think) and I will have to learn to trust the experts on what they say.

The Universe has its way of placing meaning to events. The purpose of a particular event may be obscure at that particular time that it is actually happening, but it will unfold certainly, sooner or later. This is one of those things. When I was 6 or 7, I couldn’t understand why my own mom had to leave for work. Now I’m a mom. Now I understand. But, more important than this, I now understand that just as I coped well, Garret will do too. Even better, I think. And it’s time for me to stop dwelling on things because everything’s going to be okay. Like I said, my boys tell me all the time, “Mama, it’s time to cut the crap and the bullshit.” And maybe they are telling me, “ Look how you turned out to be, mama. You did okay. You turned out just fine. Remember, mama we spent 9 months in your womb. You must have given us at least an ounce of your courage and resilience.” Or maybe it’s just me doing my self-soothing techniques. But I would like to believe it’s Garret and Morgan who is telling me this because right in front of me is proof enough. They are doing fine. My little prince and feisty king are doing just fine.

Life lesson for today: The only way to deal with separation anxiety is to let go because everything is going to be okay. I will have to trust the Universe on that.

So yes, this has nothing and everything to do with graduation ceremonies. I am acknowledging the fact that it is time for Garret to learn things on his own. I am learning to let go. And perhaps Garret is beginning to understand that mama can't be with him all the time, at all times. And he is learning as well to cope and deal and to just let go. So this is our graduation, a different kind of graduation, but a milestone reached, nonetheless. And a beginning of a new chapter. And I am perfectly okay with that. :-)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Greatest Love of All

No, this is not a tribute to the late singer. Far from it.

Many years ago, I attended a First Holy Communion ceremony of my nephew in a parish in Mandaue City. As it was Daniel’s turn to receive communion, I looked over his mom, who was my cousin. She had tears in her eyes that she tried to conceal by dabbing the corners of her eyes. When my nephew approached her, he innocently asked, “nganung hilak man ka, Ma?” (Why are you crying, Mom?”) His mom responded, “Big naman ka. “ (Because you’re grown up already.) My “kulit” nephew insisted, “ Unya, nganu man diay ug big nako, hilak diay ka?” (So what if I’m grown up already, why would you cry?”) I remember she answered, “ You will only understand when you will have kids of your own…”

Now, fast forward to the present. I attended our Preschool Graduation ceremony yesterday. The motions of receiving the diploma and awards and such flowed like clockwork. The moms and dads beaming with joy as their 6-year olds received their certificates of graduation, ribbons and medals. The graduates in their dainty graduation dresses and long-sleeve barongs—all a wonderful sight to see. The day marked a milestone for them--how much they have achieved and how far they have come academically and perhaps in all other areas of development. I was present during the ceremony as part of the administration although realizing how very little participation I contributed in the process compared to the past years when the sped center wasn’t founded yet. It was one of those many programs in school for the past year where I found myself being more of an audience than an organizer this time. I was able to just sit back and enjoy the whole process just like all the other parents in the venue. Then a thought came across out of the blue, “Now I’m a parent too.” Of course not like the others who had kids marching on that stage receiving their diplomas and awards. But like them, I was happy for their children. As sentimental as perhaps all mothers can be, I am the worst of them all. I fight back the tears as each child smiles proudly holding his diploma for all to see while the photographer clicks his camera away. If a K2 student were to approach me and ask me the same question my nephew asked his mother many years ago, I think, my answer would not have been any different from how my cousin answered her own son.

It’s not hard to understand how our boys may not have the “normal” usual graduation experience with the diplomas and awards and all. They will have a different kind of milestone celebration. Correction, they are having a different kind of milestone celebration every year if not every day. One of the wonderful things in living with Autism is the fact that I am given the opportunity to always be grateful for what little or big achievement my boys have made. I am grateful every day for every single thing they are able to do, ask properly for a cookie without throwing a tantrum, hold a pen with the proper tripod grip, gesture to an adult that they need to go to the bathroom, fold their clothes properly, pack away things without getting frustrated, all these little details that are so easily mastered by the “normal” kids without a glitch. As for the future, planning for college, applying for work, living an independent life, this reality is still far away. But a very real reality, if there is such a term, nonetheless. We face it with all the courage and strength we could muster one day at a time.

So when the graduation march blasts through the speakers in the graduation hall, and the little ones march on stage, in my heart of hearts if I could speak to all the parents candidly, I would say to them,

I hope every single day without fail; you tell your child he’s doing a great job.

I hope every single day, you tell him that he made you proud he achieved all these things, learning to read and write and speak volumes of stories.

I hope every single day you tell your daughter she’s doing just great behaving and listening to the teachers.

I hope every single day, you tell her “Good job, darling” for willingly going to school happy and excited to learn new things.

I hope when your son brings a test sheet scoring an 80 out of a 100, you tell him, “Well done, my son. For as long as you have learned something, then that is all that matters.”

I hope when your daughter brings a test sheet scoring a 97 out of a 100 this time compared to the perfect 100 the last quiz, you tell her, “you are still amazing, no matter what.”

I hope that even when your child does not belong to the top 10 of the class you still tell him, “You are my son and you are a wonderful, wonderful son.”

I hope that when your child comes home all sweaty and dirty and out of breath, school uniform in disarray, you tell him, “I am happy you had fun at school.”

I hope that when your child comes home and bothers you with all his chitchat about all the friends he or she met in school, you stop what you are doing and tell him or her, “ okay, little one, tell me about your friends. Better yet, tell me about your day.”

I hope that during weekends or summer break, when school is out and he has nothing to do at home, and he is getting bored and keeps wanting your attention, you don’t get annoyed. Instead you tell him, “Come, and let’s do something fun together.”

I hope that when she has nothing to do but ask you endless questions about the universe, the earth, and everything under the sun, you don’t make her keep quiet, but instead, you say, “I love it when you ask these questions, so I could get to know you better and you get to know me better and you learn about this life you have been given.”

I hope that when he goes to bed at night and see him still fast asleep in the early hours of the morning, your first thought is not what things he should be achieving, what medals he should be reaping, what he should be when he grows up, what sort of wife he should be marrying, how much money he should be making. I hope your first thought would be, “Thank you God for my child for all that he is and all that he can be.

So, to answer the question why I got emotional during the ceremony, it is because, I realize how Garret and Morgan have grown. They have come so far. In their own way, they have reached their own individual milestones. They may not have medals or diplomas to show off but just their very existence—their joy, their exuberance for life, and most of all the lessons they teach me every day is worth more than any piece of ribbon or plaque. With wonderful awe, I realize I do have two children of my own now. Now I understand.

And the other reason my heart is twisted in knots is because I am reminded that regardless of what Autism brings to the table, I am still blessed. For normal parents out there, I say this to you—you are blessed. No more or no less than us Autism Parents, actually. But maybe, if I may speak in behalf of all the autism parents out there, our challenges are different maybe even greater in most aspects. There are dreams for our children that we needed to let go of more than you. Your children have every ability, capacity and talent and resources to be who they want to be in the world. Root them to the ground as you show them you are grateful for what and who they are no matter what, as you show them they are loved no matter what. And this will give them wings to be what the universe wants them to be.

Being an autism mom does not give me the necessary credentials to be an authority on parenting. I am well aware of that. After all, we are all different, in situations, in coping mechanisms, in emotional and financial strengths and resources. But I think when it comes to being an authority on gratitude; I may be a qualified candidate. So all I am saying is, I hope, as I am constantly sharing my beautiful and the not so beautiful experiences that Autism brings to my life, I am able to impart and maybe engrave in your hearts that attitude of living a thankful life. Simply because you are blessed—blessed with children who are beautiful the way the Creator made them, healthy and happy. Simply because you can do the things you are doing, your children are enjoying their childhood and soon their youth. Simply because you are alive.

After the school director’s closing remarks and reminders for the coming school year, the Kinder 2 graduates stood up and got ready to sing their graduation song. Facing their parents, the beginning notes of possibly the most beautiful love song resonated through the graduation hall. And the little boys and girls with all their innocence, joy and exuberance sang,

I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier…..

Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

Michael Masser couldn’t have written the lyrics any better. I said before that for me life is love exemplified. Well what is love? And what is the greatest love? Garret and Morgan are teaching me every single day, without fail, that to be grateful—to appreciate them for who they are, their individualities, their eccentricities, their beauty, their strength, their frailties and their triumphs-- to live a very thankful life is the greatest love of all.

One last admonition to all parents out there; I hope as your child wakes up every morning, your first words to him or her would be this; “You are enough. You are amazing. You are beautiful. And you will be who you want to be. And no matter where life takes you, you are loved. I love you.”

So, you see this is not a tribute to the late singer or the songwriter. This is a tribute to all the children, all our children.

This is for you, my Garret and my Morgan, my Little Prince and Feisty King. You are enough. You are amazing. You are beautiful. You will be who the universe wants you to be. Mama and Papa love you so so much.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Some Days are Just Not Good Ones

Today was a better day than yesterday.

Yesterday was just one of those days where frustration, confusion, anger and the urgent need to establish a sense of order were all mixed in a bowl. How else would you explain to your child that what he was enjoying so much watching-- two kids playing badminton, has ended because they are tired or just need to do something else? How do you explain to your child who understands only his excitement and joy at seeing the ball bounce back and forth from two rackets that the game is finished and that it is okay that it ended? How do you tell them it is okay in a way that gets through to him, in the most rational way his autistic mind can understand? And after all this, how do you stop yourself from engaging in self-blame or in immersion in the sea of questions that ask only why? why? why can he not understand? Why can't his brain allow him to understand? And then, how do you help him cope with all this when the hitting, slapping, kicking and screaming has started? Then the bigger question, as the parent, the adult, and supposedly the more mature and more able one, how do you deal with all this? How do you cope with all this? How do you deal with the tantrum without breaking down yourself?

There are tons of literature that teach us autism parents how to handle situations like this. Literature. Sure, they do help. Planned ignoring, Giving time-outs, Negative reinforcements, Punishments and a whole lot of other strategies. But the literature does not tell you answers to your questions of "why my son?". The literature does not teach you how to hold your emotions in when your own child has his heart in his sleeve, open for all the world to see, very vulnerable to the pain of a frequently changing environment. The literature does not understand the utter frustration of how you feel you have done everything you could to love your child and how all the more Autism tests the limits of your patience and tolerance and even your proclamation of acceptance and understanding of your child.

Oh, and what's worse? The people around you are quick to place judgments on you. Very quick. And you are tempted to shout back, "Just try for even just one day or even a minute to be in my shoes!" But then you know better and you hold your tongue because you know they will never ever know what it is like to be in your place. Because even if they were in an alternate universe be in your shoes, they will not survive for even a second. But the most painful part is when you are confronted with the question, "Why does it seem that your son does not like you and seem to even detest you?" How do you react? You just fall silent. Even if you know that it is not true, you begin to question what you did wrong when you were carrying him in your womb, what you did wrong along the way, or what you did not do to perhaps prevent all this from happening-- autism and all its eccentricities.

Then you realize, what other people say or think do not really matter because at the end of the day, it is not them who live the reality every single day of your life. It is not them who has to deal with the tantrums and manipulative behavior and sensory overload. It is not them who wakes up at 2 in the morning because your child cannot sleep and cries and whines until 5 in the morning. It is not them who has to establish a consistent routine and an orderly environment in the home so your son's world will be a happy place for him to live in. It is not them who sends your child to sped class, therapy and doctor's visits. It is not them who gets to experience all the ugliness that Autism brings to your life. Their quick and very poor judgments of your parenting skills DO NOT matter because they do not live your life.

What's that saying again? If someone throws a rock at you, get a piece of bread and throw it back at them....a hundred pieces of Pan Elorde ( the three-days old kind of bread). So here's one for all of you out there who are mindless, insensitive jurors of seemingly incompetent parents:

What you say or think do not really matter because it is not you who gets to see how my child reaches out for my hand in the car and intertwines his fingers with mine for no reason at all than to just feel my hand.

It is not you who gets to experience every single day the most beautiful smile on his face he reserves just for me when he likes something that I wear or how I cut my hair.

It is not you who gets to hear him sing a sweet, sweet lullaby just for me so I can go to sleep in the afternoons.

It is not you who gets to hear his contagious laughter and overwhelming delight as he plays with their adorable dobe.

It is not you who gets to hear him play twinkle twinkle little star on the keyboard as he learned it all by himself.

It is not you who gets to see him dance in perfect rhythm to the music of Black-eyed peas.

It is not you who gets to have the sweetest kiss on the lips when you ask him to.

It is not you who gets to hold him at night and hear his peaceful breathing as he goes to a restful slumber that makes you simply want to be thankful to the universe for being alive.

So, really, what you say and think do not really matter. Because you don't get to experience all the beauty and gratitude that Autism brings to my life.

I just read, " Our mission in this life is not to fix people. Our mission is to be a good demonstration of the glory of the universe so that others may shine and grow because of our presence."

As much as I am hurt and pissed off, I choose to be a source of light and growth for you. Think all you want. Say all you want. Judge all you want. We all carry different crosses. Your judgments may be a result of your own crosses burdening you. So I give you that. But I want you to know, we are all trying to make it in this life, we are all trying to map out our own paths, the paths of which our children may step upon, including yours. Being a source of light and growth though does not mean though that I would just take your judgments sitting down and clamming up. No I won't. So here's my final piece of bread to throw at you:

The next time you see a parent of a special child struggling to calm or discipline his or her child and you feel the urge to form those rash conclusions in your mind, how about saying this prayer instead?

"Grant that I may never criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Favorite Time of Day

It has been well over a 3 weeks that Garret has been without a caregiver. And things have been as you might guess, quite in a state of change. To meet our son's needs, we have to rearrange our schedule throughout the day. Without question. My work schedule particularly, has to coincide with his Sped Classes in the morning. Or therapy in the afternoon, by which time work is mixed with "me" time which I so seldom have these days. Thankfully, my partner is a wonderful father and an excellent disciplinarian which makes our routine flow like clockwork, half or most of the time (wink!).

At around noon to 3 p.m. is our scheduled nap time for Morgan and rest time for Garret. I say "rest time" because he does not nap anymore and prefers to just lie down on the bed and sing or hum or settle in his thoughts. During this time I lay beside him and it is I who usually falls asleep to his humming and singing. What I did not mention in a previous post before where Garret gave me that much needed rest was that apart from the singing and humming and letting me be, he caresses my cheek and hair as I close my eyes in a slumber. And when he does so, he smiles and giggles quietly. It is no different now. He seems really happy that it is his mama who stays beside him during nap time and not a caregiver anymore. And maybe because of his joy, he expresses it by showing his affection not unlike how a mother does to her child. During these moments, my heart melts knowing he is showing his love to me in his own gentle, non-verbal way. During these times, I am the child and he is the parent, giving me time to rest and be re-energized. And maybe, naughtily and unwittingly, he gives me this time to rest knowing how he can be a handful the rest of the day.

A handful, actually, can be an understatement most of the times. I am sure Autism parents can relate to this. Times where we just want to shout, " why will you not stop screaming??? or crying? Or Why can't you understand that you need to stop playing with the water already???" Or simply, times where we just need to shout a very loud and long "AAAAAAAAH" to get all that stress and frustration out of our chests. And just when we are tired out of our wits from dealing with our kids, they come to us and smile the most disarming smile as if nothing--NOTHING happened at all. And what do we do? How do we react when this happens? Of course, our anger just dissipates into thin air and we are grinning from ear to ear. And we're back to the drawing board, where all action starts from an abounding vessel of love and nothing else. I jokingly tell the therapists and to anyone who would listen, "What can I do? I'm a victim of love. " (with the "v" in victim pronounced as a "b" for emphasis.) I watched a documentary once where mothers cuddled with their newborns right after several hours of intense labor. One mother in particular whispered to her baby in one line what all mothers in the world truly feel, " You will never know what you're gonna do with all this love around you." With all the love we have for our children, regardless of all the tantrums and manipulative behavior and "drama" episodes we might have, in the end our heart is just so full of love that even we ourselves don't know what to do with it. This may be the reason why our own kids with Autism with their heightened sense of emotions and all know how much they are loved and sometimes just test the limits of our love for them.

These beautiful "payback" times where Garret comes up to me and makes me feel like I'm the most beautiful person in the world, when he makes me feel like the most fragile child who needs to be taken cared of at siesta time, is my favorite time of the day. Because I know in my heart it is where the walls of Autism are broken down, even if it is just momentary. Because at these times, he reaches out to me from the depths of his secret world. He is able to let go of the bars of Autism and hold my heart in his hands. Many times before I often become overwhelmed thinking about the future, the what if's and all that. What if Garret can never talk? Well, now, honestly, it doesn't really matter anymore, because he speaks to me volumes and volumes of language. And apparently, the universe is teaching me that the only language that matters is that which conveys messages of joy and love and real human emotions. What are empty words and phrases perfected to the most excellent of grammar and sentence construction when they are full of pretense and hypocrisy? I am blessed because every single day, my Little prince conveys to me the most beautiful language, where I am wrapped in this safe cocoon of his gentle and prince-like embrace and I am brought to an hour or so of peaceful rest and respite.

When evening comes and it is time to go to bed, it is my turn to caress his cheeks and gently ruffle his hair and kiss his cute little lips and sing to him a lullaby. The roles are reversed just like it should be now, I am his mama now. And he is the baby seeking a good night's sleep. I close my eyes and whisper "Thank you, Garret for everything you have taught us. I love you so much, you just have no idea how much." Then I pray, or rather ask God, " Could this be Garret' favorite time of day too, God?" Nothing answers me except the heavy peaceful breathing and snoring of my little royalty of a prince, Garret. Oh, and since Morgan sleeps later than his older brother, he with all his feistiness, escapes from his caregiver from his bed and climbs up to me and asks to be cuddled just like a newborn baby too. I rock him and sing to him, "this is the way we go to sleep...." After a while he does not move and is fast asleep as well.

Right now I am training a new caregiver. But I think I have come to love being a more or less a full-time mom what with all of Garret and Morgan's magic moments. Still, balancing out motherhood, wife-hood and womanhood is a challenge. I know I need to be productive and healthy emotionally, physically and intellectually most importantly for my own children. So right now, I think what I'm trying to say is that I am just grateful for what my two boys are constantly teaching me especially now that I am given the time to really be with them most of the time. Priceless lessons and expressions of love are coming my way every day. And I think my favorite time of day may not be singular anymore. I may have to add a lot more time slots to my favorite list of times of the day. Autism may be the greatest teacher in teaching me to see the greatest of blessings in the thickest and most confusing of disguises after all.