Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One Blessed Sunday Morning

[A beautiful, beautiful Sunday! With the boys' three grandmas, (my mom and two aunts) off to church we went! Morgan sat down the whole time! Garret sang with the choir and moved his hands to the beat like a world class orchestra conductor! Standing up when it was time to stand up and sitting down as we listened to the readings and homily...and when the priest admonished, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." I replied with all my heart, caught in my throat, not with a "Thanks be to God" but with a " thank you, thank you, thank you God." And how my heart was truly at peace....I wish I could have captured such wonderful moment on camera...but it's okay, the images of my two boys going to church like that will be forever immortalized in my memory.]

I was planning to write a blog about this even before I decided to post it as a status message instead. But the joy in my heart was just too full to be contained to wait for the time and mood and the right words to write a blog about it. So, there I go. Sometimes, you just have to let it out as soon as it comes for fear that that "moment" will go away. :-)

But, here I am, writing about that beautiful Sunday morning mass with my boys and my mom and two aunts.

I mentally prepared myself that most probably, Garret and Morgan won't be able to stay in the church the entire time and we would have to leave and wait for their grandmas at home. Why? The reasons are too many to mention. But I will mention some of it anyway for all intents and purposes of letting it all out.

1. It's been a long time since we've been to this particular church. A.k.a. NEW PLACE

2. In the church are sights, sounds, people who are unfamiliar. A.K.A. NEW STIMULUS, NEW SENSORY INPUT

3. To remain in one's place for the entire hour in an unfamiliar environment, is quite a feat especially for my little one.

4. The sound of the microphone, the organ, etc. may be too loud for my boys. A.K.A. Possible Sensory overload

5. The change in routine. We usually have a different a schedule on Sundays. A.K.A. Challenged flexibility and adaptability.

Theoretically and proven many times, in order for our kids to be well adjusted to a new event, new place, new routines, to avoid any kind of "strong" reactions, we have to give them time to adjust and adapt.Thus we have our Adaptation Program at school. Visits to the barber shop, dental clinic, and others require that we show them photos first before actually going to the place. And when we do go to the actual place, we have to let them feel the place at their own pace. Little by little, our kiddos will eventually sit down on that feared barber's chair or dental chair, or whatever chair they need to sit on in that particular place to visit.

So the time frame I had to orient my boys that we we were going to church took about 10 minutes as I hurriedly searched through the internet of photos of our city's cathedral with different angles if possible. Garret nonchalantly glanced at the photos and proceeded to his playing the keyboard. Morgan? I think he just passed by the photo not really interested in looking at it. As we boarded the car on our way to church, I kept repeating the rules to them, "Garret we will go inside the church. It's a new place but it's okay. When we're inside, no running, no shouting, no kicking. And Garret and Morgan will sit down and be quiet. " In the span of 10 minutes equivalent to the amount of time of the drive from the house to the church, I must have repeated those lines at least four times. I do realize though that the preparation I gave them was hardly ideal and clearly contrary to what they are used to in our Sped program. Thus, I called on a higher power. "Please, God let them understand my words. "

When we finally arrived in church, we walked from the parking lot to the inside,sat on the pews on the back portion of the church and settled in. Morgan was a bit startled by the place so I told his caregiver to carry him. "It's okay Morgan.", I comforted him. He settled in quietly, his eyes inspecting the place all over. Garret scooted over to his seat, already smiling, eyes wide with interest. I admonished one last time, "It's okay Garret. Very good sitting down." I was crossing my fingers, literally and figuratively.

When the entrance hymn resounded in the halls of the cathedral and everybody stood up, my little prince stood too and searched for the source of the sound, smiling, his hands starting to beat to the rhythm. When it was time to listen to the readings, he sat down as well on his own. No instructions from his mama. I finally couldn't hold back my tears of joy when the pre-gospel hymn was sung. "Hallelujiah, hallelujiah...Wikain mo, poon nakikinig ako, sa iyong mga salita...", the choir rang out. Even before the commentator said, "Please rise.", Garret rose to sing with the choir, his hands in full swing, beating to the tune. You read it right. Garret sang. With the choir. With his own words of course. But he sang. Smiling. I am one hopeless "pusong mamon" mama. I am too choked up right now writing this. At that moment, my throat became so painful from holding back my tears which I failed to do so. Hastily, I wiped them away with my hand and looked at my son with so much joy.

Garret and Morgan behaved so well until the very end of the mass. At times, when Garret couldn't see the altar because of the people in front of us blocking his view, he would attempt to run, but then when I reminded him gently, "Garret no running." , he went back to his place in the pew. My boys behaved so well even when we had to sit down again to listen to the 8 announcements said in the vernacular (which made it a tad longer to finish) at the end of the mass. The priest finally gave his final blessing and out we went from the church. No tantrums, no whining, no meltdowns, no sensory overload. My boys went to church. And if I may just say it, they behaved so well, even better than the other neurotypical kids there! All the doubts I listed vanished into thin air. Every once in a while, a breakthrough occurs. And this was one beautiful, wonderful, amazing breakthrough for both my prince and king.

In our autism awareness campaign with our senior high school students two weeks ago, I was asked by one of the students during the open forum, " Ma'am, what has been your greatest achievement in raising your son?". I was made to ponder for a moment at his question. Half shocked at the kind of question asked by a 16-year old, the kind that makes you really think. I could only muster then a "wow..." followed by " well, with the help of the sped teachers and therapists, I think it is that Garret can already understand simple instructions. When I ask him to do things like, Garret, get your water. He can certainly do it." Looking back, I think that as much as I have done my part in making Garret learn to understand things, a huge part of the credit goes to Garret himself. He has tried so hard, learned so well, come so far. So if I am to reflect on what beautifully transpired last Sunday, all I know is that Garret did a great job. Another question followed quickly and asked by another student quite simply, " Ma'am, is it hard? Being a mom of a child with autism?" I remember answering, "Yes it is. With all the challenges, but the rewards are great. Remember, nothing worth having is ever easy. When my boys smile at me as if joy is their last name, when my boys achieve simple milestones, all of it being "hard" goes away." That Sunday morning is certainly one of the many things why I persevere for them. Why I muster all my strength and courage to carry on despite the hard rocks autism throws at us. Two more questions were asked, "Ma'am, do you ever ask God, 'why?'" and "What has been the greatest lesson that you have learned being an autism parent?" To both questions I answered, Yes, every single day, I ask why. Why my boys? Why our family? Why autism? And the answer it seems is this: So that I can learn the greatest love of all, patience, understanding, compassion, and gratitude for every single blessing and burden, and so that I can help other parents and families who are going through the same challenges that we do every single day. And maybe, simply, just so I can be a better person, not just be a better mom, or wife, or coordinator, or counselor. Simply so I can be a better person.

I recount all the details of that Sunday everyday since that day. Because it tells me we are on the right path. That I have done right with my boys. Yes, it is hard being an autism parent. Then again, I look at both my prince and king, and my life is renewed with meaning. They are my meaning. They themselves are the answers to my "why's", They are worth every single hardship and challenge. They have taught me what life is really all about. And that blessed Sunday morning, it seems, has given me the greatest reward of all so far. It has affirmed and validated me that I am doing things right. And what better way to be thankful than to return all the gratitude, glory and praise to the Universe. When I replied with all my heart to the priest's admonition of "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." Maybe I wasn't the only one thanking God. My boys, in their own way showed their gratitude to all the Universe as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

More than Okay, More than Enough

A hectic day yesterday at the sped center, with the neuro-developmental pediatrician doing 9 evaluations on children. In the afternoon with the evaluations still going on, our kids had to go to the main campus to have their group class/ birthday celebration of one of the kids. I, being the coordinator slash mother slash parent counselor slash organizer of both equally important activities had to do the best I could to somewhat facilitate both activities. So by 2 p.m., I had to leave Garret with his teachers and classmates during group class. With a crying Morgan, who had no intention of joining the group class, in tow, off we went back to the center. I had to check with how the evaluations were going. At around 3:15, I was finally done with explaining to the parent who was already done with the evaluation, our sped program at the center and her options for therapy. Explaining and part counseling actually. So anyway, we went back to the main campus and when I entered the room the kids were already seated eating their Jollibee spaghetti and hamburgers. I scanned the room for Garret and asked the teacher, "Teach, was Garret a good boy?" The teacher responded, "He did okay ma'am." I smiled relieved. I felt guilty leaving him even if it was just for awhile. And hearing the teacher's answer that he did okay, was more than enough to ease the guilt.

What does "okay" mean? If we take it literally, it means satisfactory. Not exceptionally good, but satisfactory. Same with the word, "fine" which in turn means again, satisfactory or in a pleasing manner.

Whenever a therapy session or sped class ends, the parent or caregiver usually asks the teacher or therapist, " Kumusta man akong anak, teach?" (How did my child do in class?) If no tantrums or meltdowns and he complied with most of the tasks given to him. Then the teacher would reply, "Okay man siya ron ma'am" (He did okay today). Or if the child did exceptionally well, a variation of "Okay kaayu siya karon mam." (He did very okay today). I pondered on this thought on why our sped teachers use this term. Why not say" he was a good boy today"? or Why not "he was a bad boy"? If indeed the child did not cooperate that much in class. I don't know if it is just us Filipinos who start teaching the very basic precepts of right and wrong by using the term "good" and "bad" actually assuming that if the child misbehaved or was not compliant, he is immediately labeled as a "bad" boy. Is it universal? I don't know. Anyway, the point that I am trying to get across is that, I think the term "okay" is actually turning out to be the most appropriate and best way to describe a child's performance in class or therapy. Obviously, it is the least of our kids' concerns to purposefully behave in a good or bad manner. Our kids on the spectrum are trying hard everyday to deal with the normal environment that their neuro-typical peers get adjusted to quite easily everyday. So when they do go to their therapy sessions or sped classes, they are doing the best they can with what skills they have in an environment they have no control of. There's this adage that says children never lie. And that they have the purest of souls. I believe this to be true. More so with our kids on the spectrum. So it is unfair to label them as being a "good" or "bad" boy or girl. It is just not right.

I was sharing to our senior high school students last week about how sometimes or even most of the times when kids with autism have tantrums or meltdowns especially in a public place, what we parent really want to say to those who are looking at the "scene of the crime" with judgmental eyes is this, "My child is not misbehaving. He has autism. Please understand." Our kids are not being "bad". They are trying hard. And maybe the times when their coping mechanisms are not enough, that's when they behave inappropriately. And to use the words bad, undisciplined, or other worse labels on them is unthinkable and simply unfair to our kids and to us parents who are doing the best we can.

In reality, this use of "good" and "bad" is like second nature to maybe most parents. Personally, I know I am making a mistake every time I do this. But it just rolled of my tongue quite easily when I asked my son's teacher whether my little prince was a good boy while I was back at the center and they proceeded with group class. When did I realize all this? After we got home and I bathed Garret. He was close to tears because he was already too tired and just wanted to lie down on his bed. The thought just struck me. Because I knew right there and then that he really did well in group class and was already tired. He did the best he can. (Naningkamot jud akong anak.)

Here's the full version of the teacher's answer:

"Was Garret a good boy, Teacher?"

"He did okay, ma'am. He just sat down and took his snacks. He got his biscuits and water from his own bag and sat down. Then he wanted more biscuits but he couldn't find any. He didn't complain but instead played happily with the door knob of the bathroom."

So the easing of the guilt was actually just a mere fraction of what I actually felt at that moment. I was elated, happy, overwhelmed, happily overwhelmed at the thought that my Garret did very well on his own, eating on his own and sitting down without complaining and everything! With everything going on, our little prince once more has shown how far he has come. He did okay. He did very very okay. I take back my question. Because I know that no matter what my son does, however he behaves, however he copes with everything in his environment, however he deals with the normal world, he is a good boy. No matter what. He did the best he could that afternoon. And it was enough. But how he did yesterday afternoon is never a measure of whether he was a good or bad boy. Because again, no matter what, my Garret, my little prince is and always will be a good boy. And if the situation was otherwise, if he had tantrums, or had a meltdown, I know in my heart that my son did the best he could with whatever strength and courage he had, with whatever coping mechanisms he had. To think of him as being bad if this were the situation is unthinkable, unfair and just not right.

Four days ago, I took photos of my little prince while he was playing at the koi pond. I wanted to capture his pure soul and innocence on camera. And when I looked at the 50 or so photos I took, only a handful even came close to what I wanted to capture. Maybe you really can't replicate such purity and innocence on a photograph. Maybe you just have to see it for yourself, in person, experience it yourself with all your heart , mind and soul. In the same manner, I should stop using the words "good" boy or "bad" boy when it comes to my boys. They are good souls, the purest ones. And these souls can never be measured by any label.

Garret did okay yesterday. Very okay, in fact. My boys are okay. This is enough. Pleasing manner or not so pleasing, they are doing the best they can. They are doing fine. They are strong, and brave. That is more than okay. This is more than enough joy for me.

What a blessed life I have!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Days Like These...

It's just one of those days where I'm in the "why" zone. One of the many moods and zones I go through being an autism mom. Right now I don't even want to call myself "warrior mom" as I profess myself to be. I'm in that place where nothing seems to make sense and I am on the verge of having a nervous break down even if I don't have time for it. And even thinking that I am still blessed and fortunate than many others, does not even seem to change my perspective. Judge me if you want. It doesn't make autism go away anyway. I am just asking the question, "why?". Why my boys? Why the task avoidance, why the frustration tolerance? Why the heightened sensitivities? Why?

"If your path is more difficult, it is because of your high calling." I read this on an fb wall of a fellow autism mom. And she commented to this effect, "Is there such thing as a low calling? Because if there is, I would very much take that over anything else right now." This exactly what I feel right now. If I could just scream like hell into a pillow or an empty room in the hopes that some logical answer might come. By logical I mean, something that could radically shift my mood, alter my "why" zone right now into the "What can I do about it? Because I will do it because I'm a warrior mom" zone.

Last night as I rocked my feisty king in the rocking chair so he could sleep, for the first time in a very long time, I prayed not for strength. I prayed for help. Literally asking all the angels looking out after us out there to help me. Because my load is too heavy. I did not ask for a strong back but for the load to be lifted literally off my aching tired shoulders. I am not complaining. I am just saying that I am tired. So could somebody, anybody, out there please help me? Because I cannot do it all. I cannot keep it together all the time. I cannot always find a reason to be grateful. I cannot always see the blessing behind the ugliness of autism. I just cannot. My prayer was not even that of letting go and letting the higher power do its work. My prayer was a demand to the heavens that please, if you could just spare me a little help down here, do something!!!

I'm a bit ashamed of what I am going through right now. Because there is so much to be thankful for. And I always have a choice-- to focus on what breaks me or what holds me together. I know that in my head, a bit too much, and in my heart, all too well. But you know how it is, knowing is different from actually doing it. Applying the theory, because of so many variables. So what else is there for me to do right now? Nothing. Because there is nothing I can do about autism. It's there. It's something I deal with, we all deal with everyday--tantrums, meltdowns, manipulative behaviors and all. I forget, there is one thing I can do just like what I did last night. Take out all the human variables and reasoning and logic. and Pray. I can pray.What to pray for? I don't even know anymore.

Can you pray with me and for me and for all the autism moms out there? I hope you do because we need all the answers we can get especially to the questions why, what and how. Why Autism, What can we do about it and how do we carry on? Prayers move mountains, my mom constantly reminds me. I know this. Maybe it's time I stop the knowing, the logic, the reasoning and start doing. And start praying.

Because maybe this thing that moves mountains will get me back on track and radically revert me back to my "warrior mom" mode. And I think I should stop the "maybe" thing going and start believing. Faith, yes, what I need right now, especially on days like these...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

So This is What Motherhood must be...

A distant but very vivid memory...Elementary 1990. After a long day at school mom would pick us up and on our way home, when the rain would beat down and fog our car windows, after boring myself with drawing letters and shapes with my forefinger from the inside of the car, I would usually fall asleep on my mom's lap at the backseat. Her hand would gently stroke my hair and she would sing and hum as I would fall into a nap. With the traffic of Don Jose Avila Street to Cabangcalan, Mandaue, I had pretty much had a quite amount of time to enjoy my slumber.

Fast forward to college. 1998.In between classes I would usually kill the time at the library. Yes, I'm quite the geek, thank you very much. But not really, the library was just the most conducive place to hang out what with the air-conditioned facility with big tables, books, quietness. Did I mention big tables? This was not only for studying, you know, sleeping was one of the activities done in this conducive place for learning. Anyway, I'm getting off track here. Memories do that when they come in a barrage of flashbacks. Moving on. In my free time I would keep at it with my "poetry" or just writing words I felt like writing on my blank journal. Yes, there was no facebook yet during that time. Blogs were like from outer space for me. Internet was even an obscure concept for me. So journals and diaries were the ways to express my "creativity". In one of my presumably created poems, I wrote about how I would become a mom myself in the future and my little girl after a long day of playing at school would fall asleep on my lap and I would hum her a little song that would carry her into a deep slumber. At the time, I merely imagined what it would be like to finally be a mother. To hold a child in my arms. One to call my own. I read it again a few years ago, already with Garret in tow that time and I was amused at how cheesy my choice of words were. But at the same time I was amazed at how the emotions that brought forth that writing back then were as clear as they were in the present. Somehow I think even before I knew one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up was to become a mom.

July 2012. Last week. With Morgan's sleeping pattern gone awry and completely unpredictable, we have tried every possible strategy. Don't let him take naps in the afternoon so that he would sleep straight in the evenings. We'd have heavy work activities in the afternoon so that he would tire out. We would let the caregivers sleep beside the boys so that they won't have a chance to whine and make "langi" with mama around. Sometimes it worked, other times it just wouldn't. I've exhausted all reasoning, blaming all this on autism or is it just one of those "youngest sibling" syndrome manifestations that my little one wants all the attention. I don't know which is which already. Anyway, in one of our "strategies", with no nap for my king, we drove around the city. And what do you know? Morgan's eyes were getting droopier by the minute until he finally fell asleep. I positioned him gently on my lap. He curled up like a baby, breathing deeply. Snoring even. We drove around till the sun went down.

I realized, this is exactly what I wrote about many years ago in that college library.Having a little one curled up asleep on my lap. How deeply different it is to be the mother this time. How wonderfully different it is to be the one who lulls your child to sleep. I read once that one of the most beautiful joys you can ever experience is having a child fall asleep in your arms. Very true. I think it has something to do with that amazing power, that intuitive ability to be able to allow your child be in a restful state, to see your child in his most peaceful aura, to see one of the most defining moments of what you define as joy and the very purpose of your life as you know it. But most of all, I realized all at once this profound yet simple declaration, "I am a mother now." Of course it has been 8 years since I've been a mother. I realize that every single day. But to remember my musings way back when I had the least maturity and now with this reality. I am amazed. Mostly because motherhood has been so beautifully fulfilling, albeit bittersweet at times but beautiful always. One of the most amazingly life-changing experiences in a woman's life. To be able to care for another human being with all your heart and soul, body and mind (lawas ug katarungan). And more than anything, I realize with my heart in my throat this time, how blessed I am to mother my boys, Garret and Morgan, my two handsome, amazing pieces of royalty. They live and breathe the very essence of life itself-- mystery, uniqueness, pride, humility,kindness, compassion, courage, fortitude, love, above all. And to witness these every single day in my boys' faces asleep or kicking about in the day-- the Universe has been, and is, so good to me.

Even before I knew I was going to have a family of my own. Even my close friends from high school predicted that among the four of us, I would be the one to go through this journey first. How right they were. I knew that. They knew that. But what I didn't know was how my life was going to be changed so deeply, so profoundly, so resonantly, by being a family woman, by being a mother. And what I didn't know was that even if I was given a chance to change one thing in my life, this would definitely NOT be it. Even with autism in the picture.

Last night. July 6, 2012. I finally found a way to make my feisty king sleep. I carried him in my arms and bounced him as usual on the vestibular ball, but this time I sang to him a lullaby..."Rock a bye baby on the tree top...." It didn't matter that it was already past 12 midnight. Morgan finally fell asleep in my arms, breathing heavily, snoring just a bit. Transferring him to his bed, I breathed deeply. As I closed my eyes I once again thanked the universe for everything in my life. Looking over at my two boys, Garret on his bed on his tummy, Morgan on his back, the most peaceful look on their faces, just like a new born baby. So this is what it feels like to finally be a mother. Heavenly.

Postscript... We beat the sleep monster of autism last night...So this is what it is like to be a mother-- to find all ways and means to beat the crap out of whatever hurts or disturbs my boys' peace. Whether you call it autism or by some other name, motherhood beat the crap out of it last night. :-)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Beautifully Bittersweet

Yesterday, I had to play the antagonist again in my Little Prince's world. I had to disturb Garret's place of calm and peace and routine. After his sped class in the afternoon, we went to the big school together with Morgan. Morgan, with his naughty little butt decided to take a nap by 4:30 p.m. When I say "decided" I mean, whining and crying and wanting to be carried, and just one step before full-volume crying occurs. So I had to say to Garret who was already so at peace in the social hall, sitting on the table, taking in all the hustle and bustle of the students playing, etc., "Kuya, we have to go home na. Morgan is sleepy. We need to go home na in a while ha..." As expected an adamant "ah!" met my requesting of him. I won't go into the details of what happened next but let's just say a lot of heads turned and one of his cousins asked very concerned, "Why tita? what happened?"

Ever had one of those moments when you were single and you saw a parent and a child in a mall or grocery store, and the child acted out and you judged immediately why the parent could not discipline her child? Well, this time, I wasn't the observer. I was the unable-to-handle-her-child parent. But this time, I knew Garret was not acting out. It was just a case of "It had to be done" kind of thing. I had to force him out of his peace bubble because Morgan wanted to sleep already. And lately, his little brother's sleeping pattern has gone berserk that I don't know what else to do to make him sleep well at night. Garret yelled and slapped my arm. Morgan scared of his kuya's yell, cried all the more. All that went through my head was " Okay, don't panic. Just breathe.Don't mind the stares of the people around you. Focus, keep calm. Hold it together." Garret slapped me one more time after which I held his shoulders and emphatically said, "GARRET!". He fell silent and whined. I almost forgot, autism does that to my boys.

Of course Garret couldn't understand why we had to go home so early when in fact he was so used to going home by the time all the students in the big school went home. He couldn't understand why he had to go home when the final bell did not ring yet. He couldn't understand why Morgan had to cry, why Morgan had to sleep in the middle of his "big school time". Morgan, on the other hand could no less understand why his body just wouldn't sleep during his usual 1 pm nap time. He couldn't understand why even at 12 midnight, he still couldn't sleep. And he couldn't understand why no amount of bouncing on the vestibular ball and rocking on the rocking chair with mama could not make him go to sleep.

All the way home, Garret sobbed. I could just see and feel his disappointment and it tore my heart apart. When we arrived home I held him in my arms and we stayed in the rocking chair as I tried to soothe him, telling him, "It's okay Garret...I'm sorry. I'm sorry." It took about half an hour before he finally calmed down and fell asleep. When I transferred him to his bed, he woke up already calm and seemingly comforted. After another half hour I prepared his dinner and I kept telling him, "Sorry Garret ha..." He just sat down on his chair and softly echoed my words in a sing-song voice, "sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry." Yes, 5 times. I didn't know what to make of it. I just felt relieved somewhat. Maybe it was his way of saying, "it's alright, mama."? I want to believe that it is. He may not understand all the reasons why we had to go home earlier than his usual routine, but I want to believe he understands me saying sorry I had to do that and he had to be frustrated and disappointed.

And what of Morgan? Of course, sound asleep till 7 p.m at which time I had to force him to wake up, me thinking, so he wouldn't stay up too late later that night. And of course, when we put the lights out at around 11 p.m. and I drifted of to the REM stage of sleep, he began whining again and the whining turned to crying. I flipped the lights on and put on Barney. He then got his wooden shapes puzzle and got all the shapes and put them back again, over and over, which amused me somewhat because I thought, "well, at least something productive can come out of this episode. He'll be able to master his shape sorting skills." On the other hand it was as if he was just doing this to tire his eyes out. Again, I won't go into the other details of what transpired next. Suffice it to say that he finally climbed into bed on his own accord at 2:30 a.m. and me finally succumbing to sleep at 3 a.m. I wanted to berate something, someone, anyone, anybody so badly, autism, specifically, the universe next with my adamant opposition to this whole sleep deprivation that autism does to my little boy. But I held back, thought twice. Nothing good really could be gotten out of it. Just breathe. Don't panic, I told myself. Then I remembered something a friend wrote a year ago in her blog. I remembered her strength and resilience and her resolve to face the sleep monster of autism head on one sleepless night. And I thought to myself, " If she can do it, then I can too." I drifted off to sleep, albeit restless, but sleep nonetheless.

So this morning, as you can imagine, light-headed and disoriented, I woke up at 8 a.m. already planning to spend the day in my pj's. At 9:30, king Morgan woke up went out of the room and he approached me wanting to be cuddled. I told him, "Kiss mama first." I puckered my lips and he followed suit giving me the sweetest kiss ever and only after looking at me in the eyes and smiling his toothy grin. Of course the lightheaded sensation wore off almost immediately. And the disorientation was replaced by something clear and apparent as the morning sun---true love, my friend, Kary told me.

This is what will get me through times like this. This will make me defeat this sleep monster and frustration monster of autism. My love for my boys. I will carry everything with fortitude. I will be strong for my boys. I will not complain. I will think positive thoughts. I will not care about what other people will think of my parenting skills. I will parent my boys as I see fit. I will give them all the love and support they need. I will keep calm. I will not panic. I will breathe deeply and I will carry on. And if my little king needs me to stay awake with him till 3 a.m. , then I will and tell autism to its face, "Show me what you got 'coz I'm ready for you."

These are just a few of the bitter sweet moments in our day-to-day life, living with autism. Thriving with it, actually. I say thriving because every dark moment has been an opportunity for discovery and learning, about myself as a mother, as a partner, as a woman,and simply as a human being. Every monster we face, we have overturned it to become a source of strength and understanding and knowledge and empathy for other parents who are going through similar difficulties. Every experience that drive us to the brink of our patience and ability to keep it together make me solidify the belief to be more accepting and nonjudgmental of other parents, other people for that matter because we each are facing our own battles.

Frustration, sleep deprivation, bitter moments they are, but beautiful, what with the lessons they bring and the strength and character they draw from the very core of my being.

For all autism parents out there, I hope you too shall allow yourselves to be strengthened and not defeated by whatever monsters will come out to face you. I hope you shall choose to be positive. I pray you will have the grace to keep it together, not panic and be calm. I pray that you will in turn have more empathy not just for other people but for yourselves as well. You are doing your best. And your best is enough for your children, for your family.You are strong and even if you feel as if you have lost your balance and center, you are still okay. And you will carry on.