Two weeks ago, Elliott pooped in the litter box. Yep, you read that right – he literally went down to the basement, and decided to give the cat box a go. This was a real “down” for me in the ups and downs world of parenting a child with autism. It was a true low for us – and even more so for our cat, Simon, who alerted me to the situation promptly.
I don’t know why Elliott made that choice, and when I asked him about it, he simply said he had to go and so he did. When I asked why he did not climb the handful of steps up to the bathroom, he didn’t really have a response. No, he has not ever done something like that before, we were not having an off day, and frankly, things have been kind of calm and peaceful in our world. It just happened randomly.
Sometimes, I think Autism is like a middle school bully – lying in wait as you turn the corner, ready to trip you, or sock you right in the gut when you least expect it. At least, that is how it feels when things like this pop up randomly in our family. For this reason and so many others, I am medicated. Takes the edge off, and allows me to cry about it for a few days, and eventually find humor in it somehow. Humor is key. Humor and the occasional margarita, of course.
Here’s why the timing was so impeccable (gotta hand it to my kid for this): the day prior to the “incident” was his final ABA therapy session ever. Yes, the transition away from our home-based therapy program has been weighing heavily on my mind for the past 6 months. It has been gradual, well thought-out, and though I’ve had to be dragged along in the process kicking and screaming, even I must admit the change was the right thing to do, and even necessary.
Elliott, on the other hand, has been ready for this for some time. If asked about it, he will tell you he does not need “big friends” anymore, and is now a big guy who just needs to study and do homework like everyone else. While Tom & I (ok mostly me) have been lying awake at night, worried about how this transition will affect Elliott, his siblings, and our family in general, Elliott has been ready to throw a big party to celebrate this accomplishment. Likely, he has already created an elaborate guest list, and planned to serve Laffy Taffy , cheese balls & multi-colored Twizzlers.
When the day arrived, I frankly tried not to think about it too much. All the kids celebrated by doing the high-ropes course at the Mall of America with our big friend, Gretchen, and we got some awesome photos. I worked hard to embrace this change, and to accept that change is sometimes as hard for me as it is for my kids (and in this case, harder for me)! We basked in the glory, for that one day, of Elliott’s tremendous hard work and many accomplishments. We dared to dream big, exciting things for his future, in spite of the fact that he currently aspires to work at the local car wash.
Then it happened. Just as I was beginning to embrace this change as a positive – just as I was beginning to feel like I could touch bottom in the giant ocean of life with autism, my kid pooped in a litter box.
No doubt, parenting is humbling. I try with all my heart to learn from the many lessons autism throws my way. Early on, I had to learn that as hard as it was to accept, there was not enough love in the world to take his autism away, even though I tried. I had to learn to be a patient person even though it was not my nature, because my son needs an endless supply of patience on some days. Now , I’m trying to learn to trust that as much as he’ll make mistakes, and take 3 steps forward and 1 step back, that we are still moving in the right direction. It is not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is, right?