Celebrating the Small Stuff

E's room sign

Friends – I made a mistake.  Last week, something kind of great happened, and to encourage myself to make the time to sit down and write about here on my red couch, I alluded to it in a Facebook status.  This was beyond unwise for a host of reasons:

  1. It’s unwise to commit to something you are not 100% certain you can follow-through with. This is something I’ve learned through my years of being an ABA parent (ok 90% – let’s get real).
  2. The summer has been crazy in general, and even though I’ve worked hard to create balance for each of the children in regards to activity/down-time, it still leaves me sweating, with unfortunate hair, driving all over Eagan and beyond taking someone-somewhere. In short, my “me” time is minimal.
  3. Making a bone-head statement like that on social media is naturally why I developed one of the worst 2-day migraines of my life followed by a weekend filled with visiting family and a fun, but full schedule.

Despite my foolishness, I’m still going to share because it’s been a bit of an “off” summer, and we must celebrate the sweet stuff when we can – don’t you think?

Here’s the scoop – odds are that by having 3 offspring, someone is going to be in a pretty good place at any given time.  Additionally, someone is likely to be experiencing a rough patch of some sort – it’s just part of growing up, and a natural part of life.  Having 2/3 of your brood on the autism spectrum can make for more dramatic peaks and valleys, but you get the idea.

That said, for some reason, this has been a funky summer for everyone as each member of the trio wrestles with their own unique issues this summer.

E man has just been off for the past month or so.  Nothing horrible, but just a hint of funky.  He’s exceptionally moody, has been flying off the handle about things that haven’t bothered him in years, and is especially challenged by a host of vocal and motor tics (i.e. interesting loud random sounds, lots of clapping, facial tensing, and occasional goofy laughing at inappropriate moments).  This is something that goes in phases for him, and has for many years.  He knows it now brings unwanted attention to him out in public, and I believe tries his best to control it when he can, which is not always possible.  I wish it were easier for him, and even more,  I wish I understood why at times this is not an issue for months, and then suddenly it seems to occupy so much of his day.  Being 13 is awkward anyway – this doesn’t make it easier.

Henry is in transition – in so many ways.  He’s done with elementary school, preparing for middle school in the fall, growing so fast that I can’t keep enough food in the house or pants that reach below mid-calf most of the time.  His core group of “Minecraft” adoring buddies is in a bit of a funky place right now, and we’re encouraging him to expand his horizons beyond his love of technology (not easy when lots of middle school guys love sports and you have your Mom’s crummy athletic genes).  He’s just “off” – trying to find himself, being snarky while still enjoying “Frozen” now and then with his little sister, and remembering to wear deodorant in moderation.  It’s just a summer of transitions for the H man, and that’s not always an easy place to be.

Ada will be moving from the school she has attended since Kindergarten to our home school for her 2nd grade year.  It was her choice, as her social motivation to be around other kids from our neighborhood was reason enough to encourage us to let her give it a try.  This school will not have a formal autism program, which she has not needed or utilized since she started Kindergarten but always knowing it was there was great comfort for us, and leaves me feeling a bit nervous and uncertain as the social demands of school begin to ramp up in 2nd grade and beyond.  Additionally, whenever Ada and Elliott spend lots of time together, Ada begins to mimic some of E’s behaviors, so the clapping, noises, faces are in full swing around our place.  I wish it didn’t bother me so much – but it does simply because that’s never been Ada’s issue – and her ability to study the behavior of her peers and emulate them is fantabulous – if the peers were not her brother experiencing his own challenging moments.  Ugh.

So everyone has been a bit off, and while we do our best to try new, fun family activities, take advantage of the free time we don’t often get, and explore our community to unearth new ways to have fun in our own interesting way, it’s just not been super amazing or a summer to remember in any way  – yet.

But last week, something really terrific happened that I didn’t see coming, and it was enough to make me reflect on celebrating the small stuff – especially in light of the kind of “blah” place everyone has been in, and I think it’s worth sharing – even if it’s just to remind me to reflect on the small moments of good that surprise me here and there.  Here goes.

E had perhaps the busiest week of his summer last week.  His summer school program runs from 8-12 each day, he does his literacy tutoring with the amazing Ms. S. twice a week at our library, and then last week, he enrolled in a really cool 1 week afternoon ASD Sports Camp that he’s participated in for the past 2 summers and loved.  Coach K is amazing, motivating, encouraging, and overall fabulous, and despite whatever else E is going through, this is always a highlight of his summer.

Monday, after a so-so day at summer school, I dropped him off at sports camp, and when I returned, Coach K was high-fiving the E man, telling him how proud he was that E was open (without complaint or anxiety) to trying every new game that was introduced, waited his turn patiently and was a team player.  He then shared with me that unlike previous years, E didn’t take more than one bathroom break (this is his escape strategy when he doesn’t like something), and was all around awesome.  I was thrilled for E, mostly because I just want him to have the experience of feeling really happy about being part of something he truly enjoys, especially something that involves hanging out with his peers in a super positive way.  And while that alone would have been enough of a “something to celebrate” experience – it gets better.

On Wednesday, following another less than awesome morning at summer school, I dropped him off at Sports Camp again – this time feeling a bit of sadness – both because E was just a mess of noises and clapping and for Coach K who so positively helps E and every other camper through the good days and beyond.  When I got back at 3 to pick him up, I noticed him horsing around with the automatic doors (not a huge surprise) and chatting it up with someone else’s Mom.  I reminded him to go in and get his water bottle and waited patiently for his return.  Suddenly, said Mom approached me and said “are you Elliott’s Mom”?  I thought about my options, and realized imagining running away was just my fight or flight instinct kicking in – especially given my down mood that afternoon, and instead smiled and said “yes, I am”.  She proceeded to share with me that her middle schooler was enrolled in the sport camp for the 1st time, and had been talking non-stop about a really great friend he’d made at camp – named Elliott.  She said Steve (not his real name as I didn’t ask permission) would love to invite E man over for guy hang-out time and she wondered if E might be interested?

I kind of just looked at her, with my mouth hanging open and a delayed reaction that was a pinch more than slightly awkward (not helpful to E in any way I’m sure).  While I had been prepared for something entirely different (i.e. would Elliott please stop asking Steve to marry him, or asking for his social security number, etc.) I was simply stunned, and the tears just started running down my cheeks.  She continued by sharing that Steve has never had much luck making friends, but for some reason felt an immediate connection to E, and would love permission to phone E and set up a time to hang out.  I finally got myself together enough to apologize for my emotional reaction, and she interrupted me to just say “I get it”.  I kind of love that about Autism Moms – there are certain things that just don’t need to be said – and frankly no time to say them as by this time both E and Steve were horsing around with the automatic doors.  We exchanged phone numbers, and the guys are busy setting up a time to hang out in their own way and with their own personal spin which is beyond awesome in every way, and makes so much of the “offness” of this summer worth it and more.

Don’t you just love it when awesomeness just sneaks up on you and shakes you out of a funk – unless it’s followed by a ridiculous teasing FB status update and a migraine, but I digress . . .