July 1, 2014
One Hundred Hours
Zach smiles up and me and gifts me his typical “I love you Mom” before he boards the bus, and I smile too and return the words in kind. I walk up to his window and blow him a kiss (another part of our daily routine,) and he quickly sends one my way as he buckles himself in and his driver resumes his route. I take a deep breath and send my wishes out to the universe, as Zach has some big challenges coming up, and I wish with all my heart he’ll be up to the tasks ahead.
I’ll know in one hundred hours.
It’s been a stressful two months with my youngest chez McCafferty. In respect for his privacy I won’t go into great detail, but he’s been affected across the board, at home, at school and in after-school activities as well. In typical fashion I’ve thrown all our resources at trying to help him, and just within the last week I’ve felt a shift back to the honeymoon days of September to April, have finally let myself relax a bit as my happy Zach returned. It’s been awful to watch him suffer, to feel that I’ve exhausted my bag of tricks and know that in the end his return to “happyland” will be up to him.
Truly, for all children with or without autism, dwelling in “happy” is ultimately up to them.
I remember to be grateful for this respite, while silently hoping our peaceful oasis remains for the duration. I think about the important events he has ahead of him this weekend- a crucial karate class, a Cub Scout “crossover” which will likely include a great deal of down time, two parties, and a performance in front of the entire congregation at church on Sunday.
Nothing like ending the school year with a bang.
We walk a fine line with Zach, encouraging him to be his wonderful autistic self let allowing him to engage in activities with mostly neurotypical peers, and most of the time he handles things beautifully. It’s when the hiccups occur that I begin to doubt my choices, have to remind myself that these are things he’s asked me to do, and has subsequently reveled in his participation. When things were at their roughest I had asked him if he wanted to quit anything and his answer had been a resounding “no,” and I’ve honored his desires. At the same time however I want him to be successful at his activities, to be a full participant, to feel good about himself.
And despite a harrowing eight weeks preceding this weekend he sails through every event with flying colors. He’s happy, but trust me, his mother is thrilled.
As I listen to him recite his speech perfectly before the congregation on Sunday I literally feel relief wash over my entire body, feel a sigh escape me as I watch my boy head back to his appointed pew. I realize I’ve been metaphorically holding my breath for two months, but something was different this time. There was a subtle shift in my perspective, nothing anyone would notice, but a shift nonetheless that has become glaringly apparent to me. You see, this time I let myself believe that everything would be okay.
And it was.
I look at the back of my son’s blond head far ahead of me and think of his progress this year, how his karate teachers have praised him, the growth his church school teachers have seen in him since the beginning of kindergarten. But as I sit and let our minister’s words wash over me I think of my progress too, how even six months ago I would have been a complete mess anticipating the events of this weekend following his crisis period, how I might have chosen to keep him from attending some or all of them.
Despite the difficulties that autism often presents us I’ve learned to take more risks with Zach, to let him stretch his wings, even to let him learn how to fail. I’ve learned to take more chances with harboring hope as well, to have faith that one bad patch doesn’t mean a permanent path of bad. I’ve also learned that at least in our house, challenges are cyclical. At least right now we’re on an upswing, and by God I’m going to enjoy it, not just for my boys, but for me too.
One hundred hours. It’s a victory, and I couldn’t be more proud of my boy.