July 14, 2011

In Repair

Posted in AMT's Faves, If You Need a Good Cry, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , at 9:08 am by autismmommytherapist

I close the door of my eldest son’s room gently behind me, secure in the knowledge we’ve completed our nightly ritual of singing, hugs, and one last dramatic run across his bedroom by me to assure him he is loved. Justin seemed absolutely exhausted tonight, which I’m sure is due in part to his unfortunate rejection of slumber at 5:15 this morning, and also due to the fact I purposely wore this child out in our pool today so he would sleep tonight. Both his father and I can make it through one fifteen hour day with him, but two in a row is torture.

His parents know their limits.

I hear the click of the doorknob settling into its groove as I walk over to my youngest son’s room, and find him performing “transformer moves” as my fatigued spouse tries desperately to sheathe him in his summer pajamas. I selfishly want no part of this scene, so I turn and walk into the bathroom to prepare his toothbrush so we can wash away the day’s detritus. I step into the hallway, and then I hear it.

My oldest son is sobbing. Abject, soul-stripping sobs.

I yell to Jeff that Justin is crying, which isn’t exactly the most apt description of what he’s doing but it will have to suffice, and rush back into his room. He picks his head up for a few inches, then lets it fall to the pillow in despair, and I slide into the bed next to him as he sidles up to me for comfort. In an effort to console him I quickly release him from the layers in which we ensconce him for comfort, the fishy throw, the under-the-sea sheet, and the sleeping bag which serves both as cocoon and conductor of warmth in the house we keep frigid, so his mother can conquer her hormones and sleep.

My eyes adjust to the feral darkness we’ve created to elongate his slumber, and I see his tears, those salty microcosms of sadness sliding gracefully down his face. Generally when he cries, which thankfully isn’t often anymore, he buries his face into the nearest trusted adult for comfort, seeking the murmurs and sounds of solace that accompany any embrace. Tonight however, he simply stares at me, eyes locking with mine, imploring.

And I know in my heart if he could talk, he’d say “Mommy, fix it.”

Justin and I have always had a special connection, a conduit into each other’s minds that has allowed us to understand one another even without the ease of the spoken word. I can clearly remember panicking a week or so after his diagnosis when it finally hit me that he might never talk, might not even manage a form of communication intelligible to most individuals in the “typical” world. I recall wondering not only how he would ever get his needs met, but worrying that at some point the facility with which I’ve been able to understand what he requires might disappear, leaving an angry, frustrated boy in its wake. Fortunately, this scenario has never taken place. When his PECS photos, his Springboard, and even his iPad have not sufficed, in general I’ve simply known what he needed. It is a gift for which I remain eternally grateful.

Except, tonight this gift has failed him, for I have no idea why my son is heart-broken, and no idea how to make the demons disappear.

If I have to take a stab at the origin of these plaintive cries I’m guessing it’s due to the fact that we’re hovering in hiatus. He’s taken to staring at that photo of his teacher gracing his nightstand a little longer that usual these days, and perhaps he’s missing her. I show him pictures of his school frequently and perform a daily calendar countdown to reassure him of his return, but I’m never certain of how much information gets through to him, and I still can’t ask him. He could be getting ill, but I can’t question him about his tummy or his head, can only brush his skin to search for fever. I realize his despair may be linked to something as simple as the complete disruption of his coveted routine, but I can’t query him about his possible lack-of-ritual angst, can only reassure him that life will return to normal soon.

My son is eight years old, and I still can’t ask him how Mommy can make it better.

I know this will be one of those moments that rips away my elation of how much progress he’s made, and slams me mercilessly against the big picture, the truth of how vulnerable he’ll always be in our world. It’s not an orphan moment. I dwell there any time an innocent comment is made about his future, his appearance, his intellect, or his attraction to pretty girls. There will be limits to this child’s life. I’ve discovered that since he dwells predominantly in a joyous landscape that I sometimes forget these barriers, am enmeshed safely in our “new normal”, able to forget autism’s confines.

But right now, the silence that surfaces when the sobbing’s concluded is a giant hand on my shoulder spinning me around, mercilessly forcing me to face reality.

And tonight I hate it, loathe that I can’t discuss my son’s sadness, construct a plan, pinpoint his fears, and banish them. Instead, all I can present him with is the solid weight of my arms wrapped around him. I can give him the tip of my forefinger, which will trace his forehead and the bridge of his nose in a tradition that has always elicited the sanctuary of slumber, even in his most agitated form. I can offer him these things, and I will.

But tonight, for me, it’s simply not enough.


  1. Cindy said,

    I’m sorry.

  2. Kathy said,

    Oh, Kim. This post breaks my heart. But you are there for that little boy and he knows it and loves you.

  3. M said,

    The feelings we can only know because we too walk in those same shoes described so perfectly but so bitter sweetly.

  4. Chad said,

    And yet another stunning post–wow.

  5. Mom said,

    I understand and cry with you both.

  6. Larry Blumenthal said,

    Being unable to understand why your child is crying is painfully frustrating and heartbreaking. Definitely one of the hardest things about having a child with autism. It helped when my son started typing some of his feelings, but these moments still happen from time to time. All you can do is comfort them. As my son typed once to his Mom, “Stay strong.”

  7. Misifusa said,

    Thank you for sharing in such an eloquent way. My heart goes out to you & to Justin. xo

  8. Shivon said,

    Love and Hugs 😦

  9. Jina said,

    I hope you’re feeling better, Justin.

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