January 3, 2017
Christmas Missives of Yore
Dear Family and Friends,
I realize I’ve missed the window on the traditional Christmas missive, but since I’ve missed it for the last ten years really, what’s a few more weeks? I’ll admit that part of why I haven’t scripted one is due to the fact that I write about my family every week on this blog (more is overkill, we’re not nearly as exciting as the Kardashians), and partly because I’m just too tired in December to write one more damn thing.
I know, lame, but honest.
While those are some superficial reasons why I haven’t penned a long soliloquy about various McCafferty exploits over the years, there are some darker reasons as well, reasons that just didn’t seem in synch with the holiday season.
Yes, I’m a hero for sparing you.
You see, I always thought I’d write one of these things after I had a kid, particularly because having our first kid was a two year odyssey for us, and there was no way I was missing out on anything. Four rounds of IVF and three miscarriages later I figured I’d earn the right to share every last giggle, burp and utterly adorable exclamation my hard-earned son made, and since we had him late and I’d read all of your tributes, I thought I’d return the favor.
However, that first holiday season I was a mom my six- month- old was spinning everything in sight, never slept, and regarded any existence other than the ones my arms could provide as an onerous chore.
My pen stayed silent that year.
My second year as a mom started out a bit more propitiously, but by the end my pediatrician had stuffed a bunch of miscopied articles into my hand with the word “autism” in the titles and almost shoved me out the door to await the word of a developmental pediatrician, and I wasn’t feeling so very merry.
Neither was my toddler.
We shed our world of outings and fairly depressing playdates and embraced the world of thirty-five hour a week ABA, mostly conducted by me. At the end of that of that third year while my son was still severely autistic things had calmed down a bit, and my boy seemed to respond well to his harried therapist mom. The truth is I still didn’t know what to say to all of you, as I wasn’t sure that explaining how triumphant I felt that I could finally take my boy to the mall without a meltdown (on either of our parts) would translate in your world of school successes, vacations (and to my friends who had children at normal ages), college scouting.
Plus, I still wasn’t feeling so very merry.
Over the years I felt our family life (particularly after my second son showed signs of regressive autism at eighteen months) would be such a foreign landscape to my friends with neurotypical kids that I’d have to write two different missives so as to not confuse anyone. Frankly, there seems to be a formula to the traditional missive that involves job changes, travel and school achievements. I’d left my career to be my son’s therapist, and travel entailed an outing to the pharmacy if we were lucky. I just wasn’t certain anyone would “get” my delight that my eldest child adored his older NT buddy at school, or my gratitude he’d been placed in the least behavioral of the three teen-aged classes at his private placement. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to convey my joy that my youngest son’s academic and social needs have been so reduced year to year that he’s now working off the blue print of a 504 rather than an IEP, and most importantly, he loves school, has friends, and adores his life.
I think I sold all of you short.
There won’t be any pretty, “wrap-it-up in a perfect bow” final paragraph to outline this last (or hell, ten) year’s achievements. Life here is still both incredibly messy and heartbreakingly beautiful at times. There are days where my eldest hears a song on his DVD player that must harken to his infancy because he’ll take my hands, display his dimple with his across-his-face grin, and all initiated by him, insist we dance. There are other times I’ve sat for almost an hour on the cold tile of my kitchen floor with my back against the freezer to prevent him from having a third damn Philly pretzel (because if one day he gets three the next day he’ll want five, I know to parents of autistic kids I’m preaching to the choir).
See why I thought I might need to write two different missives?
The truth is, thirteen years (and two kids) into this autism journey I’ve begun to see more commonality than differences in our families. We (mostly) all sleep now, eat from several different food groups, and within limits we can take Justin wherever we need to go. We’ve all been successfully to Disney (!) twice, my husband’s still employed, and the kids are absolutely thriving at their schools. I’ve even begun to make tentative forays into the “after-twenty-one” world for my eldest, have glimpsed possibilities that have a good chance of coming to fruition in the next seven years.
The “abyss” can go to hell.
Maybe I’ll start a new tradition this December and urge my failing memory to recall the yin and the yang, the good, the bad, and the sometimes excruciatingly irritating, and put it all down on paper.
Then again, if some chocolate and a good book beckon, don’t hold your breath.
The truth is, I’m proud of where this family’s ended up, and happy to hear about all of your struggles and accomplishments too. I wish everyone reading this the very best in 2017, and always.
And to any families just starting out on this path, my belated holiday wish to you is to find your peace.
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