October 8, 2010


Posted in Fun Stuff tagged , , , , , , at 6:20 am by autismmommytherapist

This year, my husband decided to buy our Halloween candy in September, and not the crappy kind, mind you. No dots, licorice, or Smarties are gracing our dining room table, hiding in plain sight. No, my husband has opted this year to select the good stuff, the Kit Kats, the Milky Ways, and of course, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, which I believe with all my heart are the “chosen” candy. He has done this, instead of waiting until two days before the holiday to get it “fresh” like he usually does, because apparently there was a good sale. He has purchased this chocolate with quite blatant disregard, knowing that in October I have to fit into three separate outfits to attend a Bar Mitzvah, my twenty-fifth high school reunion, and my annual “get away from the boys” girls’ weekend in DC.

I believe in divorce court this would constitute a stellar example of extreme mental cruelty.

I suppose I’ll eventually forgive him, as he has promised to hide the offenders somewhere in the house that I’ll never look for them (they will probably make their home in one of the thirty boxes labeled “KIM’S STUFF” residing in our garage, the ones I was supposed to unpack when we relocated four years ago). I guess I’ll have to move on, because he took the time this weekend to fill our house with “Halloween spookies”, weeks earlier than I generally would have had to harass him to do it. He redecorated because he knows I adore the holiday, the ghosts and goblins who will take up residence throughout our home, the ten thousand times Zach will change his mind about what costume he’s going to wear, the promise of infiltrating the afterlife.

And of course, there’s always the time-honored tradition of post-Halloween candy stealing when my boys aren’t looking.

It’s a little insane for us to keep decorating every year. My youngest has developed a number of anxieties over the past several months that include the supernatural, and my oldest’s OCD will ensure that the flying witch on our piano and its neighbor, the moving mummy, will never have a moment’s rest. We’ll have to be on constant patrol, reassuring Zach that everything he sees is make-believe, and preventing Justin from spinning every pumpkin we have, whether they’re plugged into a socket or not. My husband and I will have to be more vigilant than usual, which is saying a lot, but the truth is it’s worth it, for one gigantic reason.

Halloween makes me happy.

I’ve loved All Saint’s day since I was a kid, back in the pre-global warming days when I’d fight with my mom about wearing a coat over my costume, those pre-historic times when trick-or-treating lasted about four hours and was not necessarily transacted with an accompanying adult. Much like my birthday, I felt Halloween was simply too big a concept to be contained in one day, so I granted it a month. When I was little, I celebrated by reading everything about the occult that I could get my hands on, and I often bribed my friends to play “Ouiji board” with me (connections to the immortal world are clearly stronger in October). Now that I’m a mom, October 1st includes the purchase of new spooky stories, crafts galore from A.C. Moore, and the profound hope that my children won’t mind wearing their respective Halloween shirts at least three times a week between now and November.

We all go crazy differently.

The truth is, I’ll let Halloween go head-to-head with Christmas any day, regard it as a far more low-maintenance holiday which thrills me to no end. I’ve decided that even if I have to Velcro Justin to my side for a month every fall we’re going to keep doing this, because the sight of their faces when they first see the  living room in the dark, Justin inserting his loud “eeeeeeeeeee” into the equation, Zach gripping me so tightly with his legs and arms that any boa would be proud, brings me joy. And within this life, this crazy life with two boys on the autism spectrum, I’ve realized in order to parent these children the way they need to be parented, mommy had better find herself some more joy.

When my friends ask me how things are going I usually respond that they’re going well, that it’s “kids, chores, and writing”. I tell them that we’ve reached a sort of détente with autism in this house, that we are generally happy. Most of the time it’s the truth, and part of that is because I manage to carve out time for myself now, precious hours that are solely about me, not laundry, errands, or Pap smears.

There was a time back in VA that my entire existence literally centered around Justin, that our days were composed of simply chores and therapy, and of course tears, both his and mine. I made my son and his autism my entire world, and nearly lost myself in the process. I learned the hard way, six months into our twenty-five hour a week therapeutic regime, after I had reached rock bottom, that I had better start taking care of myself if I wanted to take care of him. Jeff was at work, my family was in NJ, and short of video-conferencing, there was no way I was getting out of my home for therapy. If I wanted to be whole, healthy and happy again, nobody was going to do it for me. I had to do it for myself.

Hell, I just had to get out of the house.

And I did. I slowly began to carve out time for friends again, relinquished ABA hours on weekends and let Jeff and Justin watch football instead of teaching him how to clap again. I went shopping. I saw bad matinees. Sometimes I just went to Michael’s and bought craft kits I knew I’d never use. It didn’t matter what I did, as long as there was a bit of escape involved, and access to an activity that didn’t require six consecutive hours of pinching.

Clearly, I’m a converted behaviorist.

And for anyone out there with a child who’s just been diagnosed, please learn from my example. Do whatever it takes to keep some pieces of your pre-child life intact, even if it annoys your husband or occasionally frightens a babysitter. A few hours away from your child will not make the difference between whether or not he speaks, is potty-trained, or drives you insane with his text-messaging bills. Take care of yourself. Find your joy again. And I promise, as I dim the lights once more this evening for our seventh consecutive showing of “spookies”, I’ll continue to heed my own counsel.

Because nobody likes mean mommy.