May 15, 2017

Birthday Boy

Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , at 10:07 am by autismmommytherapist

My dearest Justin,

Last week you turned fourteen. It happened to be field day at your school, and your smile when you saw me waiting for you to perform was magnificent.

That smile carries me many days.

I usually have a variety of emotions on your birthday. I always take time to remember the first moment I heard your cry and held you in my arms- my firstborn, bright with promise. It took about three years and a lot of doctors to get you here, and your dad and I were beyond ecstatic when you graced us with your presence. Your arrival made us a family. It launched me into the role I was born into (if you believe in such a thing).

The reason I’m ambivalent on your birthdays has nothing to do with your “label,” or even the dreams I had for you when I was still hosting you. I am mostly past feeling sad that you will never go to college, marry, or enjoy the trappings of a more “conventional life” (whatever that is these days), because in my mother’s heart I know you don’t miss these things. You are truly happy with your DVDs and your YouTube videos of Baby Einstein. When not in the throes of an OCD episode you are blissfully happy.

Most days, it is enough.

No, I’m not ambivalent about your birthdays because of your “now.” I’m ambivalent because of your future. You see, birthday boy, your mom reads a lot, and talks to lots of people about what’s coming down the pike as you enter your transition years.

By the way, just yesterday you were snuggled into a perfect fit in my arms, so how did this happen?

Some people call post-21 the cliff.

Some say they’ve been able to create fulfilling lives for their adult autistic children.

I want you to know with every inch of my soul I’m shooting for the latter.

I also want you to know that last week I did something different- I pushed the ambivalence down and lived in the moment (!) and just reveled in who you are, did not imagine who you will be or what will happen to you.

I’m very, very proud of myself.

You are strong, mercurial, funny, kind, smart, and abundantly affectionate.

Your hugs are the best thing in the universe.

I love you at every core of my being, and I will fight for you with my last breath.

You are my heart.

Happy birthday to my not-so-much-a-boy anymore.

I love you.


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May 16, 2016

Growing Up

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , at 10:28 am by autismmommytherapist

Justin BD 2016 Scouts 044

This weekend a momentous event occurred, not one with trumpets and flashing lights, but momentous all the same.

The truth is, if I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have missed it.

My beautiful boy turned thirteen last week, and as usual we had a zillion parties for him (okay, three), including his family party on Saturday. I will share with you that although we’ve tried, in the past the boys’ birthday parties have not always been the joyous events I conjured up in my mind years prior to giving birth (then again, most of our moments with them do not exactly match what I conjured up before their births).

There was the party where despite giving Justin a “big brother gift” he still wanted to open all of Zach’s presents (and trust me, not one of them was enticing to him).

There was the party where my boy had an epic meltdown for a reason we still can’t discern today, and we had to carry him protesting to his room (that quieted the house). Amidst our struggles there was always joy (I love birthdays so much there always has to be at least one moment), but often Jeff and I were left exhausted at the end of a celebration, faced with at least one unhappy child and a mountain of dirty plates that looked as if it would never go away (hell, who’s a fan of dirty dishes anyway?) More often than not we were mostly relieved our little birthday parties were over, knowing we’d have a breather until next year.

This past weekend was different. For the first time there was not one single crisis, no pouting, no tears. Both Jeff and I actually talked to our relatives, ate too many appetizers, and had an amazing time.

But the big moment, the one I actually noticed while simultaneously talking to people/eating too much/remembering to get my camera was when I told Justin it was time to open presents, and he came into a room laden with gifts. This year, he just walked over to a chair, sat down, and waited to be presented with his stash.

He was so grown up he literally took my breath away.

I’m trying so hard to recognize these moments, to tuck them away for if/when times get difficult again, to bring them out and revel in them even when things are good. If two years ago someone had told me my son would be patient (and happy!) while opening his birthday presents I would have laughed. If someone had told me eight years ago my son would be potty trained I would have laughed even harder (and ate some more chocolate.) Going back even farther, if someone had told me I’d once again sleep through the night (or what passes for sleeping through the night for an almost fifty-year-old woman) I would have yawned, then thrown my arms around said person in a primal hug.

There’s no snark where sleep is concerned.

The truth is, I keep hearing about the “post-21 cliff” and the “terrible teens,” but honestly, things just keep getting easier in our home. My eldest son has truly grown into his own skin, surmounted many of his sensory and communication issues, learned to soak in and enjoy the world around him. He is a predominantly joyous, peaceful child.

This is not to say we don’t have our moments. The OCD is still a struggle, and when we don’t understand him confusion and frustration reign for all.

But I will honestly tell you those moments are now few and far between, and we’ve created an ever-strengthening co-existence in which my boy is happy, and I feel sane, and whole.

It’s getting better, and it’s not just chez McCafferty. I’ve seen this peacefulness occur in many of my friends’ households, friends whose children presented staggering challenges mere years ago.

Things are getting better. And I’m so grateful I feel we’re really enjoying our lives, not going through the motions of just getting through the day.

And for me, that’s better than trumpets and flashing lights any day.


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May 9, 2016

Birthday Boy

Posted in AMT's Faves, Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , at 10:31 am by autismmommytherapist

Justin's First Digital Pics 056

This week my boy turns thirteen.  He will be ushered into his teenaged years, that period which is supposed to be so difficult, so devoid of communication, so trying to one’s soul.  Here’s a secret though, shared between you and me.

I actually think we had his teenaged years when he was a toddler.  At least that’s what I’m hoping, because Mommy is a lot more tired now than she was a dozen years ago.

Justin became a “tween” two years ago, and I admit part of me was waiting for that other shoe to fall, for his aggression to return. I waited for his strong will to assert itself even more than before, for us to struggle to communicate with one another.  What I found however was except for when his OCD takes over, for the most part things have gotten so much easier.  The boy “who’d never sleep” runs to his bed each night.  We now last through entire movies at a theater, and even make it over an hour at the beach (I admit, it’s work, but we make it). When we travel to relatives’ houses he’ll do the “work” we bring along for him, and we’re usually good for three or so hours at a party.  He will amuse himself for long periods of time at home, either on his DVD player, the computer, or watching his favorite Baby Einstein videos on tv.

The truth is we’re not on 24/7 surveillance anymore.  And it is completely, utterly liberating.

So much has changed with him from the days where insomnia reigned, eating was for sissies, and my arms and legs bore those bluish/greenish/purplish patches on a frequent basis.  My boy has matured, has come into his own.

Echoes of his former self still exist.  He still can’t go for more than an hour without a hug or kiss.  He still loves some of the games of his “youth,” yet adores it when my husband sneaks up on him and tickles his tummy. He still revels in my singing his baby song to him each night.

Remnants of his past remain, as when he gets frustrated with his stupid parents who can’t figure out what he wants.  But with his burgeoning communication skills on his iPad these instances are much fewer and far between, and most of the time, that sweet boy I held curled like a comma in my arms still resides.

I love that sweet boy.

This week and next we will celebrate you (Mommy extends birthdays as long as humanly possible), and there is so much to be proud of, so much for us to rejoice in on your special day(s).

We celebrate how hard you work at school, how your perserverance has inspired so many around you.

We celebrate your ever-increasing vocabulary, because it eases your frustration and is always a thrill to hear.

We celebrate your tenacity when acquiring a new skill, how you won’t give up until you’ve mastered it.

We celebrate your abundant affection, which you bestow upon everyone in your posse.

We celebrate your intelligence, and the doors it’s opened to enrich your world.

Most of all we celebrate your unbridled joy in most of your moments, something I never thought I’d witness years ago.

Happiest of birthdays to my boy, we love you so much!

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February 8, 2016

Birthday Boy

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , at 11:41 am by autismmommytherapist


Dear Zach,

This week my boy, you turn nine. You will be halfway done with the safe and happy childhood your father and I are striving so hard to give you, halfway “cooked” on your way to that scary and exciting place called adulthood.

How did this happen?

It seems like just yesterday my water broke almost five weeks early, sending me into a panic coupled with the fleeting hope that maybe somehow I could just keep you in there a little bit longer. My chaser thought was how was Justin going to deal with sharing me?

That one just increased the panic, so I let that go as quickly as it came.

Apparently you didn’t want to share your “birthday month” with anyone else (you were due on my fortieth, obviously not acceptable to you,) so you surprised us with your early debut in the middle of the night.

You were, and are, an incredible gift. And gifts you have in abundance, my boy.

You are gifted with a tenacity of spirit, an ability to overcome any obstacle put in your path.

You are gifted in your depth of your compassion for others, and your unshakeable belief that any bad situation can be made better.

You are gifted in the way you “get” your older brother’s autism, how sometimes you speak for him (and you are usually right.)

You are gifted in your kindness and your generosity of spirit.

You are gifted with an often hilarious take on life around you, a viewpoint I would often miss if you didn’t share your unique world view.

You are gifted in your ability to see your autism as having its challenges, but ultimately being a gift for you.

You are gifted with an incredibly loving soul, and a fierce intellect which never fails to amaze us.

You are a gift unparalled, and we love you with all of our hearts.

We love you so much, happy birthday to my littlest love!

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June 1, 2015

Birthday Joy

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , at 1:04 pm by autismmommytherapist

Spring 2015 100

It’s a pretty tableau. My son sits among strewn tissue and wrapping paper, claiming his prize, his birthday presents. I watch as my husband places his gifts into outstretched arms, see my son eagerly tear apart the carefully taped paper I so lovingly adhered for him. He frees the toy from its constraints, and I sit back in my chair to take a picture and capture the moment for all eternity. I look through the lens and prepare to click.

Then I see him smile.

It sounds silly to devote a post to a child smiling at his birthday presents. But for more than a decade my son has approached his birthday, and almost everything typical people deem “fun,” as a solemn ritual, a task to be organized.

Generally it is difficult to even get him to finish unwrapping his take- I’m usually going up against his OCD, his need to organize rather than unwrap.

But tonight is different. Tonight, he shows joy.

And as I watch him exuberantly rip off paper and dive into bags I allow myself a moment to revel in his glee, and put the camera to the side. I think about how grateful I am that he’s demonstrating his joy, because so often in situations I think will make him happy I’m left guessing, wondering if he’s truly enjoying himself.

Tonight I don’t have to guess.

He treats each gift with a mixture of awe and amazement, then wraps up his endeavor with his lyrical laugh, and bestows a huge hug and kiss on his mama.

He loved tonight. For once, I got to know that he adored a timeless ritual that most people take for granted their children will love.

And I join him in being happy.

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May 16, 2013

Turning Ten

Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , at 2:08 pm by autismmommytherapist

Xmas 2012 020

My son is ten today.

It’s early in the morning on Mother’s Day, and I’ve woken with the roosters not because I want a jump-start on the day (I’d never give up sleep for that), but because I’ve managed to contract my annual bout with bronchitis on the very weekend I should be celebrating my anniversary, the birth of my eldest son, and the high holy day of mothers.

Before I begin to write I check to make sure both of my progeny are still deep in slumber (lucky for them, they are), and I shuffle back to the computer, conceding to my Puritan ancestry’s need to accomplish something.

It’s difficult for me to believe that I’ve been doing both the mom and the autism gig for a decade now, although the lines on my face from worry attest to the trials and tribulation of the last ten years. This family has come through fire, two states, a half dozen school placements, dozens of doctors, and yet we’re still here (hallelujah!), and on most days, intact and happy.

I always feel sentimental on Justin’s birthday, being that he is the child who made me a mom, but today seems special. It’s not just that it’s Mother’s Day, and I am mature enough not to mind sharing my day with my boy. It’s that we’re in double digits now, and that seems significant, even earth shaking.

My son is ten today.

I think I hear his familiar “eeee!” resounding down the hall, so I slip silently to his room and enter into the pitch darkness he craves, and wait for my eyes to adjust. I’ve imagined his cry, instead am witness to my son buried in blankets twisted around his body, only his face shining out to me from under cotton and cloth.

There seems to be a hint of a smile on his sonambulent countenance, the wisp of anticipation for the day to come. My boy knows something’s up as last night I asked him if he wanted his birthday presents the next day, and I was treated to a resounding head nod of such force I worried he’d strain his neck. He knows the drill now, expects good things will befall him.

He gets it.

Today his father and I will regale him with gifts, but the truth is the most important gift given today will be his presence, his place on this earth. Soon I will be called upon to clothe, feed, clean-up and exercise my general mommy duties, but for just a few moments more I plan to revel in my son, the wonder that is my boy.

My son is ten today.

I ponder the way he embraced his teacher during their post-Hurricane Sandy reunion, refusing to disengage from her embrace for the better part of an hour. I conjure up the image of his brilliant smile when his neighborhood “girlfriend” comes to call, his delight at her presence.

I think of the photos from the slideshow we saw at his school’s gala, the ones where he is so intensely focused on his teacher, so eager to learn. I remember his pride at learning to “steer” his horse, how he sat straighter in the saddle each time he went past me, his proud gaze locking eyes with mine.

I feel gratitude for the boy who tolerates his brother’s exuberant nature, who accepts the hugs and tugs that comprise his relationship with his younger sibling. I envelop myself in the glory that is his “nighttime self”, the satisfied grin and kiss he bestows on me every night prior to slumber, letting me know he did indeed have a good day. I recall the first time I held him, this hard-won longed-for babe, and the way his fingers grabbed mine so tightly I thought he’d never let go.

In many ways, he hasn’t. Yet in the most important ways, thankfully, he has.

The strident strains of “eeee!” are now clearly resounding down our hallway, and I hustle down the corridor to quiet him a bit, as his brother still sleeps. I enter his room and am embraced before my eyes have time to adjust, and I whisper “happiest of birthdays” to my boy, my pride, my love. He looks back at me with love as well, and takes my hand to begin what this year will be his day.

I pull him back for one more quick embrace as he will soon be on the move, more difficult to contain. I whisper “thank you for being my son Justin” and he briefly hugs me back, then escapes my grasp to move on to other things. I carry his warmth with me as I make my way to the guest bathroom, and smile.

My son is ten today.

February 15, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

Posted in AMT's Faves, Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , at 10:27 am by autismmommytherapist

Summer 11 363

My youngest son turned six this week, and amidst his numerous celebrations (his mother’s birthday still lasts a month, he deserves the same), I’ve caught myself marveling over the fact that my last child is a third of the way “cooked”. It sounds so cliché, but it really does seem like just yesterday that he made his early debut in an ice storm, and returned home to have his big brother greet him by attempting to shove a doll’s baby bottle in his mouth.

So much for autistic kids not imitating.

He’s come so far my little one, particularly since those dark days when Zach stopped speaking, looking at us, or relating to anyone he loved in any discernible fashion. He has made particular progress in the last year of his life, learning to control his impulses (most of the time), acquiring difficult lessons like losing sucks but it happens, homework is a necessary evil, and his computer access will never be “on demand”. He works hard, my boy, and with his posse of teachers, therapists, family members and several meticulously constructed behavior plans, most of the time he is a delight.

He’s only six, so “most of the time” is pretty good.

I was witness to how much he’d grown at his kids’ birthday party Sunday, when the streets of House of Bounce got a little rough for him, and he chose to remove himself a few times from the oh-so-typical fray. After a minute or two of sulking on the floor while his mother tried to quell her inner helicopter, he eventually returned happily to the melee, mostly of his own volition. A year ago, in the same situation he would have spent his birthday party huddled in a corner, head down and arms akimbo, and he would have been out for the count.

Instead, on no less than three separate occasions he employed his powers of self-regulation, and at its finale declared this year’s bash as the “best party EVER”. In theory this should be the conclusion of this post, with perhaps a mention of how he actually thanked a few of his friends without prompting, and that his mother didn’t devour four pieces of cake (even though she wanted to). After all, it was his birthday, and the story should end here.

And it would, except for the fact that his big brother stole the show.

I’ve written about the boys’ relationship before in this blog, explained how they get along pretty well but generally don’t interact with each other all that much. In an attempt to remedy this my husband and I have attempted to contrive opportunities for interaction between the two, opportunities which usually didn’t end well.  Our boys’ interests are quite different, and we’ve learned to respect that fact.

On occasion we have seen some “cross-over”, as when Justin moves over an eighth of an inch to allow Zach a visual on his DVD player, or the one time Justin wanted to play a board game with the entire family (I wanted a parade). Often the boys simply orbit one another, taking a momentary interest in each other’s path, co-existing in peace.

There are definite benefits to siblings with dissimilar interests. It’s the severe autism bonus.

So yesterday, as that “inner helicopter” whirred frantically each time my boy’s angst seemed like it could only end in irreparable meltdown, I’m not certain I fully registered what transpired right under my nose. I know on some level I noticed Justin’s arrival every time Zach got upset, but was too engaged in the drama at hand to fully acknowledge the import of his presence.

In general my eldest son’s repertoire for bouncy houses is to take a few minutes to test out the goods, then spend the rest of his time walking back and forth the length of the establishment, perhaps rocking out to the piped-in tunes. He’s never interacted with Zach at any of these establishments (believe me, we’ve tried), so we pretty much let him do his own thing.

If he’s happy, we’re all happy.

Yesterday, however, was different. This past Sunday, as I desperately summoned my “mommy tricks” so that Zach would participate in his own damn birthday party, Justin came to my aide. Each and every time that Zach sought solitude my eldest responded with the solace of his presence, not too close, but just close enough. I know his actions offered comfort, even though Justin never said “I’m sorry, Zach”, or “let’s try something else”, or “it’s your birthday, come on!”. He never spoke a word of course, because he can’t.

But the truth is, he didn’t have to. He stayed each time Zach succumbed to the throes of despair, and left each time his little brother bounded up to try again. There was no other moment during the party in which they interacted, no point at which their separate interests overlapped. Justin saw that Zach was in pain, and simply came to help.

For once, Zach’s big brother was his champion.

Later, when his harried mother had time to process it all (and made sure she didn’t imagine it), I had to marvel in the sensitivity, the empathy so abundant in this child who communicates through an electronic device. Justin saw that his sibling was sad, and wanted to make him smile. Despite a dearth of words, he wanted Zach to know he loves him.

And for both my youngest and myself, this may be the best birthday gift ever.

May 13, 2012

Nine is Fine

Posted in Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , at 8:17 pm by autismmommytherapist

I glimpse him through streaky-clean glass as he literally charges up the ramp to the doors of House of Bounce, clearly intent on his destination, flush with purpose. An adult hand opens the door for Justin and he bounds in, then stops dead in his tracks. A look of confusion, then joy washes over his features as he contemplates the fact that his mom has crashed what he thought was just a field trip, and for a few seconds he remains perfectly still. Then he jumps up and down, emits his trademark “eee for happiness”, and runs into my outstretched arms.

My boy is nine years old. Today is his first kid birthday party.

I thought a great deal about what I’d write in this post, considering that nine is a pivotal year in any child’s life. It’s that halfway-mark in childhood, that arbiter of double-digit things to come. I think my son’s age also holds great significance for me because I taught fourth grade for years, and technically, he’ll enter the upper-elementary grade himself this fall. It’s a wonderful year to instruct children, as they’re still generally interested in what their teachers have to say, and usually like to invoke a burgeoning independence that made my job easier. Plus, by that age, they got my jokes most of the time.

This, of course, being a crucial tenet of my career.

I could spend today writing about the things I thought Justin and I would be doing together, the sports events (if he took after his father), the playdates I’d be driving him back and forth to, perhaps camping trips through Boy Scouts (which I’d definitely pawn off on his father). His life trajectory is completely different from the one I projected for him, the one in which when indulging in my most delusional pregnancy states I’d envisioned a literate, bi-lingual pre-school child.

Those hormones will do that to you sometimes.

Justin takes this moment of wool-gathering to remove himself from my embrace, and look me straight in the eyes. I put aside my thoughts of what I’d wished nine would harbor for him, and instead salute my son with a heartfelt “Happy Birthday!” I see the light of recognition illuminate his tawny irises, and as his lips converge in a knowing smile, I am certain he understands why I’m here.

Seconds later his grandma enters the establishment, and with his three favorite women in tow (his teacher completing the triumvirate), he is ecstatic. I’ve wanted to do this for him for years, but for various reasons, the “kid birthday party” has not come to pass. Between out-of-district placements and my son’s increasing desire to leave every destination within the half hour, I really didn’t feel we could pull this off. Due to the latter situation I didn’t think a party would make him happy, and truly, his birthday is supposed to be about him.

Seeing as how I schlepped him around for nine months and have raised him for as many years, perhaps it can still be a little bit about me too.

So when Justin’s school offered to make one of their outings a combo birthday bash for my boy, I jumped on it. His teacher and an aide drove the kids from his class in the school’s vans (seeing as how I barely handle my SUV, I am enormously impressed). House of Bounce basically just asks the parents to show up, which is another reason why I immediately enjoyed he day. Last, I was able to find it without too great a struggle (another point in its favor).

And of course, there’s that smile, that glorious, excited, satisfied smile.

My boy had a fabulous time, and true to his spirit, about an hour after we arrived, he had concluded his business, and was ready to depart. He made it through pizza and Star Wars cupcakes, and of course the pictures that his shutterbug mom had to take. It wasn’t what I’d envisioned his birthday parties would be like all those years ago, both when I was figuring out how to support an extra fifty pounds on a petite frame, and later dealing with a constantly cantankerous toddler. Today is light-years from what I thought my boy’s life would entail, a great divide between the trappings of typical, and what he and his family experience day in, and day out.

But he’s happy. He’s halfway through, and he’s happy. And that’s the best birthday present of all.

February 13, 2012

My Un-Birthday Boy

Posted in Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , at 9:31 am by autismmommytherapist

I open the back door of our SUV, and instead of receiving a hug from my usually happy and active post-horseback-riding boy, I view instead a morose, still child, with tears brimming from his eyes. I release Justin from his constraints and he slides quickly out of the car, agitated, and heads toward the street. This is the opposite of his Saturday routine, where he generally runs toward the house excitedly, throwing himself across the threshold in pursuit of snacks. Today I have to block him as it looks like he’s trying for tarmac, but just at the lip where street and sidewalk meet, he stops. He puts both hands on my shoulders, gives me a look more of hurt than of anger, and buries his head in my chest.

We make it back to the house, he sliding along reluctantly as I lug boy and bag back to safety, his mother simultaneously trying to puzzle this one out. Even though my eldest can’t talk, and at times there are no icons for what he desires on his iPad, I generally (and thankfully) often comprehend his needs. As the door bangs open I watch him run a few feet into the foyer, stop dead in his tracks, and regard the archway that divides living and dining room. Jeff comes into the room, and we hear a slight sob emanate from my son.

We then witness him run behind the couch, lift up a “sedated” helium balloon held captive by its plastic bag, the one we bought for his brother’s “kid party” that we’re hoping lasts for the family fete too. He sinks onto the sofa in despair, and I whip out his communicative device, cajole him into enough of an upright position to access it, and wait. Justin runs his hands over wet eyes, gives me one last forlorn look, and hits several icons. The rather flat, atonal voice of the iPad queen blurts out “I want. My birthday is. May 12, 2003”. My husband and I look at each other as Justin buries his head once more into our accent pillows.

Justin had seen the balloon before we left. Upon returning, he noted the dearth of cars on the street which would signify his guests’ arrival. The absence of the banner strung along the width of our home, the one always heralding an impending celebration, was the last straw.

My boy thought today we’d be hosting his family birthday party.

Truth be told, numerous thoughts fight for purchase in my tired mind at that moment. I think about how this kid just used visual clues he hasn’t witnessed in a year to make an assumption about this day. I consider how he’s clearly distraught, but hasn’t gone after either of his parents to protest the fact that his birthday will not be celebrated this Saturday. Finally, I mull over how truly unpleasant the rest of our afternoon might be.

I admit, that last one gets a lot of attention.

Despite the fact that the rest of our day may be spent in what I like to call “survival mode”, I have to say, I’m impressed. He didn’t miss a trick. He communicated his needs. And as I watch him take a juice box from my husband’s hand, it even appears he’ll be rising above the insult that his parents won’t be celebrating his birthday three months early.

We always assume comprehension with Justin. But sometimes I think he understands even more than we think he does.

Soon, my boy is responding gleefully to tickles from his beloved dad, and I watch as he lurches off the couch, grasping his father’s outstretched hand. They’ll be heading upstairs to computer games only Jeff knows how to command with any aptitude whatsoever, and it seems that our “gaffe” will be forgiven. As they ascend the staircase my spouse throws me the “we dodged that one” look, and I smile, because to Justin’s credit, we did.

I think back years ago to some really dark days when my youngest was a toddler, and I wasn’t certain he’d ever communicate in any way other than screams and sobs. My mantra for that period was “he understands more than you think, he’ll get through this, together you’ll find a way”. It took a long, long time, and there were more than a few bumps in the proverbial communication road.

But finally, it does appear that my son is finding his way.

February 5, 2012

My Birthday Boy

Posted in AMT's Faves, Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments tagged , , at 9:20 pm by autismmommytherapist

Dear Zachary,

This morning, as I sat with your half-slumbering five-year-old body in our glider chair, I had to smile, because I know my days of waking you up this way are numbered. It won’t be that many years before the mere thought of needing a hug from me to cajole you into consciousness might make you retch slightly (five years, four years, perhaps one?), so I know I’d better enjoy this now. I wish I had pictures of these pretty little moments (maybe when Mommy completely learns how to use her Smart phone, I will), the ones that make that forty-pound weight gain while gestating you completely worthwhile.

You remember the moments I’m talking about, right?  Like spontaneously telling me I’m your best friend (Justin was so five minutes ago). Announcing to fifty people at your pajama book fair that “This is my Mom!”, and expecting all of them to be as dazzled as you were. Begging me to “be with you” instead of Justin, which means rejecting the far-more-fun twenty-one year old sitter so you can spend the afternoon with me. You know, those brief moments in time where hanging out with your mother was actually cool.

In my mind, I envision future Zachary shuddering, complete with formidable eye roll.

I am aware, because I saw this happen all too often with my students and their parents during my teaching career, that in the near future I will know less than nothing. Not too long from now our days of snuggling under the “picnic blanket”, me making up stories in which you are invariably the hero, you changing the endings because you get bored, will soon cease. Down the road, upon learning I will be going out for the evening I will barely earn your guttural goodbye, rather than the teary scenario that usually ensues (the one giving that funeral scene in “Steel Magnolias” a run for its money).

In a few years, I will merely exist to serve.

You will prefer to spend time with your friends, or alone, or anyplace in the house where your father and I are not. I am certain you will think we are too old to understand anything (and perhaps, given my current memory lapses, you’ll be justified in that thought). You will not take kindly to my suggestions of how much you once liked us, will regard with great disdain any photos I may have figured out how to take, or anecdotes I’ll use to remind you of your early childhood. After this rejection I will retreat with my remembrance arsenal and eat more chocolate (and drink more wine) than usual, securing my mementos away to be brought out as evidence another time.

Perhaps, for fun, that time will coincide with the arrival of your prom date.

No, my days as “Mommy-Goddess” are limited, which is a new phenomenon for me, because I’m pretty certain I’ll still be “Justin’s girl” when I’m eighty. It’s a bittersweet knowing, tinged with regret that this time will recede so quickly, and relief that eventually, your days of mommy- worship will disappear. Your brother’s life will have a different trajectory than your own, one which I will try my damndest to infuse with as much happiness as possible. You, my sweet boy, will have choices that your brother will not.

I hope you will occasionally make the wrong ones (as long as they don’t involve jail time, we’re good). I wish that you will struggle sometimes, because it toughens the soul, which is a good thing, because sometimes life is a bitch. And as I inevitably watch you wield your charms on your love interests, please remember to treat those girls with respect, because if you don’t, you are so grounded.


You’re starting kindergarten this year, and I’m told the time from now to graduation feels like a blink of an eye more often than it does an eternity, so for now, in this moment, I’ll gather you to me. I’ll whisper in your ear to remember to love yourself, and I mean all of yourself, because that’s the only way you’ll ever truly love another. I’ll quietly remind you that a great GPA is nice, but you’ll make me most proud if you’re known as a boy who’s kind to others. I’ll sweetly suggest that when you grow up you should remember your mother, the one who wiped your butt, disciplined you even when she didn’t feel like it, and nourished you not only with mediocre cooking, but with all the love in her considerable soul.

In a few minutes you’ll invariably start to whine that you’re tired and I’m mean for waking you, and the magic moment will be pierced through with our daily reality. I will beg you to get dressed as you flop yourself on the floor, and eventually, as I bribe you with reminders of your friends waiting for you at school, you will comply. I’ll feel that soporific sweetness start to slip away, and as we busy ourselves with our daily routine, only one thought will remain.

Happy 5th Birthday, my big and little boy. I love you.

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