December 13, 2011

You’re It

Posted in Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , at 12:07 pm by autismmommytherapist

I’m just finishing the dishes (one of my least favorite chores next to actually cooking, particularly as it seems it’s always mealtime around here), when out of the corner of my eye I see Justin barreling into the kitchen. I have enough time to turn to greet him as he rushes over to me, plants his open palm squarely in the middle of my chest and shoves, then turns and races back into the living room. After my husband pulls me back off the sink and we ascertain that I do not have a collapsed lung, we look at each other in surprise. In the past, with this particular child, we’ve endured biting, kicking, and my personal favorite, his unique brand of pinching that unerringly located our most tender pieces of flesh. Thankfully, we haven’t seen any of that behavior in a long time.

Jeff reads my mind as I look at him and convey my hopes that this is not a new type of aggression. He runs after Justin calling “What was that buddy?!”, then I hear him summon me with “Kim, get in here, quick!”  I imagine some new disaster, our tree on the ground, or Rudolph in an uncompromising position, and I hustle into the living room as fast as my winded self can make it. My husband is standing behind Justin, the two of them contemplating a video my son’s loved for years, one where kids label things and play all those childhood games in which my son’s never been interested.

Jeff says “look at the DVD!”, and I do, and realize all the kids are playing tag, running around in gleeful abandon and screaming “you’re it!”  Fortunately my brain makes a stunning post-dinner connection, and I run over to Justin, slap him on the back and yell “tag, you’re it!”, then step back to see what happens. He immediately breaks into a huge grin, jumps up and down repeatedly, maintaining eye contact the entire time. He loves that I “got it”.

My son is eight years old, and this is the first time we’ve played “tag”.

Years ago, I would have taken this as a “sign”, as I did so many fleeting brushes with typical child development in which Justin occasionally delved. I can recall how he once let out a string of “B” sounds when I rolled a ball to him, a previously unheard of consonant I was certain would lead to a breakthrough in speech, but didn’t. I remember once how for five consecutive minutes he seemed fascinated by the antics of several of his toddler friends, and I thought this was the day he’d engage them in play, finally. It wasn’t. Each little blip of “typical” raised my hopes, and was followed by crushing disappointment when the “miracle” was not repeated.

But tonight, I don’t allow myself to travel down that road, as I’ve found so often it leads nowhere. This evening I’m just tickled my kid not only made such a connection, but chose to leave his precious video long enough to smack me in the torso and get me to play with him. It’s a big deal, and I decide not to ruin in by attempting to get him to do it again.

Instead, I just hug him, and thank him for playing tag with me about five years after I first tried to engage him in the game. It was a moment. It’s over. I let it go. I’ll tell my mother and Justin’s teacher, and like almost everything else in my life, soon I’ll forget it even happened. I’ll remember this however- his glorious smile, and that gourgeous eye contact that stops me in my tracks every single time.

I’ll also remember that me and my boy had some fun.

December 19, 2010

The Santa Clause

Posted in If You Need a Good Laugh, Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:09 pm by autismmommytherapist

Last week my husband came downstairs, grabbed a diet Dr. Pepper and some GF/CF Swedish fish that are supposed to be Zachary’s, and proclaimed that something momentous had just occurred. No, Bristol Palin didn’t win Dancing with the Stars the night before (NOBODY puts Baby in a corner). No, he hadn’t discovered his impending end-of-year bonus check would cover not only  Christmas, but those insanely expensive “sexy boots” I’ve been eyeing online for weeks now. And no, Justin didn’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing “Pants on the Ground” to him before he got on the bus this morning. The truth is, I’m referring to a far more modest miracle, one that has a direct impact on our family.

Mall Santa is in the house.

Due to the fact that my kids have special needs, they will each have approximately 5,000 opportunities to meet and greet with Santa this year. There’s the Challenger party, the Elks bash, and a wonderful little shindig near our local aquarium that includes not only his Jolly Lordship but FREE CANDY (you all SO know I’m going to that one). There will be multiple chances for Justin to look bored and fix me with his infamous “REALLY mom?” stare, and for Zach to let his eyes well up with tears in such dramatic fashion that any soap opera star would be proud. We’ll attend as many sightings as we can, but for me the big kahuna, the “REAL” Santa, will always be the portly dude smelling slightly of nicotine, situated somewhere between Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret, just like when I was a kid.

Hell, I gave birth. It’s my God-given right to use my children to relive some of my childhood, isn’t it?

After Jeff made his pronouncement we both ignored the fact that it was still November, that in Zachary’s terms we hadn’t even “put away” Thanksgiving yet, and whipped out our planners (yes, my husband’s is electronic, and I still use a slate and chalk). I remembered Jeff was taking the day before the holiday as a vacation day, and since both kids had half days then we figured we could get them off the bus, throw on their “pretty” clothes, and drag them to the car before they knew what had hit them.

I assumed Zach would be enthralled with the idea as Santa is all he talks about these days, and Justin would tolerate the trip as long as he got a bagel at Starbucks and a ride on the faux roller coaster our local mall houses. Since both of their parents would be there, we figured one of us could save Santa’s beard if Justin was not excited by our choice of outing (my eldest child is not a big fan of facial hair), and if we had to spirit him away Zach could still regale his idol with his Christmas list (and a long, long, list it is). We finalized our plans, I ripped the remainder of Zach’s treats out of my husband’s hungry hands, and began to anticipate how excited my little guy would be when we told him his Santa sighting would be tomorrow. I also reminded myself to have patience when he asked me 500 times if it was “tomorrow yet”.

The next day dawned, and Zach of course remembered our plans for the day, even trying to “reason” with me that Santa would rather see him first thing in the morning, so he should not go to school. I didn’t have the heart to tell him Santa was either asleep or on Stair Master at this hour, so I fibbed and told him Rudolph had a cold, he’d been delayed, and we’d have to wait a few hours.

It turns out lying to your kids is really fun.

After a few more years (hours) of bargaining I finally got both boys off to school, had a taste of a “life”, and packed the eight thousand items necessary for our field trip to shopping mecca. What seemed like five minutes later I heard the “beep,beep,beep” of the bus backing up as it overshot our driveway, and I rushed out with excitement, expecting to see an ecstatic boy launch himself into my arms and yell “it’s tomorrow Mom!” with glee. Instead, I watched as Zach’s exit required the assistance of the aide for the entire length of the bus, culminating in a stand-off at the top of the stairs as he refused to grip the safety handle. When I asked if he’d had a bad day he simply uttered a “HARRUMPH!” complete with crossed arms, proclaimed himself a “BAD BOY!!” without a hint of remorse, and reluctantly lowered himself onto the asphalt and trudged his way back to our home.

Ho.Ho.Ho.

After five minutes of witnessing our youngest child engaged in a snit that made my worst PMS episodes look tame, Jeff and I contemplated canceling. I then broached the subject with Zach and was met with a cascade of tears that would have made Niagara Falls proud, and since we’d promised him, we sucked it up and said we’d go. I had a feeling we would deeply regret our decision.

I was right.

We placed both boys in the car, and Jeff quickly found some Christmas carols on Sirius. I relaxed a bit in the driver’s seat, somewhat secure in the knowledge that Zach loves any form of transportation, and whatever tirade he was immersed in would probably disappear within minutes of playing “Look for Christmas Crap” (yes, I leave out the last word when I refer the game to him). The Chipmunk song was just ending (thank God) and Taylor Swift was about to commence a lovely rendition of “Oh Holy Night” when I heard “HARRUMPH!” again from the back seat, and looked back in time to see the crossing of the arms that means that good times are to come.

Here are the transcripts from the next few minutes in our car. Nobody will be subpoenaing them any time soon:

Mom:  “Zach, do you want to sing a Christmas song?”

Zach:  “NO, NO CHRISTMAS SONGS, THEY’RE TOO SLOW!”

I figure I can beat him at this game. I’ve got forty-plus years of Christmas carols on the little bugger after all.

Mom:  “How about Jingle Bells then?”

Zach:   “NO, THAT’S TOO FAST!”

Of course it is. Stupid, stupid Mama.

Jeff, trying valiantly to change the subject, chimed in “Zach, are you excited to see Santa?” and was rewarded for his efforts with “NO, I DON’T WANT TO SEE SANTA, I’M A BAD BOY’, which at the moment, is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Because we’re already annoyed with ourselves for trying this trip anyway we decide to play with him a bit, see if we can cajole him out of this foul mood, and amuse ourselves in the process. Since I’m not sure we’re going to make it to Starbucks I realize this might be the highlight of my day.

“Zach, want to see Rudolph?”

“NO!!!”

“How about Donner, Blitzen and the rest of the reindeer posse?”

“NO!!”

“How about Elmo?”

Pause, then “NOOOO!”

“Conan?”

“NOOOO?”

“Clooney?” (hint, that one was mine).

“NO,NO,NO!!!!!!!!!! (he may not be my son).

We eventually made it to our destination, and true to form Justin blithely ignored St. Nick and tried to abscond with most of the fake presents surrounding him, and Zach displayed almost as much desire to sit with Santa as he does when confronted with his potty seat. I won’t get my fabulous photos this year, but I’ll leave you with a far more festive group of pictures from “happy Christmas past”.

And to all of you going to see “Mall Santa” this year, please don’t forget to mention I, however, have been a very, very, very good girl.