September 12, 2011

School, Glorious School

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:41 am by autismmommytherapist

Last week, for four consecutive days, for a brilliant three hours at a time, I “rediscovered” my life again. Gone was my youngest, who spent the last hundred or so hours of the summer complaining he was bored. This was despite having access to a pool, the beach, three amusement parks, and what amounted to approximately a gazillion playdates, whose scheduling alone made me question my sanity. Vacated was my eldest, who has yet to completely recover post-Irene, as evidenced by some seriously ramped-up OCD, and equally questionable sleeping habits. During that time I attacked piles of crap I’d ignored since Father’s Day, ran a ridiculous amount of errands sans child, and remembered to shave my legs. Even with my husband just down the hallway hard at work, the house was comparatively silent, devoid of the whirlwind of noise that signifies the presence of both of my sons.

School, glorious school.

Every year I send a silent message of thanks to the universe at large for the creation of IDEA, that fabulous law that enables my offspring to have an education, and gives me the opportunity to once again breathe. I can’t thank the parents who spearheaded its creation enough, and can’t imagine having to convince legislators that my children were indeed entitled to attend school despite the differences in their brains from the “typical” crowd. I am well aware that all school systems are still not created equal. I am also aware that many of my fellow parents with differently-abled children are yet engaged in a tug-of-war with their respective districts, desperately attempting to convince administrators and teachers how best to meet the needs of their children. We still have a long way to go until it’s perfect. In some cases, we still have a long way to go before it’s even adequate. But at least, thankfully, education is an option.

For my two boys, for which I am eternally grateful, it’s become a fabulous option indeed.

I have to admit the McCaffertys cheated the gods of first week of school jitters this year, as my eldest not only had the same teacher and classmates, but enjoyed the return of the same phenomenal bus drivers. My youngest just commenced his third year of school with his cherished teacher and dedicated aides, and although his class composition has been altered (a fact which kept him up three straight nights in June) to allow a few of his friends to move on to kindergarten, a sampling of the “oldies but goodies” remained behind. He’s already made a new best friend, a lovely young girl with whom he plans on being betrothed and producing his future five, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’s amenable.

So much for that return trip to Paris someday. Time for an addition.

The truth is my semi-return to sanity would not be possible without the expertise of both the faculties involved, from assistants and teachers to principals, and occupational and speech therapists as well. From the frequent notes replete with great detail about their days to the exceedingly well-executed field trips and schoolwide programs, both my boys are cared for, challenged, and excited by the prospect of learning. My sons are constantly treated with dignity and respect, and valued for the unique qualities of their personalities that comprise the core of who they are.

Frankly, that last sentence is half the battle already won.

So today I’d just like to say thanks to the entire world (we’re so beyond a village) helping to inspire my sons, both for a great first week of school, and what I’m certain will be a fantastic year to come. This family quite literally couldn’t do it without you, and the glorious smiles beaming from the faces of my boys every day they return home to me are evidence of just how hard you work for them, trying to elicit their best. My sons are appreciative. I am grateful. The reduced piles in my house are ecstatic.

And once again, truly, thank you.

September 8, 2010

First Day

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , at 6:27 am by autismmommytherapist

It’s the first day of school here, the first day that counts anyway, as both boys have finally gotten on their respective busses to be whisked off to their relatively expensive educations. It’s been ten days since I’ve written anything, and as always when I’m away from the keyboard this long I wonder if my voice will still be there, and equally important, will I be able to locate that precious slip of paper that’s been hosting the ideas I’ve had while running or driving in the car. I shuffle through the massive piles on my desk, the disarray that indicates yet another summer has passed, and with gratitude eventually locate my list. I reacquaint myself with the computer, apologize for my absence, and promise my worn gray keys I’ll do better.

I’m not as exhilarated as I usually am on the first day, what with being summoned by both children at least once during the course of the night, and at first I chalk my lack of exuberance up to fatigue. Minutes pass as I surf through emails I should have responded to in August, delete coupons for great deals I ignored over Labor Day weekend, and still, even as I ease into the blessed relief of “Kim time”, something doesn’t feel right. In my head I run through everything required to get the boys prepared for school, and even though I mentally check off everything I did to prepare them, my malaise does not lift. In this house, it is calm here. I am relaxed. My husband is up and in his office, and it is so, so quiet.

I realize that I miss them.

I acknowledge the emotion for two seconds, mentally slap myself, and get over it. After all, I’m damn lucky they’re in their individual programs, and even luckier I have the option to be home, somewhat detoxing from the season, engaged in the luxury of even having the time to think these thoughts. But before I thoroughly castigate myself for being entirely ridiculous after our seventy-seven days of summer (but who’s counting), I take just a moment to examine what this breach of tradition signifies. It is a unique moment, one that deserves reflection, as it deviates so significantly from vacations past.

I realize my shift in feelings is not simply because this is the first fall in eight years where I haven’t been pregnant, raising an infant or toddler, or contemplating conducting four to six hours a day of therapy with at least one child. No, this moment is more significant than that, particularly in regards to Justin. For as I sort through my emotions, analyze why I’m not jumping up and down even through the miasma of fatigue, I comprehend that in years past, I had been overwhelmed with relief to see Justin board that bus each September. For my eldest, summers past usually heralded a return of unwanted aggression, unappeasable cranky behavior, and in more recent years, hit-and-run potty training accidents. It was not that long ago that at the termination of one summer season a neighbor quietly pulled me aside, gestured toward the mottled blues and greens usurping the uneven tan of my arms, and asked me if everything was okay. I had to assure her that thankfully I wasn’t a battered woman, just a bruised mother, and that shortly the offender would be back in his routine, out of the house seven hours a day, and everything would return to “normal”.

I recall that her kindness, her solicitousness in her queries, later made me cry.

This summer, however, was different, blessedly calm in its demeanor, and once past Fourth of July, thankfully devoid of illnesses and for the most part, drama. Sure, there was an escalation of Justin’s OCD-like behaviors, eliciting a return to the round-the-clock “Justin-parent Velcro technique” Jeff and I have established to reduce the destruction of all we hold dear in the house. The heat and humidity have also ushered in a new aspect of Zachary’s personality, one which includes high-level anxiety regarding dogs, monsters under cribs, and for no apparent reason, flies. In their own way each child’s behavior has been daunting, particularly as my eldest continues to find every locale to which we take him to be utterly repugnant within half an hour.

And yet.

I’ve seen such growth with both children, not only in the elongating of their bodies, but the expansion of their minds. Zachary is increasingly curious, eager to introduce himself to complete strangers, peppering his running scripts more frequently with appropriate questions pertaining to his life and the world around him. Justin transitioned beautifully to four separate and new facilities, endearing himself through his affectionate nature to all around him, securing himself return invitations to both his camps and his special needs swim lessons next season. The general consensus, generalizing to all locales, was his nickname should be “sweetheart”. This is a huge shift in behavior for him. I am confident he did not evoke such sentiments last summer.

So, I acknowledge this milestone, take a few moments to bask in their progress, and revel in my release as well. I know that all too soon those yellow paragons of childhood will be depositing my sons at my doorstep, and my opportunity for reverie will be extinguished until the next day. I smile to myself, thank the universe for a swell summer, and contemplate the short expanse of time I have to complete the myriad of tasks I must conquer before 11:30 heralds the arrival of son number two.

And for a few brief seconds, just a few, I allow myself once again to miss them.

August 13, 2010

Idle Chatter

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , at 6:31 am by autismmommytherapist

I dropped Zach off at summer school today like I always do, and not because I’m supermom protecting him from the evils of a school bus. It’s simply because I can’t bring myself to subject him to a fifty minute ride when we live eight minutes from the facility, not to mention the fact I’d have to wake him up before 6:30, which is about four hours earlier than he’d prefer to be conscious. In this respect he is exactly like his father, and Justin so like me. We each have one kid on our sleeping schedule. For once, things worked out perfectly.

Like every day, we wait just a few minutes for one of his paras to come collect him, which gives him ample time to socialize with the two young girls who often wait with him. In the past two weeks he’s initiated conversation almost every day, asking their names, telling them his own, and recommending reading material from the selection perched on a nearby table. He makes eye contact, wants to know what they’re doing, thanks the older girl profusely when she offers him a book, which she often does. Their conversations are the normal give and take of three-year-olds, but when I think back to where he was a year ago, to me it sounds like speech you’d hear at a think tank. It is nothing short of miraculous.

We have these discussions, the coveted ebb and flow of conversation, all the time. The other day, in the space of a few hours, he declared (after stubbing his toe) that “he couldn’t love me anymore because he was sad”; that if I got suntan lotion on his penis while prepping him for the beach “it would break”; that despite the travails of his earlier depression, once again, his “heart loves me”. These moments are the kind you record in a baby book and try to remember to tease him with when he’s a teenager. They are priceless.

I don’t know why he’s regained his words, and why his brother hasn’t, why his oldest sibling never had any at all.  I may never get to know why. I am just so grateful that Zach will be able to communicate in a traditional manner, stick up for himself, advocate for his brother when his parents are gone. Hearing his voice is a beautiful thing.

His para comes to the door and summons him, and I watch him hand his favored reading material to the little girl, with a happy “here you go”, for her, and a firm “bye mommy” for me. I think, in addition to the good fortune of being an inherently happy child, he will be afforded the opportunity to have some kind of independent life, will be given the chance to make choices. It’s all I ever wanted for him. I will never stop wanting it for his brother either, even as I accept Justin completely for who he is, for his differences, and the challenges he presents to us.

I love them both. They are good boys. And today, for this moment, that’s enough.

July 27, 2010

Gratitude Attitude

Posted in Fun Stuff tagged , at 9:50 am by autismmommytherapist

Today I’d like to thank the staff at Justin’s new school for helping him make such a safe and happy transition to a completely new locale, one that he had only visited once previously. He is beside himself with joy when he bounds to that bus in the morning, and looks extremely satisfied when I greet him at the end of the day. From writing about his antics daily, to remembering what toy he treasured at his “interview” and displaying it for him on his first day, I am grateful to all of his teachers for taking such good care of him. Thank you everyone!