Monday, May 16, 2016


Bringing a child into the world was amazing and terrifying.  Holding a new life in my arms, I was overwhelmed by feelings of love, protectiveness, devotion and the sudden, jolting realization that I had brought both life and death into the world.  After all, we can only promise one thing about life, that it will end.  His life, my husband's life, my life are finite.  What could I give him between the entry and exit points on this trip?

No parent outruns these thoughts.  We all race to provide enough of a foundation, enough education, enough wisdom to see our children off onto a future we may or may not join.  We all feel, from time to time, that we cannot possibly be enough.  And if your child has special needs, there is another, terrifying thought, "what if they CAN'T make it on their own?  What if life claims its promise of us before we can prepare them to make their way, or protect them from those who could harm them if they can't?"

So we run harder, faster from the fear and towards the hope of help from "experts" and those that came before.  Hoping that their answers will be THE answer to see us through.

Early on in the "race," my husband and I started to sense that "fear" and "hope" were far more the enemy than inadequacy.  Our son's brain is unique.  There is no expert who knows him as we do.  Our templates for how life is "supposed to be" and our "hopes" that he could have the lives we've had, needed to be re-examined.  What does HIS life look like?  What does HE love?  What is that thing we are filling in between jumping on and jumping off of this ride?  Do we want a life of constant therapy, working to fit into a school system that we don't see as all that useful, even for typical kids, towards a future we might have wanted for ourselves, but may not be at all useful or happy for him?

It can be hard to walk away from institutions and even well-intentioned friends, family and others "with children like yours" nearly shouting at you that, "you want to do EVERYTHING POSSIBLE for your child, don't you - because look how well it's worked for other people and some people don't even have access to these services and what if he wants to go to college someday and I know someone who did this and their child is graduating with honors now and you have to try gluten-free, chelation, RDI, Dan Protocol, ABA, Special Oils, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Allergy Testing, or you AREN'T TRYING HARD ENOUGH!"


One thing my autistic son is, is very present in his NOW.  He is usually happy in his NOW.  What if we let go of the supports and the voices telling us what we should be doing and let his strengths, joys and struggles guide us?  What would it be like to free-fall?  Scary?  Of course.  But liberating too.  Realizing that there is no ONE WAY to do something - that the ride is as different as each brain is different, is a source of power.

And that may sound lonely, but we've found that there are others walking this path, without judgement, offering friendship and sharing stories to take or leave if it serves us.  Facebook groups like Unschooling Special Needs and Homeschool/Unschool Bloggers offer tips and advice and you can ignore posts that don't fit.  There are blogs by adults on the spectrum that shed light on their personal experiences and what helped or hurt them.

And once you find some like-minded folks, you can even meet some of them in person.  Maybe there will be one group that is great for outings, another that has some learning ideas, or unschooling support.

And you will learn that the eclectic life you create with your child and family in mind, is perfect for you and for them.  And you'll learn to ignore the critics, and those with methodologies too rigid for your needs.  You'll find a community you never knew existed, and a life that is nothing like what you imagined, because you never imagined what free-falling would feel like -  glorious, terrifying, surprisingly fun, sometimes disorienting, but FREE.

For those of you along on this jump - welcome.  If I learn any cool tricks, mid-air, I'll be sure to pass them along.  And you are always welcome to share your own stories, ideas and observations in the comments section.

Allons y!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

What I Got For Mother's Day

The short answer to "what did I get for Mother's Day?" is "the stomach flu."  But in fact, I got hit with some life-lessons as well.

These are the things I wish I hadn't learned while curled in a ball in front of the toilet on Mother's Day weekend:

1)  The OxyClean boost in the Arm And Hammer laundry pods really does get out blood stains.

2)  The Dyson vacuum can pick up even the finest shards of glass.

3)  Advanced Formula Nature's Miracle will remove cat urine from wood, carpets and fabric.

4)  I would, without hesitation, voice a commercial for any of the above products.

These are the things I was happy to discover, while considering whether or not I'd need to go to the hospital for dehydration:

1)  My son is brave enough to pour Peroxide on his own wounds.

2)  My son can now empty the dishwasher and handle all aspects of doing the laundry (except folding) all by himself.

3)  My son now has a concept of when someone is feeling crappy and can ask about it.

4) My husband has my back and knows just when to step in and when to back away.

In case you were wondering, here's the expanded version:

With my brain wrapped in cotton, still shaking and sweating from the last, violent bout of vomiting, I staggered into my son's room, drawn by his cries and the sound of something shattering. My son launched into an autistic round of self recrimination and it took me a few moments to swim through the fog to see that his anxiety was not just about a broken coffee cup, but over the cut on his thumb, dripping blood down his arm. While my husband dealt with the broken shards, I steered my son past my my bathroom encampment and offered him hydrogen peroxide, which, after a brief protest, he applied to himself. I opened a bandage and sent him to the living room to await an all-clear on his room, then sank back to my knees on the thick towel before the commode in anticipation of the next round.

Feeling somewhat better the next day, I returned to the encampment to break it down and disinfect the area, when I was knocked back by the strong scent of cat urine, just feet away. My husband's weekend house project had involved installing plastic sheeting around the doorway of his studio, across the hall from the bathroom. Perhaps it was the odd, flappy material, my unavialability, sounds of construction, or just plain, old-age-orneriness that drove the cat to pull down a corner of the plastic sheet and pee in such a way as to saturate the hardwood floor, doorjamb and studio curtain. I grabbed what was left of a gallon of Nature's Miracle and poured it everywhere, using a microfiber cloth to work it into the floor and door jamb, pulled down the curtain for a pre-soak, then washed it on "sanitize" setting (using more Nature's Miracle as detergent). My husband hauled the plastic to the garbage for immediate disposal. I briefly entertained the fantasy of including the cat in that package.

My son's thumb, the hardwood floors, my stomach and the cat are all perfectly fine now.

But the biggest lesson for Mom was:

Let the guys do more.  They can.  Be less available sometimes (not just when it's physically impossible). And always, ALWAYS keep a sense of humor.

It was a terrible weekend, but it makes for a great story, giving me a Mother's Day where my family took care of themselves - and me.
I also got these flowers!