Posts tagged ‘acceptance’
I was hit with a ton of bricks today, and it didn’t feel good. All the time spent making sure C was in the “right” school, all the effort spent researching to find the best, safest place; it was all for naught. Each place turns out basically the same, and I finally realized today that the common denominator is C. We can search for a nice school with nice kids. We can pay a zillion dollars in private school tuition to make sure he is taken care of and well-supervised. We can even find a Christian school where you expect everyone to be kind.
Check, check, and check.
Still, the result is the same, and ouch, does it hurt. It doesn’t matter how nice the kids are, how much money we pay, or how Christian the school is. C likes the kids - every single one of them. He considers them all friends, even ones who aren’t outwardly very nice to him. Yet it all comes down to one simple fact: The kids just don’t like C.
This became painfully obvious today - I’m still crying, hours later - when I went in for lunch. I’ve been avoiding hanging out at school, and now I realize I just didn’t want to admit to myself that all of our effort meant nothing in the reality of the problem. C and I sat at the “special” table reserved for kids who have visitors. Last time I went in, C asked each and every boy in his class if they wanted to sit with him at the special table. I listened as each and every boy said no. This is a privilege, mind you, and every other time I see a parent in there, there are several other kids at the special table with the special kid and his or her parent. Yet they all said no. Today C didn’t even bother asking.
While we sat there, C dropped something and asked a boy at the class table to pick it up since it was near him. The boy kicked it as far under the table as he could and C had to get down on the floor and under the table to get it. The boy laughed and pointed at him, and then the other boys joined in. It wasn’t overt and obvious or even particularly loud, and thankfully C didn’t even notice. Then C walked over to the class table to ask another boy a question. This was a boy whose house C went to this weekend – Mom arranged, of course. Clearly the boy was uncomfortable talking to C, and when C came back, he mentioned that as he left the boy’s house on Sunday, he whispered in C’s ear, “Don’t tell anyone at school that you came over this weekend.” C only mentioned this because he had just been talking to him. He often drops bomshells like this days later, not realizing they are bombshells at all. C clearly did not connect the comment to anything having to do with himself. “Maybe the other kids think his house isn’t nice? But that’s not true, because it is,” he said, clearly perplexed. When he told me, I fought back tears. Just get through lunch, I told myself, you can cry in the car.
It was all summed up for me. How much longer can parents arrange playdates? When is C going to really figure out that these boys don’t like him? And given he probably has figured it out on some level, how must it feel to go to school five days a week with a bunch of kids who don’t want to be around you? While I sat and watched every boy in C’s class (except his one real friend, who was not there today) snicker and giggle and whisper about him after both of these minor incidents, I realized I’d been hiding from the truth.
I’d like to go to school and talk to these boys, because of all the schools C has been in, this is the one where I thought he stood the best chance of finding his place – these are good kids in a good school. I’m not sure what I’d say to them, really, because I wouldn’t want to make it worse. I can’t make them like him. But one thing I’d like to tell them is that while they may not like him, C sure likes each and every one of them. A whole lot.
This is when I remember what the developmental pediatrician who diagnosed C told us: “If you can get him emotionally intact through middle school,” she said, “he’ll find his niche and he’ll be fine.” And I wonder to myself, just how can we do that? Where is the place that will have kids who will both protect and nurture him? Where, where will he fit in? What to do with a child who is so social, so desirous of being around other kids, but who is clearly not liked by those same kids? Public school, charter school, private school, Christian school – it’s all the same, and none of it is right.
I don’t know what the answer is, and that is why I’m really crying this afternoon. I don’t really understand exactly why the kids don’t like C. I don’t really know where the place is that would be safe and good for him, or if it even exists. All I know is that I fear C’s wonderful little world will come crashing down someday when he puts all of the painful pieces of this puzzle together. And then it will be more than he can possibly bear.
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Today, on C’s 9th birthday, long after all the gift wrap was trashed, the cards were strewn around the floor, and the cupcakes were all eaten (by the other kids, that is), I thought about how far we’ve come. How far C has come. From a premature and deathly ill infant so overwhelmed by life itself he couldn’t tolerate the noise of his own toys – to a loud, rambunctious, keeping-up-with-the-best-of-them boy at his own party, C’s journey has been a wild ride.
There were still snapshots of autism at C’s party – had I captured a picture of C bending over to lick the frosting off his cupcake because he didn’t want to touch it and pick it up. Or perhaps it would have been obvious in a picture of C and his best friend taken two seconds after C told his friend not to touch him anymore. Or maybe it would have been clear in a picture of C playing with the girls because the boys had probably gotten just a little bit too loud and rambunctious.
Probably what was most obvious, however, was the picture someone could have taken of me. No longer did I feel as though I needed to be right in the middle of things in order to protect C and protect others from his “enthusiasm.” He was surrounded by his friends, he was safe, and he was having fun. Morever, so was everyone else. In that moment, I realized how much has changed for me. In the midst of all this chaos that has been my life for the last nine years, there was calm. Entire minutes went by where I didn’t even know where C was or what he was doing. And he was fine.
Even better, I was fine.
During C’s K year, we had a terrible year and had to pull C out of one school mid-year and start another. All of us were sick constantly, and C was the worst. Too much free time spent in the bathroom at school landed him with monthly bouts of diarrhea and one trip to the ER after a night of vomiting every 10-15 minutes for 8 hours straight. It was an awful year, and it couldn’t end soon enough.
Part way through the year, I sought counsel from a therapist who didn’t do the usual, “And how does that make you feel?” Instead, it was more of a dialogue between us, with Barbe showing her understanding by saying, “Well of course you are depressed, who wouldn’t be?” I needed a break, I needed to focus on myself for awhile, and frankly, I needed some help. She proved the answer to all three of those things.
One thing Barbe asked me to do was make a list of how I could get out of my current situation. What could I do to make it better? As I listened to her describe the exercise, my mind was swimming with possibilities. The list would be pages long, I thought. However, when I sat down to write it out, I only came up with three. The first, completely unreasonable, was “Write and publish a book, make a zillion dollars and hire a nanny.” It was completely unreasonable to me because I couldn’t imagine anyone else picking up C from school. How could I justify giving away precious hours in the day to someone else? I’m his Mom, and he needs me. And I need him.
The second, which we’ve done, was “move back to family.” Back near willing and able grandparents has proven key in our escaping occasionally for brief respites. Ga and Pa take C to therapy appointments sometimes, and have him spend the night every once in awhile. It’s never enough (could they just move in???), and they do have busy lives of their own, but every little bit helps.
The third and most powerful idea has been the one that dances through my mind continuously. I have been on various paths through accepting what is while not giving up on helping C be the best and happiest C he can be. I’ve never thought accepting meant giving in or giving up, but I’ve come to a better peace and understanding about what is since writing the answers to that question. The last answer to the question of how to get out of my situation? “Get okay with being in.”
I’ll never accept this. I’ll always accept my child for who and what he is, but as long as there is hope, I will never, ever quit for him. We are continually looking for new ways to help C break through the barriers in his brain and body, and I doubt I’ll ever give up the search. With each new step, be it therapeutic or medical in nature, we find something or someone that helps, and it often comes in forms we don’t expect.
There are some moments when I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall, but they always pass. When I’m at my lowest, C does something that amazes me in its power to bring back the faith. So no, I’ll never accept this for him. It makes him who he is and I completely accept him for who he is but I will continue in my quest to find ways to make his journey through this world happier, healthier, and safer. So I suppose I’ve failed the acceptance portion of the stages of grief, but that’s okay by me.