Sunrise

Looking out the back window at the ever changing colors of the sunrise, I paused in the busy preparation of breakfast to just stand there for a few minutes and watch. After slogging through the grey months, this display of dawn was a welcome reprieve. “Autism spectrum….obsessive compulsive tendencies,” the words the child psychologist said the day before still ringing in my ears.

We’ve been down this road before, though it was a few years ago. Screening prompted by his inability to speak at the level of his peers, and irrational terror by simply stepping foot into the doctor’s office. Deep down I think we both have always known there was a difference. Not extreme, not on the far end of the spectrum, but just enough to bring pause, a raising of our curiosity. We’ve never been parents before, he’s our oldest, so there isn’t a barometer of ‘normal’. I still cringe at that word.

In a strange way, having the doctor explain things to us in detail, having him nod in complete recognition at the descriptions of his behavior, was entirely comforting. No expressions of revulsion, no judgement, no surprised questioning looks about his behavior, or our parenting.

We aren’t crazy. We aren’t bad parents.

Those words are huge. Much in the same way our local froyo lady complimented our parenting skills (and turned a particularly rough day around for me) the words this doctor said, the encouragement he gave us, were beyond helpful. I felt my shoulders relax where I had no idea I was holding tension. There was a lifting of a heavy load I have been carrying around unknowingly.

He shows definitive markers on the autism spectrum, but he’s highly functioning. There is no reason he won’t grow to have a family and lead a very happy life.

There are things to be concerned about. You’ll have to find what works for your family. If it doesn’t work, even the things I say, don’t use it. Use what works for you.

Much of it will be trial and error. That’s to be expected. When things blow up and don’t go well, use those as learning experiences. You’ve just learned what doesn’t work. On to the next thing.

We gained validation. We have some new tools in our parenting toolbox. Most importantly, we were given a perspective that is not of the “beat the child into submission” variety, nor a hippy-dippy let the kid do whatever, whenever hands-off approach. More cooperation, less adversarial. Less controlling, lots of boundaries. More respect for sensitivities to overwhelm. For him, sensory overwhelm causes the tantrums and outbursts. Loss of control triggers anger. He’s not an angry child. He’s not a bad kid. He simply gets overwhelmed. It’s our job to continue to teach him how to deal with life as a sensitive person in a not-so-sensitve world.

Seeing the sun finally break the horizon, I sip my hot coffee. I take a deep breath and put the bacon in the oven. Kissing my husband off to work, I glance at the calendar to see what’s on deck for the day. It’s a welcome stark white space. A blank slate, a square with opportunity…24 hours of possibilities.

Hope.

I think I’ll start by doing a bit of writing…

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Super Sense

Daily prompt: If you were forced to give up one sense, but gain super-sensitivity in another, which senses would you choose?

How ironic is this daily prompt? Since we discovered the possibility of Jacob being essentially blind in one eye, I am finding myself walking around with one eye closed to feel what it must be like.

There are a couple of things I’ve gained from doing this, apart from looking silly. One is that my depth perception is completely out of whack, as in I have none with only one eye open. This now makes complete sense why Jacob really doesn’t like to play catch for very long, and its amazing that he can catch at all. The realization of this hit us this weekend as we were on our way to church, and it was a hard one. It’s amazing how you don’t even know you have visions and dreams for your children, until the possibility of them becoming reality dims.

The second realization I’ve come to is that generally, I assume that others see the world in a similar way I do. I’m not really sure why I do this, or if everyone does this, but only when confronted with an opposing viewpoint do I realize just how much I assume. And of course, with Jacob’s tentative diagnosis, it brought this home in a new, and very concrete way. It would have never occurred to me that Jacob couldn’t see the way I do. It just seemed so outside the realm of possibility. But now that we know, so many things are making more sense. Little things, like the way he completely turns his head to see out the car window, or when he’s lying on his back at the dentist’s office and gets so scared because he can’t see what’s coming. He doesn’t have peripheral vision. These sorts of realizations are coming fast and furious.

And then the heightened sense of smell and super taste sensitivity. He cannot sit at the table without gagging if there is a yogurt within his proximity. I assumed he was just being silly when he would make a big stink about not wanting to sit by his sister while she ate a greek yogurt. Mom fail. I had no idea.

So, if I were to give up one sense, but gain super-sensitivity in another, I’m not sure what I would choose. I think an exaggerated sense of smell would be last on my list. (After being pregnant and being assaulted by odors I couldn’t escape, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone!) After what we have been going through with our son, I can’t imagine being without sight. Honestly, as I sit here, I’m trying to think of one sense I could live without, and I find I don’t like this question because I wouldn’t want to be without any of them.

I wouldn’t want to give up taste and smell, how then would I enjoy delicious meals? The aroma of hot coffee in the morning? Bacon? The scent of my freshly bathed minions?

I wouldn’t want to give up sight, how could I not see the faces of my family, friends, or the beauty around us? Breathtaking sunsets, stunning mountains, the beach? Um, no thanks.

I wouldn’t want to give up touch. I am a touchy-feeler. I thoroughly enjoy hugs and massages and know there is value in human contact – more than I can articulate.

I don’t want to give up any senses. And after experiencing exaggerated or heightened senses while pregnant, and with my son, I’m good with mine just the way they are thankyouverymuch!

Why I Dislike Walmart

I really don’t like Walmart. Really. It borders on detest.

Let me preface by saying I am not an elitist, I don’t think I’m “too good” to shop there, nor do I begrudge anyone who does choose Walmart over other choices. My reasons are also not political in nature. While I think it’s a shame that huge stores like Walmart effectively put “mom and pop” joints out of business and contribute to every town in America looking exactly the same, there are plenty of other stores that do the exact same thing, yet they don’t make my skin crawl the way Walmart does.

It’s little things, like the way that every single Walmart smells. I can’t put my finger on what that smell is, exactly, but they all smell the same. The smell is not pleasant. It’s gross.

Every Walmart parking lot (at least the ones I’ve been to, and I’ve been to a few, in multiple states) is ridiculous in how it is set up. It seems that every space is 5 miles from the door. Even the really close spots. And seriously, why is it in EVERY Walmart parking lot, pedestrians entering the store walk down THE MIDDLE of the lane, completely oblivious to drivers behind them fighting back every urge not to run them over?! This happens occasionally at other stores, but every single time I go to a Walmart this happens. On the way in to the store, and as I’m trying to escape. Seriously?!

Once I am inside Grossmart, I’m not only hit with the awful stench, but as I start to look around I notice something peculiar.  At no time, at any Grossmart, have I ever once seen a happy shopper. There’s the tired/overworked/stressed out parents (I’m in this group), the quick “in and out” patrons, the leisurely strollers (down the middle of the aisle, again completely unaware of people trying to maneuver around their cart), etc. All these different groups, and none of them seems happy to be there. No smiles as far as I can see.

And the employees. Oy. This could get ugly. Why is it that in a company this large and with this many employees that more than one checkout cannot possibly be opened?! Have you ever tried self-checkout with kids? Excuse me while I slit my wrist. There is a reason a company has customers. TO HELP THEM. Why is it that when you ask a Grossmart employee where to locate an item, you get a blank stare and a pat “that’s not my department” type of answer?! You’d also think that with a company this large, they could afford a training program of some type to teach people to perhaps find someone (anyone!) who DOES KNOW THE ANSWER?! C’mon, Walmart! It’s basic customer service skills here.

In contrast, I go to a Target and not only is the store clean, but patrons and most employees are happy to be there. A customer can get an answer most of the time at a Target. They have cute stuff. A few pennies more perhaps, than Grossmart, but I really don’t care.

Call me crazy or shallow, but I’ll take a happy pleasant Target trip over wacked out Walmart any day.