Last week was not the best week for anyone in our house. Nothing earth shattering – just minor bumps in the road. Everyone got flu vaccinations – and everyone got head colds from them (this happens every year; you’d think we’d be used to it). However, this year, Ada’s head cold turned into strep and an increase in her hyper-activity behaviors that was less than fun to put it mildly. Just ask anyone at Target.
Elliott had his expander placed at the orthodontist office, and I’m pretty sure based on our appointment alone that they may soon install private rooms for patients. Yeah, Ada climbing and jumping repeatedly off of moving dental chairs (while screaming), and slamming their glass doors. Elliott in tears (while drooling) because it felt weird, and he realized he could no longer eat popcorn or twizzlers. And me, trying to deal with 2 children in really challenging situations while they try to show me how this crazy expander things works (I still can’t find this tiny hole they are talking about – whatever). Thank goodness for Prozac – as it’s inappropriate to consider margaritas at 10:30 a.m. though I can’t say it didn’t cross my mind.
And then there’s Henry. He’s who I’m worried about the most these days. For as much as we talked about 3rd grade being an adjustment, it’s all starting, and our once sweet, easy-going, creative guy is struggling, and it’s so hard to watch. I just think he’s trying so hard to find his place in the world, and that’s just never an easy thing to do. Hardest of all is respecting the fact that he’s a private person, and generally has to ponder things on his own before ever sharing with us. Most days, it’s a miracle if I can even learn about what he had for lunch. What happened to that cute 5-year-old boy who came home one day from school and said “how in the world am I supposed to find a wife if girls in Kindergarten won’t kiss?” Oh how I miss him . . .
What’s weird is that in so many ways Tom & I have this parenting of kids with autism thing down – expect the unexpected, make things visual, plan, anticipate, only put kids in situations where they (or we) can be successful, (not the orthodontist in case you were wondering), etc. But when it comes to Henry, our so called typical guy, I feel lost. Are these things that all kids go through, or is it just Henry? How do we deal with this without driving his wonderful new teachers crazy? Is this serious, or just a blip on the screen of life?
Yep, it was just not a great week. Finally it was Friday, and a lovely morning when we all walked Henry down to his bus stop. We were all ready for this week to be done (well, especially me), and then it happened. Elliott approached the crowd and spoke loud and clear “hey everyone, just so you know, I have a lot of money”. That brought more than a chuckle or two as you might imagine, and though I don’t think it registered for him, I could see his bright smile fade. Yes, even though I think I’ve developed thicker skin through my years as an autism parent, at that moment, after the week we’d had, I just wanted to cry. Henry was just plain embarrassed.
Yes, I did quietly take him aside to explain how he might more appropriately share with everyone that he has been saving his allowance for many months, and finally got above $50.00, an event that he is beyond proud of. His intentions were good, his approach, well, it needs work. That is autism and how it affects Elliott, and in many ways, probably always will. I hate that. I accept it, but I hate how hard it is for him.
Ugh – what a week. I was emotionally in my bad place when we started preparing for our run on Friday night. You see, running is something we have all learned to do to help deal with stress, and man did we all need a little stress reduction right about then.
About 6-months ago, we all sat down (somewhere near the red couch) to chat about which race to register for during the Twin Cities Marathon Family Events Day. Both boys had completed 5Ks and last year, Ada ran the 1 mile race, which is not too shabby when you’re 4! Were we ready for something more?
The boys were a bit unsure of this whole 10K thing – it seemed like a lot. But for Elliott, who is a strong, natural runner that needs to run to deal with his anxiety and Henry, who is not as much a natural athlete but who needs something athletic to build self-esteem and enjoys the time with his family, it seemed doable. We trained all summer – short runs, long runs, runs on the track, runs throughout the sidewalks of Eagan, even running on vacation! These guys were dedicated, even if a bit grumbly about it here and there.
Saturday morning, all 4 of us pinned on our race numbers and headed down to the State Capitol in the cold morning air, ready to join 3,000 others in a 6.2 mile run. (Ada chose to stay back home with Grandma, and shared some Cinnamon Melts from McDonald’s rather than run – arguably the wise choice). Elliott got quite anxious once we got near the crowds – running for us is almost always done either alone or with just a few other people around. He was very worried about where to meet following the run and was rubbing his head and biting his nails which is how he handles stress. We ran through our plan 3 or 4 times just to make him comfortable. Henry got quiet, but worked hard on his stretching. Sensing he needed a pep talk, I told him, as we’ve discussed so many times, that he could walk as much as he needed, and to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Speed did not matter, just doing it his own way, in his own time was what we hoped for him.
Then, just before the starting gun sounded, they were both in the zone. Elliott, now confident he understood the plan, disappeared into the crowd, wanting to be independent and feeling a bit competitive. Henry stood between Tom & me, and was smiling as he heard his chip beep when we ran over the start line.
The boys did an amazing job that morning. They each tackled things that were not easy for them – Elliott navigating a big crowd with great focus and Henry tackling a distance he didn’t know he could. As each of us crossed that finish line Saturday morning, the week that had been so challenging just melted away. The boys were so proud of their accomplishments, and attained a goal they set for themselves and worked hard to achieve. Best of all, they congratulated each other for their efforts, and talked about their individual journeys along the way over a well-earned pancake platter.
As it is with most things in life, this run was more about the journey than the destination. So much has changed in our lives since we started training 6 months ago. Yes, we’ll continue to have our share of weeks that are not easy, but as long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other, we’ll get there in our own time, we’ll be there for each other, and we’ll do it together . . .