BROKEN MOM, BROKEN SON

Do you ever think you’ve got all the bases covered and then someone steals home base? You’re watching the ball game intently, then the three year old spills his popcorn, the five year old announces an urgent need to visit the restroom, the middle schooler looks up from her texting cell with tears in her eyes, and your husband’s work calls because the system just crashed and he has to leave right now. So much for the ball game.

Life is like that. I was having such a good time writing about Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Reliving the earlier tortuous diagnostic and discovery years proved to be my own personal therapy session. I was so proud of figuring out how to embed photos on my blog (my high school son would roll his eyes at that one — according to him we’re practically Amish). I went so far as to give myself credit for almost figuring things out, at least as far as my family went. And then someone stole home base, dropped their popcorn, crashed the system, and needed urgent care. Unfortunately, the one requiring urgent care was me.

Ever have a month like that? I had an accident and broke my back — it’s only a compression fracture really, but it was enough to give me a whole new appreciation of those faced with chronic pain. With my attention focused inward I got distracted and lost that fragile thread that connected me with my AS son.

Steven attends a most amazing school that was designed for bright kids that don’t thrive in traditional environments. By choice they don’t send home busy work because this student body typically “gets it” the first time. But even a school without homework assigns projects, and since I was tuned into my own healing process, I didn’t make time to keep up with his assignments, until way too late.

My AS kid has a huge sense of responsibility, a desire for perfection, and an innate desire to be independent. He also has sensory integration issues, focus challenges, and disgraphia (can’t get those wonderful thoughts out on paper). There are a lot of distractions in any classroom, enough to drive even a Type-A, neuro-typical child genius to distraction, and I can’t imagine what it does to my AS son. So in the middle of my personal crisis, he was assigned an enormous research paper. I do remember discussing it on the way home, but it kind of slipped my mind after that. Because of wanting to shoulder the responsibility for his own assignments, he didn’t give me status updates or ask for help. In a casual conversation with a classmate’s mom, I found out on a Thursday that a six week project was due the following Monday and panicked.

Talk about guilt! I want to set him up for success! I feel like everything I learned about parenting my AS child went out the window. I’ve learned to prepare him for birthday parties (don’t argue, say please and thank you, let the birthday boy choose the activity, etc.), for field trips, for loud movies, for everything I can think of, and then I leave him stranded trying to find his way through one of the first really big school projects he’s ever gotten. He felt like he was failing his teacher, failing himself, failing me and, the way I see it, he dug himself into this hole that the later he waited, the worse the outcome looked.

Our saving grace was a strong communication base. Steven is old enough for me to tell him how I saw it. I spoke and I tried to listen (that’s always the hardest part — listening). We pulled together as a family. We cleared the calendar. I proposed and he accepted a project plan that stretched over the weekend, with enough time for breaks. I acknowledged that I hadn’t been his scribe, typing for him, in several years, but that he needed to seriously consider accepting that offer considering the compressed timeframe. It wasn’t a lightly made offer: it’s tough typing what your own child says without editing in the process!

I was humbled in the process because I ended up letting several other commitments drop, including this blog.
Have you ever seen the Disney movie, Nemo? There are points in my life where I take on Dori’s mantra “Just keep swimmin’, just keep swimmin’”! Through shared stories, both good and bad, that we can learn from each other and offer support in parenting our AS children.

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