Monday, May 20, 2013

There but for the grace of God go my child..

This past week saw the drowning deaths of three beautiful children who had wandered away from their families.  All three were autistic and non-verbal and were able to sneak away without their families noticing.  They were all horrible tragedies and sadly the parenting skills of each of the families are being questioned in the wake of them. 

What happened in each circumstance was NOT bad parenting of any sort.  Nearly half of children with autism elope or wander away from home, school and public places.  It's horrible and tragic when it happens but it's not always avoidable as much as people believe.  Children move quickly and even the most diligent parent who is on the ball isn't always able to notice when they're not where they were two seconds before.

Imagine that being your lifestyle 24/7 where you're on constant alert worrying that your child will bolt away from you.  That's not a ideal situation but most autism parents adopt a roll with it attitude about life because we're not really given another choice.  Our children are often fearless - I know mine is - and have no or very little concept of danger.  Water is a huge attraction for most of our kids and while we're aware of the dangers that can happen to them if they went into it unsupervised, they are not.

When people on the outskirts of autism parenting, i.e. parents of typical kids, hear of things like this happening I think it's easy to wonder if the parents who lose their children in this way somehow dropped the ball or let it happen in some way.  People are especially quick to pass judgment about situations that they don't know much about or think that they would've handled differently if they were in the same situation.  I don't know why we as parents do that to each other but we do and it's a sad fact.  I've even heard some autism parents making judgmental comments about how the parents of these lost children should've been more alert and that somehow could've prevented these tragedies from happening.  That bothers me even more than when parents of typically developed kids say those things.  They're not true, not fair and do nothing in the way of offering up what those parents need the most right now - our support and prayers. 

My son has wandered off on two separate occasions and each time we didn't know of his whereabouts for about ten minutes.  Without exaggeration I can say that those were the longest ten minutes of my life each time it happened.  In both instances we were out - once was at a Chuck E. Cheese and the other time we were on a school field trip to a pumpkin patch - and each time I got distracted for a second and he was gone.   Both situations freaked me out and once I could breathe again after my child was found I was unbelievably relieved and thankful he was okay. 

I was one of the lucky ones and I've never lost sight of that.  I truly wish that the parents of Mikaela, Owen and 2 year-old Drew Howell whose story didn't make the national media were among the lucky ones as well. 

RIP sweet babies.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day

Mother's Day - a holiday I dread every year.

I know that as a mom I should enjoy that day but I don't.  I especially hate the week or so leading up to the holiday where all you see on television or in print are ads that have to do with finding the perfect gift for mom for her special day. 

I love that I have a sweet child who makes me wonderful things every year for that holiday.  His gifts make me happy and I've loved each one he's made for me at school.  I'm not a materialistic person so nothing else is really needed beyond appreciation for what I do as a mom.  That's plenty for me.  What makes the holiday hard for me is that my own mom is no longer here to celebrate that day.  For me Mother's Day was always about her, not myself. 

My first Mother's Day without her was in 2009 on the six month anniversary of her passing.  The pain was still very raw then and that was the hardest one yet.  Since then every holiday or special occasion has been a lesson in adjustment for myself and those who love and miss her as well.  I honestly miss going out and buying her a gift and a card to honor her on her day so it just didn't feel right when the time rolled around where I would be doing that and she was no longer here to receive them. 

I'm not sure why but this year has really been harder for me.  One reason could be that I've learned, thanks to my panic attacks that started back in February, that I really hadn't dealt with my grief over losing her fully.  I had swept much of my sadness under the proverbial rug in my attempt to focus on my child and how her passing was affecting him. With the panic attacks came a renewed feeling of sadness and I've experienced emotions regarding her passing that I really hadn't before.  That could explain my depression lately and the crying jags that seem to come from out of nowhere. 

I'm not the first person to lose a mom who was invaluable to them nor will I be the last.  We're taught that death is one of the two inevitable parts of life and that we should show love and appreciation for our loved ones all the time because you never know what tomorrow brings.  All of that is true  What I feel so much gratitude for is the fact that my mom and I were in the best place possible in terms of our relationship when she passed.  Considering that we didn't always have a great rapport together I find that to be a tremendous blessing.  I knew how much I meant to her and she knew the same.

She wrote me a letter before she died that I found shortly afterwards and it's truly one of my most treasured possessions.  When I am feeling especially lonely for her I will take it out and read it.  It's full of love and   the letter was directed not only to me but to my husband and son.  She apologized for having to go and let my son know all the fighting she did to stay alive was to see him grow up and live up to his full potential.  My husband had lost his father less than two years before so she told him how badly she felt that he was going to be experiencing another loss so soon.

I started this post to talk about Mother's Day and ended up veering off a bit to talk about how much I miss my own mom.  I feel like a lost little girl when I open up about that.  I don't feel shame in feeling that way either.  Deep inside all of us is a part of the child we once were and the most important person in most children's lives is their mom.  I don't think it matters at what age that that inner child in all of us loses their mom; it's a profound event that changes us and we feel lost when it happens.  I can't speak for everyone, of course, but that is definitely been the case with me.

To anyone out there reading this I thank you for reading my long and rambling post here.  I look forward to the day where I feel less pain when this holiday comes around.  I wish all mothers the happiest of days tomorrow and hope that you're surrounded by love and shown the appreciation you all deserve.