I refer to climbing mountains a lot when talking about my life, Race's life, just in general. So, here was a day when we weren't climbing; we were falling, taking steps backward. These days happen more than you might think. I don't write about them often because I'd really like to forget all about them and not dwell. I worry enough as it is. Plus, I think about Race reading all this when he gets older, and it breaks my heart to think it will hurt him. Like everybody, we're not always moving forward. So, here's a moment in my perfect life. Don't hate me. Don't pity me. Don't judge me. Just learn. Just grab on to some awareness and compassion and use it the next time you see a mother in distress (even if she's not handling it the way you would), or a kid struggling. I need to write this.
The pool. Most families go to the pool to relax. I see mom's laying out, reading, working on their tan, and even sleeping! What's that like?
I love watching my boys have fun. There is nothing I love more. To watch them be care free, doing cannon balls off the side of the pool, zipping down the slide, playing with other kids, the life guards calling Race by name giving him high fives. On those days, life is good. The pool is fun. Most of the time.
The pool is where I hold my breath (and not just when I'm underwater). The pool is the place I have to MAKE myself be calm. It's the perfect place to work on social boundaries. The pool is where melt downs happen because there is chaos and unorganized play. It's where Race's brain has to work overtime, and sometimes, he's tired of working so hard. He gets lazy, and that's when it happens.
He's in people's space, splashing around in his own world, his eyes won't look anybody in the face, but he's strongly insisting they play with him, or just let him play with that real neat toy they have, he can't hear a word said to him because he's not there. This is when I have to say in a calm, no big deal voice, "Hey Race, come sit down and relax for a bit." Because if I don't, the weird looks will come, the "get away from me!" and "I don't want to play with you" shouts from kids are heard with other comments. Groups of kids start to give him space and avoid him because they're just not sure WHAT to do. Other mom's redirect their kids away from him. It KILLS me. I hurt for him. It's in those moments that I HATE autism.
What do I do as his mother? Because yes, I'm his mother, I'm his protector, his guide to proper social behavior right? Do I sit back and let this happen? Do I let him learn a little for himself and get a little taste of what might happen for the rest of his life? Because hey, he's got to learn it somehow. Or do I intervene before it gets out of hand? Do I go over there and use ANOTHER redirecting technique or explain to the kids that Race's brain works a little different and they just need to be nice DANG IT! Ya, that always sounds great.
"Here, let's all play this game together OK? All of us, let's make a big circle and all of us take turns. . ." or, "Race, look at his face. Does he look happy? He's telling you no, so what should you do? Walk away." or, "I bet those kids over there will let you play." or "here, I'll go down the slide with you" or the easy way out, "let's just go over there where there's no body and I'll give you a swimming lesson."
I do a little of both, depending on the type of day he's had. And some days, I'm tired too, and I forget about everything I've been studying and learning, and I don't do any of it. I just lose my patience.
Joseph Smith said, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves." I believe this. I always lived by this as a teacher and gave it out as my all-knowing advice when asked. My discipline focused on choices, and taking ownership of those choices, good and bad. It was so black and white. And then I had Race. And then I struggled with it. I struggled with it because it just wasn't that simple any more. There was so much gray. It is constant repetition. It is walking through a list of doe's and don't for every situation, even though we've been through it hundreds of times before.
The song, "I am a Child of God" comes to mind sometimes during these moments and I've gotten to understand it from a different perspective. "lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way. . ." and I am reminded that Race needs me to lead him, to guide him, to walk beside him and to help him find the way to a larger degree. And that HAS to be ok.
I didn't want to go to the pool on this day. Race was already having a very autistic day. He was having a hard time being present, staying focused. But I needed to take Witten. Witt had been working so hard for me all day. He deserved it. And we can't always put things on hold because of Race. Witt needs experiences for himself. I've always tried to remember that, so he never feels like a shadow to his brother. So, we went.
"Race, come sit down and relax for a bit."
No answer, he's not hearing me.
I move so he can see me. "Race, come on, time to get out and relax."
"No, I'm fine!" he yells, swimming away from me, bumping into everybody as he goes.
I follow him, my eyes are now about 8 inches from his, forcing eye contact. (something I know I shouldn't do) "Don't talk to me like that. Get out, sit down, or we're gone."
He gets out, screaming at me by this point. He takes the goggles that he loves so much and chucks them across the pool. The screaming continues from the bench. I could have avoided this. I could have done it differently. But I didn't.
"Race, you need to calm down or we will leave."
The screaming continues.
"OK, let's go."
"No!" he runs from me. . . "I need my goggles."
"Your goggles are gone. You threw them because you were angry. Now they're gone."
"No, I need them!"
"No, you shouldn't have thrown them then."
A woman approaches. "Excuse me, are these his goggles?" and holds out a pair of green goggles.
"No, his are blue, but thanks." I say amid the screaming.
"Well here, I have some goggles you can have. There's no need to get so upset." she says to Race and walks over to her things.
I am really fired up at this point. I pretend I didn't hear her. "Race go through the boys locker room and meet me around front. You and I are going home" (Thank goodness for Grandma Sara who meets us at the pool. She took Lane and kept an eye on Witt).
"No, I'm not going, I need to stay. My goggles!" He tries to run, the woman is bringing him some goggles, saying something to me but I can't hear her. I pick Race up and throw him over my shoulder (he's 7, he's getting heavy, but in the moment I don't even notice) and walk through the girls locker room, I feel the stares follow me in. He's still screaming as I put him in his car seat and fight to buckle him in. I try to stay calm as I shut his door. "My goggles! My goggles!" With tears welling up in my eyes, I swear under my breath and take a few deep breaths. Talking to myself at this point, I say, "I'm so done. I'm done with the pool."
Believe it or not, we got through it and we both calmed down. And we've been back to the pool many times since then, climbing back up the path that we stumbled on.