Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tipping My Hand

I just attended my 20 year high school reunion this past weekend.  I am not sure who was more excited about it, me or Katie.  She has been closely following the plans all year, studying my yearbook, stalking my former classmates on Facebook, and wanting to know exactly who would be attending.  Every time we would run into a friend at a store, or church, or in the community, she would ask, "Are they going to be at the reunion party?"  When the day day came, she could barely contain herself.  She was very excited that my childhood best friend was there with her children.  When the reunion group took a tour of the school, I let her walk with her friends, but kept a close eye on her.  My husband kept saying, " She is fine, relax", but I wasn't sure how she would act or how my former classmates would react to her.

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, it is so easy to keep in touch with people that you haven't seen in years.  Years ago, reunions were spent filling everyone in on what you had been doing that past 10 or 20 years.  Now we get hourly updates on everyone we have ever met, so you can go up to someone you haven't seen in 5 years and say, "I loved your vacation pictures!"  Because of this, and because I am so vocal about Katie and her Autism, I knew that my classmates would be aware of her and her "Katie-isms".  I was actually very comfortable about her being around everyone.  At one point she suddenly decided she needed to be personally introduced to everyone there.  I told them, "You haven't officially attended the reunion until you have met Katie!"  She LOVED that, and laughed and said "Hi" to everyone there, shaking their hands.  She gave out quite a few hugs as well, especially to those that she already knew.  The feeling of acceptance that I felt for her was overwhelming though.  You really never know how people are going to act, and I was touched that so many took the time to speak with her and get to know her a little.

Over the next 2 days during the reunion activities, I was approached over and over again about how my classmates have been following this blog.  One had told me that she feels like she has a glimpse into the world of Autism when she reads them, and although she doesn't personally know anyone with Autism, she has a better understanding of it from my blog.  Another commented on how "raw" my blogs were, telling it like it is, "warts and all".  Instead of trying to act like every day is perfect and magical, I am tipping my hand to show what life is really like.  I don't hide our pain or our struggles or even our success.  I try very hard to reflect not only what Katie and my family experience, but also share what other families affected by Autism go through.  However, since I include others, I have to be cautious to not offend anyone, or misrepresent them.  I hope that those who read my blog understand this.  That this is just me and my take on my daughters life, and I would never want to hurt others by what I have to say.

I don't take praise very well, I usually try to deflect it somehow, but I was really touched at how many people enjoy what I have to say, and look forward to reading about our adventures.  It really touched my heart that my classmates took the time to speak with me about my writings, and about Katie and how she is doing.  They could have easily just talked about themselves, or high school, or about anything else.  But time and again they approached me to say how amazed they are with her, and how they look forward to my postings.  As embarrassed as I get when someone focuses on me or something I do, I love to hear that I was able to teach others about our Adventures in Autism.  To help others understand how different our life is, and to let them know how much I love my Katie.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Passing Me Up

Most of my relatives are pretty tall.  My brother, sister and father all stand over 6 feet, and my mother is just under that.  I am only 5'6", and I say "only" in comparison to my family.  I know that I am of average height for a woman, but I actually had to stand on a box in our family portrait.  It should be no surprise to me that my daughters are showing every sign of passing me up in height.  My oldest daughter looks me right in the eye, and Katie is not far behind her.  I think I am only an inch or so taller, but since she has been growing over an inch every few months, my reign as the tallest female in the house is almost over. 

I am an overprotective mother, I will admit.  Especially when it comes to Katie.  If we are crossing the street, or walking across a parking lot, I hold her hand.  It is not that I don't trust her, or think she is a baby.  But she lacks a certain sense of safety.  She lacks a ceratin awareness of her surroundings.  She would be the one to walk right in front of a car, not even paying attention or looking both ways.  So there we go, holding hands, and now we are almost the same height.  Do we look goofy?  Probably.  I could care less what people think when they see a teenager holding hands with her mother.  My main concern is how Katie sees herself.  I do not want to embarrass her or undermind her quest to be a teenager.  Once again I walk the fine line between protecting her and letting her be as normal as she can. 

Fostering inderpendance in a child that has a disablity is a double edged sword.  Obviously I want Katie to be able to take complete care of herself physically.  It would be so much easier if I could just tell her to go get ready for school, and she was able to do it all, and do it right.  But Katie has poor fine motor coordination, as well as somewhat limited control over her gross motor (so her body is all over the place).  The results are clothes inside out and backward, pants not buttoned or zipped, and crazy hair.  It takes 5 times as long from letting her do everything herself and then fixing it, to just plain doing everything for her.  I am sure you can see the dilema.  When mornings are hurried, like almost every one is, I want to take over and get the job done.  But, at the end of it all, who am I really helping?

I don't think this problem is exclusive to parents of children with special needs.  I think there is a point in every parent's life when they have to decide to pull back.  To let their child spread their wings.  Sometimes we would like to chase after them, carrying a safety net to catch them if they fall.  But you better not let them see you.  Half the importance of letting them go is to instill in them the confidence and sense of accomplishment.  Letting them learn from their mistakes, letting them test the waters of life.  But at the same time we are holding our breathe, poised to spring into action if they need us, waiting on that call.  One of the best feelings in life is to be needed by your child.  But we have to put that aside, and wish them to grow up and find their own way.  Growing up is a different process for Katie though.  She is way behind other girls her age when it comes to maturity and independance.  I try to create situations where she feels grown up and like a teenager, but still has the supervision that she needs.

One day in the near future, she will finally pass me up.  Then she will be the one reaching down to me, leading me along.  There is not a guide book or a manual for raising a child with Autism.  There is no "set time" that you let them go.  Each child is different in their challenges and their strengths.  I have to learn to trust my instincts when it comes to these things.  Learn to hide behind the bushes when she walks down the street, call her friends house to check up on her without her knowing that I am.  Our Adventures in Autism won't end when Katie is taller than me,.