This past summer was huge for chez McCafferty. My youngest and mildly autistic son learned how to ride a bike independently without training wheels, much to our collective thrill. My oldest severely autistic son lost ten pounds after I semi-restricted carbs from his diet (please, it’s always the carbs,) which resulted in him having a healthy weight again. My beloved and not much older than me brother-in-law had a heart attack, an event which made everyone in our family rethink some of our habits, and for me, inspired me to think about what I can do better in my life.
Believe me, the list is pretty long.
But one thing that stuck with me is I need to remember to notice the little increments of progress my sons make, not just the splashy accomplishments like bike riding and losing a clothing size, but the little things too. They’re the bread and butter of life, and too often I just notice them and forget, don’t take the time to really appreciate how far we’ve come.
And a few weeks ago I got the opportunity to put my new goal into practice.
It was my lovely niece’s birthday celebration this Sunday, which resulted in a trek to Pennsylvania with the boys and the two tons of stuff they require for an approximately two hour visit. Over the years I’ve come to regard these PA pilgrimages with a mixture of both excitement and dread. I actually like all of my husband’s family (my sincere apologies to those of you out there who don’t enjoy your spouse’s relatives,) so there’s always the anticipation of seeing them tempered with the reality that I will probably be spending most of my two hours chasing Justin around the house and keeping him from reorganizing everything.
Since my sister-in-law doesn’t need any help in that department, it’s a daunting task.
So on Sunday I mentally prepared myself for a work-out with my eldest, and was pleasantly surprised, then shocked. It seems that over the summer Justin acquired the patience to sit on my husband’s lap while his cousin unwrapped all of her gifts (he only tried to help himself twice.) He sat compliantly at the dining room table and did his “work,” an ingenious shelving system filled with activities that his school BCBA created for me for just these situations. Hell, he even gave hugs this time (and trust me, except for his nearest and dearest, that’s a huge milestone.)
Granted, he only sat for two-and-a-half minutes for a dinner he didn’t want then handed me his shoes to go home, but I can’t expect perfection.
For once, I got to put my new goal into practice as for a twenty minute period (!) I actually sat with a glass of wine while my niece “oohed and ahhed” and my two kids were either ensconced on my husband’s lap or quietly reading a book. I noticed and registered that blip of time for what it truly was.
And I just want to say this. For those of you who are just finding out your kids are on the spectrum and are going through a hell of a time, this story may sound impossible to you for your own kids. Honestly, if someone had told me two years ago I’d be at a party checking out my niece’s stash while simultaneously sitting down for more than thirty consecutive seconds I would have said they were nuts.
And I would have been right.
But as the boys age some things are getting easier. Not everything- not by a long shot. After years of struggle they both eat. They both (mostly) sleep. They do their work and delight me daily.
They are both truly happy.
And as we ease our way into a simpler life I’m taking note of the progress, wrapping myself in it and reveling.
And I hope wherever you are with your family that you are able to do so too.
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