Post-NAAM and Pre-Mother’s Day Thoughts

Well, National Autism Awareness (Acceptance) Month has come and gone for 2016.  I always learn something new during the month of April. This year, I learned some think it should be National Autism Acceptance Month. Sigh. I suppose.  But, in order to have acceptance (and to accept and to be accepted and to learn to accept) there must first be awareness.

There are still plenty of people out there…they must live under a rock, but I digress…..who don’t know what autism is. And there are plenty of people out there who THINK they know what autism is, and they truly don’t. There are all sorts of misconceptions of what autism is…and isn’t. It is our responsibility, I believe, as Autism Parents to help others in our communities and in our extended families understand autism and our children. A month once a year seems like a good idea, and speaking as someone who lived *back in the day* having a child with autism with NO National Autism Awareness Month, I can you, IT IS a good idea!

As far as autism acceptance  is concerned…..we must first accept OUR OWN CHILDREN.  It is difficult to expect others to *accept autism* when we do not. Does that mean NOT trying new things to help our children  be the best they can be, autism or not? NO!  Does that mean giving up? HELL NO! My Kiddo is 36 years old and we still try new things all the time! What it does mean is loving the person and accepting the disability as fact. We can all get crazy with the *autism cure* stories but there comes a point when striving for a complete cure is counter-productive to our child. They are whom they are…accept it and move on. Accept it and move on.

Mother’s Day is this Sunday here in the U.S. My first Mother’s Day, Hubby asked me what I would like for my gift.  I remember telling him I wanted some time to myself, and not much else.  Our Kiddo was about three months old that Mother’s Day. I was nursing and always seemed to smell like sour milk and spit-up.  The luxury of going to the bathroom or having a shower or shaving my legs without an interruption sounded like such a big deal. Feeling and smelling clean for a change made me giddy and, as I got into the bathroom that Sunday morning knowing Hubby would handle the baby, I thought I could handle being constantly “on call” for his childhood because his childhood wouldn’t be forever. I didn’t know how long it would actually last.

That first Mother’s Day, my mother and mother-in-law told me, as my kids got older, I would have more time to myself and I would have more freedom.  I believed them; why wouldn’t I?  But, now I’ve been a parent of someone with special needs for over 30 years and I’m still waiting for some time for myself.  It piles up, that lack of “me” time and it festers and eats away at you as a person.

Mother’s Day is different things to different mothers.  The pictures of loving children with their adored Mother, with their flowers and breakfasts in bed and trinkets made of gold spray-painted macaroni conjure a certain image of a typical motherhood. While I have received my share of flowers and pasta bedecked items, it is not the motherhood I have often experienced.

Special needs mothering is motherhood in its most condensed, purest form. Most of us in the autism and special needs trenches have to be hands-on at all times, and have been for many years. We don’t get a break and we are tired. All. The. Time. We are vigilant and detail oriented because if we aren’t, something important may fall through the cracks and our child will suffer for our relaxation of the moment. Our motherly love transcends the type those typical mothers feel…it has to. Our kids, to outsiders, may seem unlovable or impossible to love…but we love them. Unconditionally. And the only other people who understand and *get* us are other special needs mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my fellow Autism and Special Needs Moms. I wish  a nice afternoon nap for you on Sunday. Or, if you aren’t able to take a nap, some chocolate (hid it from the kids!) or a glass of wine or a nice cup of coffee (tea?)or some dandelions in a juice glass hand picked by your child or…..a gold spray-painted macaroni trinket!



Wild Flowers

I love to garden.  I love to plan in the dead of winter. I love to buy seeds and prepare the soil.  I love to go to the nursery to pick out the plants in my plan and even go a little bit by “instinct” some years.  I even love to put the plants in the soil and water them faithfully the first month or so, until they “take” and I can relax and enjoy.

Several years ago, Hubby and I took our family went to a wonderful indoor zoo in Minnesota.  We all became fascinated with their butterfly garden and decided we would try to replicate it in our Midwestern garden.  As the official family gardener, I began to do research as soon as we got home that August. I also learned the plants I would have to include would also attract hummingbirds as well.

We made a list of plants we would want to include, decided where in the garden we locate these plants—and chose the area right under our kitchen window so we could watch—and looked for feeders to entice the butterflies and hummingbirds.  After the lists were made and feeders bought, there was nothing to do but wait for fall and winter to pass so we could begin our plans in the spring.

That first year was truly an experiment. In the past, I had always planted things in my garden I was familiar with, knowing what to expect and when.  With this garden, it was more of a question of following what I had read and waiting and watching.  I was pleased with the cone flowers and bee balm and yarrow and black-eyed-Susans.  It surprised me to have the phlox—plants I have been growing since I was a little girl—not do well and develop powder mold.  It delighted me to have the mini-roses—a type of rose I had not tried before—do very well.  And the daisies–THE DAISIES—took over!

Every year since that first year, I have added to or taken out plants.  My goal is not have to do a thing, once the initial weeding is done in the early spring.  And every year, it is closer to being the fact.  And the butterflies and hummingbirds are coming, more each year.  I have not had good luck with milkweed but my phlox have gradually improved.

The last two years, I have tried something new, something which goes against my planning of this garden and in doing so; I have improved it and have attracted more of those beautiful flying critters.  And it is more breathtaking than ever.  I plan to continue with this strategy.  I decided I wanted more of a wild look, more of a random feel and more of a surprise for ME.  I simply left the plants I had already planted where they were and bought wildflower seed mixes intended to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  Two years ago, I scattered the seeds in a bare portion of the garden and got some interesting plants such as asters and marigolds and one VERY BIG sunflower.  Last spring, I bought roll out flower mats and cut them in smaller sections and dispersed them in a very unmethodical way.  I had cosmos and lots of asters and more sunflowers than I thought could fit in that area but…I got my surprises last year and I was very happy.  And there was a little bit of a surprise I hadn’t expected as well.  Our entrance in the front of our house is formal, with hostas and daylilies and pots of pansies and geraniums.  And one, lone Queen Anne’s Lace alongside the hostas, looking out of place, but beautiful. Hubby asked me if I wanted it pulled and I kept telling him I liked there.  I don’t know how the Queen Anne’s got there—a seed carried on the wind?—but I liked it where it is.

Our children with autism are like those wildflower seeds. We’re not sure where they came from or how they happened to be with us, as part of our families–but they are part of us. They add their own special beauty to our perfect lives despite our plans. And it’s okay to enjoy their unexpected beauty.

Every month is Autism Awareness Month at our house!