12.5.15

...tick tock tick...

I'm running out of time.
I feel it.
This obligation to rush.  This overwhelming, breath-holding, heart-pounding compulsion to squeeze every last thing into every last moment before that timer buzzes.

I vaguely remember the early days when time was at a standstill and weeks dragged on, one to the next.  When every day was full to the brim, but never seemed to end.  When change was slow and steady, and growth was measured in ounces and months.  And when, more importantly, the only real obligation was to ourselves and what we wanted this life of ours to look like.

Fast forward through all those ounces and all those months...fast forward through pounds and years.
Fast forward to today.
Today, in May.
Fifth grade but a month from ending. The first "graduation" on the horizon.  Puberty rearing its melodramatic, emotionally-unstable head.  The infant-toddler-little boy-big boy swallowed up by this man-child.  This ever-changing creature that I don't yet know...made up of all those recognizable pieces but somehow, suddenly, reassembled into a stranger. 

The old familiar is disappearing.  I say goodbye to a little more of it with every passing day.  I feel as though I'm trapped inside of a living pulse of heartbreak.  

For what I now realize was too brief a time, our whole lives were each other.  His needs filled mine, as my lessons filled his.  We were a team of two.  One solid unit.  Family.

That clock has been ticking all along.  Time marching steadily, stealthily by.

I have been his whole world.  He has been mine.  He is my whole heart.  

But 12 years have come and gone.  I am being left behind.  Pushed aside to make room for new people, new experiences.  He is my whole world, and my whole heart...but I am no longer his.  

It hurts.
  
The clock keeps ticking.  Now I hear it...the inexorable pulse drumming away underneath our day to day.  At 2am it pounds in my ears.  At 4pm it spurs me on, as I struggle to cram as much quality time into each available minute as I can.  Homework gets in the way.  The schoolday is my enemy.  I'm running out of time, and the obligations keep mounting. Projects and essays and work and phone calls.  Appointments and bedtimes and arguments and illness.  I want to yell STOP!  Loudly, angrily, silencing the chatter.  I want to push the pause button and hold off the inevitable for another 12 years.  I want to rewind, and live it all over again in slow motion.  I want to savour the childhood and the child.  I haven't had enough time yet.  I haven't had my fill.  I want so much more.

He is my whole heart. 

I can feel the walls of the box closing in around me.  The one he's pushing me into, though he doesn't even realize it.  I have gone from occupying every nook and cranny, every inch and mile.  I have gone from being so much larger than life. I have gone from being the framework of his whole world. Slowly, I'm shrinking to fit as he unconsciously builds the walls that will be my future.  It aches, this shrinking down. It's tight and rigid, and hard to breathe.  I went from being everything to something.  The box keeps getting smaller.  Soon, I fear, I will be inside the box.  And the box will be placed high up on a shelf.  "Mother", it will read in black Sharpie ink.  It will sit there on the high shelf as part of the collection.  Just another of the many bits and pieces that make up his whole, full life.  

I'll live in that box, observing but removed.  No longer his go-to person. No longer the answer for every question, the comforter for every pain, the soft place to land.   I'll become the back-up.  The fall back on. The cherished memory.  The old faithful.  The obligation that gets in the way of freedom.

He'll be my whole heart.  But I'll just be a piece of his.

I'm running out of time, and I don't want to do as I must.  I don't want to take my rightful place in that box.  I don't want to become an observer in his life.  I want to remain an experiencer, right in the thick of it.

I'm running out of time.  Time to enjoy the last moments of his childhood.  Time to impart wisdom and humor and grace.  Time to relish in being his favourite person. Time to be his cherished Mami. 

The clock is ticking.  It seems to speed up each day.  Everything is getting in the way.

I want so much more for him than just myself.  But I want nothing more for myself than just him.  

The time will come, and I will do as I must.  I know I will.  Because I want his life to be whole and full and free.  I will do what every good mother before and after has done or will.  I will sever the ties and smile as I wave goodbye, hiding the agony inside where he can't see it.  I will watch my whole heart go off into the wide world and pray that he keeps it safe from harm.  

But just for now, I want to tighten those knots, double up those ties and bonds.  I want to hold on with both hands and stretch out every moment to its limits.  I want to be a part of it all.  I want to answer the questions and comfort the pains and be his soft place to land.  Because I know it's almost over.  Time is fleeting.  Soon I'll only have the memories. 

I'm running out of time.      

~Leanna




9.5.15

...motherhood sucks...

Seriously.

This gig can suck.  

Suck the life right out of you.  Suck the time and the energy and the patience and the... Yeah, that list could go on and on.  Let's. Just. Not.

Spring break started off on a high note.  Pacing back and forth at the bottom of the drive, waiting for Mister Man's bus to arrive and gift me back the simple joys of  "family life" for a blissful, solid week.
Ah, vacation.  Time to reconnect.    Time to rest...relax....enjoy childhood and parenting.  No pressure...no alerts or alarms or deadlines...

It started on a high note.  The bus pulled up...the boy hopped out.  I grabbed his bookbag and chromebook and lunch bag (as I do) and we hiked back up the drive hand in hand.  Into the house...already giggling through plans for the evening. (Boardgames and popcorn outside, to be sure!) empty the bag....open the folder...

Crash!  High notes and high hopes took a tumble.  For inside that "should have been empty" folder was a giant packet of papers, paperclipped because no staple could hold them all.  

Invention Convention

Over a dozen pages outlining  the upcoming science fair, chock full of deadlines and outlines and parental suckiness. 

Oh yeah, motherhood sucks. 

(I remember being a child.  A child with projects due.  That sucked too.)

So there went the break portion of Spring Break.  Right out the door.  Instead of boardgames and popcorn, we hashed out hypotheses and proposals on draft paper.  I won't bore you with the details, but a final decision was rendered the night before school resumed.  Cue Mami, typing away at the proposal long after Mister Man has conked out next to her!

The proposal was accepted.  A note from the teacher reminded my would-be inventor that this year a working model was required. 

Aw, hell!

Working?  Model?  Can I send in my old portfolio instead?!?

Motherhood sucks.  

I'm already laying the emotional groundwork for my son if/when this turns into his first failure.  Because it's May.  I rallied the troops (do the two of us count as troops?) and blasted through September, October, November.  I class-mom'ed it up in December and January and February. I pushed us through March and April with sheer determination and lots of allergy meds.  I have typed and cut and glued.  I built a German Village.  I painted set pieces.  I have yearbooked and costume paraded and lunch ladied my little heart out.  I have homeworked and cello practiced and created 25 individual German walled cities.  I have IEP'ed and argued and advocated.  I have put things together and torn things down and decorated the classroom and hallways and teachers' lounge.  I have served food and discipline and life lessons.  I'm all PTO'ed out.  

And now it's May.  And I just don't care anymore.  It's May and he's graduating in a month.  It's May and he's maintained straight A's since Kindergarten.   It's May and this freaking project is due on Thursday and it is isn't even begun.

Because it's May and I don't know how to build computer application enabled tech devices for special needs  kids.  I don't even know how to fake it.  And neither does he.

But damn it, there's that proposal already submitted and accepted.  There's that due date in red on the calendar.  And there's that "F"...that big giant stinking failing grade (the first one ever)  if I don't miraculously figure out how to help him build this fabulous, brilliantly theorized, impossible invention.

Tomorrow is Mothers' Day.

Guess what we'll be doing?

Motherhood sucks.

~Leanna 





7.5.15

...think fast...

Mister Man is bright, no doubt about it.  He always has been.  His mind is a whirring, ticking, clicking machine.  He's always thinking.

Always.

Always. Even at 3a.m. when he wakes me up to discuss the designs for his invention for the upcoming science fair. 

Even in the shower...when lathering up and rinsing off gets in the way of 'his process'. 

Not a morning goes by when he doesn't come tearing out of the bathroom, towel barely covering the necessities, to impart some newly discovered wisdom to me.  That early in the day, it's usually about design specs for future Transformers.  Super important.  And always right in the middle of my breakfast prep so I drop something, splatter hot food, slice my finger, etc...  Goodness knows my concentration goes right out the window the moment my ears process his voice.  

(Motherhood...it's a danger zone!)

At any given moment (yes, probably even when he's fast asleep) his brain is racing away.  So often when I look over at him, he's completely still...frozen in place...his eyes fastened on some distant horizon.  Conversations with him are never linear...nor circular for that matter,  I suppose.  Rather, they hop about from one topic to another....unrelated in any logical way to all but him.  One leads into three more which dissolve into something else entirely.  Pay attention or you'll get lost.  I do.  All the time.  And then I'm stuck with my own frozen expression as I search endlessly for that dropped stitch in a tangle of topics. 

 He thinks fast.
I can't always keep up.
Our conversations jump all over the place.
It keeps things interesting.

(Maybe that's partly why I still read-aloud to him in the morning...I'm stalling before conversing until the coffee can kick in and give me a fighting chance!)
Lately, I've become much more aware of this...as though after years of unconscious acceptance my subconscious suddenly issued a broadcast one morning.

Alert! Alert! You're falling behind. You're missing the point.

Now, all the time, I find myself consciously struggling to keep up...to stay focused...to follow each thread as it weaves in and out of a conversation.  Emphasis on the struggling there.  I simply can't keep up. He switches from topic to topic so quickly...while it takes me several sentences in to even realize that the previous topic has been abandoned. By the time I catch up, he's already moving on to the next one.

I'm thinking of requiring an outline first! Or a pre-conversation warm up? Maybe flashcards? At the very least, an I.V. drip for my coffee? 
 ~Leanna

17.4.15

...life interrupted...

We're readers.  This family.  We read first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  We read on park benches and in cafeterias.  We pack books in our luggage when we travel, and we stow others in the car every time we leave the house.  We bring books to the beach and to restaurants and to amusement parks.  

We're readers.  

We're escape artists.  We wander in and out of distant landscapes and other lives.  We disappear  between two covers and drown out the world.  We make friends and enemies and memories with people and places and creatures of black and white, colored in by our imaginations.  

The greatest gift life afforded me was my son.  The greatest gift I gave him was the stories.  I read to him in the womb, and stayed up late rocking him gently and whispering fairytales.  I read to him at every meal and during every morning and every night.  I read to him and he began to read to me.  Little words...little syllables. Strung together stunted sentences.  See dog run.  

Time passed as time does.  The sentences grew longer...the syllables multiplied.  From board books to Golden Books...paperbacks to hardcovers.  And still I read to him, and he read to me.  I read to him as we waited for the bus to arrive on his first day of kindergarten.  The Hardy Boys.  I read to him this morning, and every morning between that first day and this one.  The Hardy Boys.  We're working our way through the collection. Every day, we read.  

He reads his own books now.  Treasures purchased from the thrift store with tightly-fisted allowance.  Indulgent tomes bought with gift cards.  Stacks that topple over from the library.  Science fiction and fantasy co-habitate with Garfield.  Transformers and Doctor Who live next to Warriors.  

His teacher sends home a reading log each week.  At the very top is the reading requirement...100 minutes per week.  I smirk every time I sign off on the bottom...he averages twice that daily.  I'm tired of filling them out...pointless wastes of paper.  

I've never punished him for staying up late to read...under the covers with a flashlight.  I never will.  I did the same thing when I was his age.  Sometimes I do it now.

We read, and I am reminded that despite everything else,  I am lucky.  I got just what I wanted.  I dreamt of a family all curled up in a living room reading, when I was pregnant with him.  I imagined soft, quiet nights with warm mugs and turning pages.  I wished for it.  I got just what I wanted.  

When homework is light and we've time to spare, we'll while away the afternoon with books.  He with his.  Me with mine.  We'll sit in the living room or out in the yard...next to each other and yet miles apart...traipsing about on adventures in other worlds.  Disappearing.

Until he interrupts.  Until he reads aloud at me while I'm still underwater...dragging me up to the surface with his voice.  Interrupting my exploration...my imagination...my story.  Inspired to share something he found funny or frightening or curious.  Insistent that I experience it as well.  Interrupting.  

~Leanna
  

...stand alone...

Our town library has recently adopted a Lego Club program.  Previously, we had to travel quite a bit farther to a different library in our county system to attend their once-monthly offering, and the travel time always cut into my dinner prep.  So it's quite nice to now be able to just pop down the road to our library instead. The fact that it's one of his most-favourite places is the icing on the cake.  I know every time we walk in the doors, he'll be fine.  No high-alert autism-parenting needed!

 Several years ago he and I sat down one afternoon after yet another in-store meltdown, to compose a list of his favourite and least favourite places...and why they were so determined.  At the top of his least favourite places?  WalMart.  Bad smell, crowded, buzzy sounds, and ouchy lighting that hurt his head were his reasons.  What a lightbulb moment that was.  I always get a headache and nausea when I go into WalMart.  Every single time.  I literally have to rush in, grab the few things I can only every get there, and rush back out in under 5 minutes if I want to avoid symptoms.  Now I know why!

Anyhow, among his favourite places....in fact, topping the list...was the library in town.  He told me the lighting is just right, the sound is just right and he likes the way the books smell.  Plus, the window seat is both comfy and hidden, so he can curl up with Henry and a pile of adventures, while disappearing into the woodwork. Add in the playground in back? So great his 6 year old self named it The Super Playground...which we still call it now!  Given all that, you can probably guess that we spend as much time in this happy place as possible.  I check the website at the start of each month to see what program offerings there are and sign him up as soon as registration opens.  The librarians there all know him by name and favourite book searches.  In fact, there's one librarian who beats him to the punch every time...calling up the list of books he usually inquires about before he even gets to her desk.  They've each taken me aside at various points to comment on his growth and improvement.  One of my intangible treasures is a whispered conversation in the stacks several years ago, when his favourite librarian gleefully told me he made eye contact with her for the first time. She was positively giddy!  So sweet!

Yesterday evening, we swung by for the second session of the new Lego Club.  Thankfully, it was a light homework night!  The turn-out is good for a new program, though the autism-parent in me is nervous for the day it really takes off.  Crowds and the volume they tend to create are both major triggers for him.  I usually wait back a bit these days at the beginning, checking out the new fiction arrivals before sneaking into the program room to observe.  There was a time, not so very long ago, when he simply would not participate without me and deflected all the decision making in any project onto me.  In the past year or so I've become much better at removing myself from the equation, and he has gradually put his feelers out...

So in I snuck, right behind his back, and made my way to the very corner where the window seat was partially blocked by an easel.  From there, I could sit quietly and watch as he constructed.  All the other tables were full...four or five children and/or parents all dipping into the community bin for Lego bricks.  Their projects spreading out across the table, running into one another and onto the floor.  Little arguments here and there, as children vied for some suddenly uncovered piece in the bin. The quiet compromises of their parents in hushed tones and gently firm hands.  

But over at the back table, there was but one pair of hands dipping in and out of the bin.  One pair of hands feverishly constructing, destructing and rebuilding.  My son sat alone in the middle of the broad expanse.  Seemingly oblivious to the presence of others, or the sound of their chatter.  Henry sat in the chair next to him...purposely seated in such a way as to get the best view of the project underway.  I looked at the other tables and listened to the buzz of conversations, then back to his table where he worked steadily in silence.  

My son is an independent sort of fellow.  Given his druthers, he'd choose isolation as his workspace every time. Even when that's not an option, he finds a way to create it for himself...tuning out the world completely.   Social gatherings overwhelm him.  Group projects unhinge him.  Sometimes even my involvement in a task sets off a chain reaction of frustration. Cooperation and compromise are not in his toolbox.  

I sat in that corner, unobserved myself, watching the projects slowly come together.  I watched my son complete his task without ever acknowledging the world around him...without ever joining in on the group's activity.  I smiled now and then as I watched him adjust his creation...shoulders tensing in frustration and lowering when he solved his problem.  I can read him like a book.  His frame full of clues.  Never once did I feel the need to get up and go to his side.   He didn't need me.  He had it well in hand.  He could stand alone.



So he did.  He sat alone at the table and disappeared into his own world while he created.  He sat alone at  the table and disappeared into that world populated with Transformers and Creepers and Henry and Katja and Mami.  He sat alone, but he wasn't.    

~Leanna




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