Two weeks ago I received an e-mail from a woman who also has a child with autism.
She was less than happy with me.
And my blog.
I stumbled on your blog through a friend on Facebook, and even though you write well….. I feel like everything you say is sugar-coated… like you don’t tell the real story of how hard it is. I don’t mean any disrespect. But I have a 5 year old autistic son. He was diagnosed 6 months ago, and my husband and I are devastated. We can’t agree on anything, my son has violent temper tantrums, and he doesn’t show me love or even respond when I show him love. Why don’t you write more about these things or do they just not happen to you?
(insert deep sigh here)
Dear Frustrated Mom….
I remember when Zion was newly diagnosed. I was also devastated.
He was only 2 years old then. He is 10 now.
I wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone, and I’m deeply sorry for what you’re going through.
But there was a time when I felt just like you feel now.
But I have had 8 years to get to where I am now.
You’ve only had 6 months.
And it took me dang near 3 years to go through the grieving process.
You know there is a grieving process, right?
And that it is a good thing to grieve?
Because you must acknowledge that you have lost something.
You have lost the child you thought and imagined and dreamed you would have, and that was replaced with the harsh reality of a child with special needs.
No one signs up for that.
But once it happens, you must grieve.
It is okay to cry. As a matter of fact, you must. It is imperative that you recognize how hard this journey is going to be on you, on your son, and on your marriage. I highly recommend that you do this with a licensed grief counselor.
And as you work through the stages of grief, (with your spouse), when you come to the final stage of grieving, you will be able to face this challenge with new perspective.
That final stage is acceptance.
Until then, for today I will tell a story that I wouldn’t normally tell.
Because it is gross.
(It is also a classic example of how I can laugh at pretty much anything.)
Last weekend, I was sitting in the living room with Zoë, looking at kitchen remodeling ideas on Pinterest.
Zion was in the media room, lining up his movies and scripting the intro to each of those movies.
I could hear him chattering away as I scrolled through screens full of antiqued cabinets, hardwood floors, and granite countertops.
I was so lost in my dream world that I didn’t notice that Zion’s chattering had stopped and it was very quiet.
Quiet is not good.
Not with Zion.
I got up slowly, as if my own stealth and quiet tip-toeing would make the impending disaster any better.
When I rounded the corner, Zion was standing up with his hand in the air.
It was covered in something.
Before I could react, he looked at his hand and said “I see the poop!”
Yes, Zion is 10. But sometimes he waits too long to go to the restroom, because he is having fun playing. Hence, he has accidents in his pants.
And not toddler accidents. These are man-sized accidents.
Both in quantity and in odor.
I shouted, “Be still! And don’t touch anything!”
I sprinted to the linen closet, (as much as I can sprint) and by the time I was coming back down the hallway, Zion was already rounding the corner into the bathroom.
Had he done what I’d asked?
Instead he had removed his pants, Underoos and all, and trailed poo all the way to the bathroom, Hansel and Gretel style.
I yelled “ZION! HOLD STILL!”
I peeked into the bathroom.
There were poo footprints.
There were poo smear marks.
There was even a poo handprint on the white door.
OMG is that a smiley face?
It was a Poo Picasso.
I turned around and Zoë (Zion’s 12 year old sister) was standing right behind me.
We looked at each other for a minute.
Then we busted out laughing.
Now, believe me, there was a time when I would have plopped down on the floor and cried for 20 minutes…lamenting my child, my single-parenthood, my pitiful existence.
But years of this type of situation have taught me that I can choose the way I react.
I can be angry and negative and focus on the poo.
Or I can laugh and find the silver-lining, and sugar-coat it a bit.
This is hard to remember when you’re on your hands and knees, scrubbing stains out of the carpet.
But I try to find the lessons.
It is okay to be frustrated and sad.
But life is too short to stay that way.
It took Zoë and I a long time to clean up that mess.
And so it goes with life.
So to that dear frustrated mom….your journey has just begun, and please believe there will always be poo.
That much will not change.
I just choose to sugar-coat the poo instead of throwing it into the fan.