Tuesday, October 04, 2011

My "Why"

Why do you do what you do? Why do you go to work every day, or not? What motivates you to do the things you do in life? These influences and your intended results are your "why".

These two are my "why".

As I am sitting here listening to the very loud sounds in my house - the older one is burp-singing in the shower, the younger one is talking incessantly and eating a peanut butter coated apple, the phone is ringing, the voice caller i.d. says another telemarketer wants to sell me something, and the dogs are licking my legs - the tension running up the back of my neck is making me begin to question why they are my "why".

In our daily activities, it is easy to get frustrated.  We all do.  I get frustrated when it takes Ian forty-five minutes to take a shower because he spends the first twenty minutes trying to get the water temperature right and then forgets to get in. I get frustrated from 4:45 until 9:30 p.m., which is when Ainsley talks non-stop. Every. Single. Day. The later it gets the higher her pitch goes and the deeper it drives a tension nail into my temple. I get frustrated when my children are so tired or unfocused that I have to give them step-by-step instructions on how to brush their teeth. I get frustrated when my husband and son are in a department store and are arguing so loudly that everyone in the three adjacent departments hears my son say, "I didn't pick my nose. I had an itch!"

But it could be worse. Much worse. And it isn't.

I used to think I was saving money for their college. In the traditional sense, higher education is becoming highly over-rated and I am not impressed with what it has to offer. It is a mold that we force people into, whether they fit or not. Then we try to hold them accountable for poor performance at something that doesn't meet their needs.

My goal for the fabulous duo has changed in recent months.  They are differently-abled. Traditional ways of doing just about everything don't work for them. Yet, they are capable of doing incredibly creative things, and both are very bright. One day they will each do something to change the world for the better. For certain, neither of them will take a traditional route to reach their own goals. It just isn't in the cards.

Rather than planning for the day my children leave home for college, I am preparing for a lifetime of having them with me, if that is what they need. It is certainly my intent that they be able to take care of themselves. Mamma WILL going on vacation without them once in a while. It would be nice if my parents can still come stay with them. Hopefully, when my dad is 90 that won't be necessary. Still, it's nice to have options, just in case.

I want these two beautiful lives to be able to take whatever varied course lies ahead of them, without having to conform to the expected order of events. When I brought them into this world, I was under the impression that they came with an eighteen year contract. After that, I would be free and clear and able to "par-tay like it's 1999".

Something tells me that ten years from now, they will still spend every night before bedtime reading Garfield comic books together on Ian's bed. Ainsley will still want my mom to sleep next to her when she visits. Ian will still be playing video games (or whatever has evolved by then) with my husband for way too many hours at a time. (It would be nice if that activity could involve total body movement and a little cardio instead of sitting in a chair using only fingers to play the games. Wii isn't cutting it in the exercise department. Just sayin'.)

Whatever it is that happens, I don't want them to be stuck in jobs they don't particularly enjoy or doing things that fail to connect them in some way to the world around them. I do want them to experience joy every single day. Meaning. Purpose. Fulfillment. To know their own "why", and to let it drive them to the pinnacle.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Long Walk to School

Ian and I got an early start for school this morning. With little dog pulling us to every tree and mailbox within a half mile of home, we made it to the street corner by the school in record time.

Instead of walking him to the building today, I asked if he could make it by himself from where we stood at the 3-way intersection. He said he yes, and as he took a step into the street, he looked over his shoulder at me and began our "good-bye" ritual ... just as a car was turning left into his path. Fortunately, the driver stopped in plenty of time. Ian was oblivious.

This is just one of the many reasons I cannot let him walk to school alone.  There are too many distractions that prevent him from focusing on the dangers that are so near he could touch them.  Some might say it is a lack of common sense.  That might be part of it, but I think it has much more to do with his inability to multi-task.  He can't cross the street, say good-bye to me, and remember where he is heading if he also has to worry about what "might" happen (even though being hit by a car is a very real possibility).  Prioritizing the dangers is next to impossible for him.

He continued to walk along the sidewalk that borders the street for about 100 feet. Where he should have turned along the circle drive toward the school, he continued along his straight path. I watched until I could no longer see him between all the cars. At that point I realized he might walk right past the school and into the park if I didn't redirect him.

So, little dog and I zig-zagged between moving cars and bolted across the lawn in front of the school, through the creeping carpool line and down the middle of the visitor parking lot until I could see him again. As Ian neared the bike racks, he turned right, and began following other students toward the building. When the bell rang, he followed the crowd inside, never noticing that I was less than 50 feet away.

It wasn't that he was lost. Perhaps a little uncertain of the many possible paths he could have taken to reach the school entrance is more likely the explanation for his chosen route.  He simply walked the same direction to the point at which I have been dropping him off when I drive him to school. It probably didn't occur to him that he might arrive sooner if he went a different way.  Familiarity guides so many of his decisions. Stay with what you know, because that works.

I have wondered for a couple of years how long it will take Ian to learn the way to school well enough that he can do it on his own. We will probably have to practice the same route over and over, a hundred times at least, before he feels comfortable doing it alone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why Don't Aspies Play?

As I walked home from school with my 8 year-old daughter today, I noticed many of the neighborhood children enjoying the sunny afternoon and playing with friends outside.  Some rode their bikes, others walked to the park. A few were walking leisurely home and talking. It's the same scene when I bring Ian home from middle school.

Instead of thinking about how nice it is to live in a neighborhood where the kids can still ride bikes and run through the yards playing games, it made me sad.  My children don't do those things that I enjoyed when I was their age. Most of the time, they prefer to come home to quiet, video games, homework (ok, they don't prefer that, but it's part of the schedule), and spending time with each other. Even if someone asked them to go for a bike ride they wouldn't, because they are both too embarrassed that they still need training wheels to keep their balance.

There are a few select kids who will venture forth to enter the worlds of Ian and Ainsley.  Often, that is one world. They have always been close, each others' favorite playmate and best friend.  They know each other like the backs of their own hands, almost as much as twins would.  Outsiders learn quickly that they prefer to be a package deal. They are most comfortable when they are together.

I wonder . . . is that enough for them?  Do they ever feel lonely? I worry about Ian, especially, because right now he really has only one good friend from school.  There are boys from our Lego club who he enjoys playing with a few times a month.  Is that enough?  Ainsley socializes a little more at school, but not much. She knows everyone, but when it comes down to true friends even she really has only one.

Does it bother them that they don't ride bikes and run through the neighborhood? Do they even want to have friends? Are the rules of social interaction so complicated that they would just prefer not to bother at all? If I ask these questions out loud, will it open the floodgates of self-pity for them?

Are they happy?

I think Ainsley is, but I'm not always sure about Ian.  He's a tough egg to crack.

There are times when he knows a situation calls for a smile, and I can watch as his brain slowly sends the message to the corners of his mouth to turn upward. These contrived faces are obvious to me because his eyes don't reflect what the rest of his face is indicating.  At least he knows when to fake it. Other people are not always aware of how difficult it is for him to read unfamiliar situations. Does this make other children less interested in being his friend? Is it just too hard to be his friend that no one wants to make the effort?

Every morning when we part company at school, he says good-bye to me at least 4 times with and I-love-you in the middle. There is no emotion on his face, only words.  We regularly cause the carpool line to be backed up into the street because of our tradition that has been going on for over 6 years. I love those moments, and at the same time it tears at my heart to say good-bye that way.

As I look at the clock and see that it isn't long until I'll pick him up from school, I am looking forward to seeing his genuine smile, the one that lets me know how glad he is to see me. I've missed him today. Maybe we'll work on some friendships this afternoon ... if they want to.