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Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Only Way to Walk

I confess  ~I am glad that I was 180 miles away from Blue this weekend. The distance betwen us allowed me not to fully take on his anxiety the way that I normally do. He was overwhelmed with his research paper and other homework assignments. Of course as always, I felt guilty for leaving, but once I did, I was happy with my decision.

I went to an adult party Friday night at my friend's house in Houston. Well, it wasn't exactly all adults. There were children and teenagers present, but not mine.  It's difficult for me to socialize at a party if my children are present. Who am I kidding? I'm so out of practice, it's hard for me to socialize period, these days. I've reached the point in life, where I don't like small talk. It feels like a waste of my already limited energy. If we're not going to connect --if I'm not learning anything real about you, your life, your world view, or sharing something real about mine, I would rather sit in a corner and play with the animals and small children. Children and pets are always authentic.

But of course, I digress...

During the party, I started getting a texts and missed calls from Blue. He was freaking out about his research paper that was due on Monday. He had gathered so much information and couldn't sort through it all, to narrow it down to a reasonable size, in order to complete the paper. He had already used extended time over the Thankgiving break to get it finished.

After several panicky texts. I called to talk to him. It ended up being a waste of energy. He wasn't listening to anything that I said. He was just venting and spriraling himself up into oblivion. When he finally stopped to take a breath, I redirected him to some of the resources of help that he does usually listen to (his mentor Kylie, his Language Arts teacher and his therapist)  and then I hung up.

The next day, I talked to him one more time where again, he would hardly let me get a word in.
Okay, I get it. Lesson learned. It takes me a while sometimes.

Talking to him is a pointless energy drain when he's like this. After this conversation, I decided that we would only have text communication for the rest of the weekend. This way, I could temper my reactions and empathize with his feelings, instead of being compelled to offer advice that he wouldn't take anyway. I would give short, concise responses that would not translate my heightened state of emotion. Hopefully, therefore, not increasing his emotion.

He continued to rant via text about not having enough time to do everything and feeling pulled in too many directions. He came up with objections to all suggestions given to him by his support system.

Instead of getting upset and emotional, I texted responses saying things like...

"When you're ready, I'm sure you will take one step at a time. It's the only way to walk."

"I know you will get through this."

"A lot of people have issues with procrastination. I know I do. Sometimes, I have to force myself to start working. I just do my best.."

"I can't afford to be a perfectionist when I need to get things done. I have to relax my high standards, because I just want to finish."

His reaction...

"Nothing is going to work!!! I can't do anything! I'm too slow at everything!"

My response...

"You sound upset. I'll be glad when this nightmare is over for you."

"I know that there will be a resolution in the end, and I'm willing to bet it won't be death."

 "As Dory says, "Just keep swimming!"

His reaction...

"What if I can't complete it? What about this other assignment? What about the other project?"

"Feeling like I will never finish, makes me want to shut down and do nothing."

My response...

"It must suck to feel that way. Well, all you can do is your best."

Then, I started sending messages about chunks of time that I would not be available at all --where my phone would be on do not disturb.  This would give him chunks of time to choose to do the work or not.

I was in Houston with my husband visitng my girlfriend. I needed this time. I don't have much adult socialization (other than online) when I'm at home.

I texted statements like, "I'm going to take a nap now. I won't be available for a while."

Or, "I'm going to brunch. I will not be able to respond for the next three hours."

And then finally, "I am going to dinner and a concert. I won't be able to respond for the rest of the night."

Finally, Sunday night while I was at the concert (Barbra Freaking Streisand, by the way! And Yes. She was phenomenal! It was the concert of a lifetime, that I will never forget. Thank you bestie for getting tickets for us! I love you more than cookies!) I received this message from Blue...

He said, "I know you won't read this tonight, but I took the rest of the day and finshed my final paper. Ms. A. (our neighbor) will be picking me up early in the morning so I can finish my test review then."

Ah yes! He has risen to the expectation!

At the intermission, I responded, "I am so proud of you!!!"

He didn't finish everything he had on his plate, but he did finish his paper. One of the reasons it was so difficult for him, is that he such felt deep emotion for his subject, which was Racism in America.  He wanted to put everything in that he had learned in the paper, but he was out of time and it was only supposed to be a 5 page paper.

Here is one of my favorite lines that he wrote.

" order to eradicate racism once and for all, we primarily have to face the discomforting battle of defeating implicit bias, along with peacefully advocating for racial integration, reform the criminal justice system, and most importantly, remember to fight oppression with love instead of hate."

Has he been listening to his mama, after all? 

I think we both made progress this weekend.
His was putting together a brilliant piece of writing, despite his challenges.
Mine, was letting go just a little bit more.
The distance between us allowed us both to grow.
I knew he could do it.
One step at a time.
It's the only way to walk.

Monday, November 21, 2016

In the Darkness of Morning

The first phone call came in at 6:30 a.m. "Mom how did this happen? What are we going to do?" On that Wednesday morning, we woke up to the realization that we had a new President. My boys were scared. I can't remember ever feeling literaly scared for our lives because of who became our President.

Editorial Note: You don't have to agree with the feelings that I have shared in this piece. 
 I am an African American woman, a mother,  of 3 boys, 2 with  hidden disabilities. I am 
writing from the point of view of my life experiences.
 Yours may be different. I honor and accept that.
 I do ask that you be respectful, or chose not to read. 
I'm good with that. 

Sometimes, I don't know where the words come from when I'm trying to keep the boys calm, especially, when I'm not.  I heard my voice say, "We're going to go to work and to school. I tell you what we're not going to do. We're not going to argue with others about their feelings. We're not going to respond to racist or bigoted comments with negativity. We're going to keep living our lives as we always have."

Kendal (Red) loves to argue with people, even when he has no basis or knowledge for his argument.  He won't actually read anything about the election or the candidates. He just listens to who ever is talking, the loudest. (Kind of like a lot of Americans did in this election.) Apparently a lot of  people listened to the loud mouth liar's stories of gloom, about how horrible everything is in America. How he is going to be our savior. How? I'm not sure, because he did a lot of double talking without saying anything of substance.  He changed his story as often as he changed his clothes.

Kendal voted for the first time.  I'm not ashamed to say I dragged him to the polling place and told him that every vote counts. "But this is a Republican state," he said. "We still have to vote. We have to make our voices heard. Some of our ancestors died so that we would have this right."

I couldn't help him in the voting booth, but I know that he went with his heart, and against racism. He knows that only one of the candidates had plans to do anything to help people with disabilities.

That Wednesday morning, I hoped that he wouldn't go to work with an angry mentality, looking for an argument where ever he could find one. It could get ugly, real fast.

By 7 a.m. Blue was standing in my doorway, in the darkness, his head hanging down, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and boxers.

"Mom. How am I supposed to go to school and face these people today? I can't do this.  I can not listen to all of those ignorant kids, who will say idiotic things, and gloat about the fact that he won. Most of them have no idea how we will be effected!"

Without the right to vote because they are only seventeen, a number of his friends are politically passionate. They've been debating for months as this ugly election cycle unfolded. Blue's mind is completely open to all points of view. In this Red state of Texas, you can bet he heard the views on the from those who support the Republican Party. As an independent thinker, he does not simply follow the political ideation of his parents. He's more academic about it. He reads. He does research. He even goes back into Presidential, American and World history to evaluate what has happened in the past, so that he can assess what may happen now. He is no fan of Hillary Clinton or a fan of any particular party. Still, because of the racist rhetoric that had been spewed during the election season, he was disappointed and even frightened by the person who was elected.

To be honest, he would have been frightened in another way if Hillary had been elected. He questioned her position on Syria. He made me start doing research on the current situation, so that I could have a half-way intelligent conversation about it with him.

My emotions were all over the map that morning. I went from denial, to disbelief, to dissappointment, anger, fear and profound sadness.

I was the person who told Blue a year ago, "Don't worry. It will never happen. There's no way in hell, the majority of Americans will vote for that guy!"

Well, the majority did not vote for him, and yet, he was elected.
Ha! Never say never. 
America has a President Elect who used hatred, racism, and sexism as a part of his platform.
America has elected a President who publicly made fun of a man with disabilities. What a horrific example to set for the children of today.
We have a elected President who spoke of sexual assault against women, and then casually dismissed it as "locker room talk," as if it was no big deal.
We have a President Elect who appears to be all about people who look just like him, white, male and wealthy.
We have a President Elect who talks about not allowing people into our country who are Muslim, and having the ones who are here be on some kind of registry. Sound like any other fascist leader in world history? 
He talks about deporting thousands of Mexicans, breaking up their families and building a wall to keep others from coming in.
As far as I'm concerned, America bought a lemon from a used car salesman. He played on working class people who feel disinfranchised with our government for various reasons.
He double talked about helping the working class, while is life has demonstrated that what he cares about, is making and keeping as much money as he can for himself and others who look like him.
He talks about more tax cuts for the wealthy, when he doesn't pay any taxes.
I pay taxes! A lot of freakin' taxes!

The big question I am asking myself is, what will this mean for our family?
I have three black sons.
What will be the climate of this America be, since we have elected a leader to the highest office in our country, who used racism to incite violence at his rallies during his run for office?

On that Wednesday morning, my boys were scared and frankly, I was too.  I didn't have the luxury of wallowing in all of my feelings. My boys have autism and high anxiety. When their anxiety is high, I have to appear to be calm. I have to figure out a way to explain the unexplainable, even when I am as confused and upset as they are.

As people of color, we have always had no choice but to face the music. Racism and descrimination is not new to us. The boys have been sheltered from a lot of it. They have never lived in the hood. They have always lived in a house, in the surburbs, in a racially diverse community.
They have never attended schools where the population is so poor that they don't get the same learning opportunites and access to technology, that everyone else does --a school where their special education resources are minimal. We have worked hard to give them the best possible opportunities, despite our challenges.

Sure, they've received strange looks when walking through a store.
Sure, they have been the ony black kid in their class.
They been called the N word, more than once. We all have.
They have never NOT been hired, or not promoted when they were more qualified than a white counterpart. I have. Their Father has. 

Still, they are cognizant enough to see that black men are being killed and incarcerated by police at a disproportinate rate.
They are fearful about learning to drive because they may be pulled over for driving while black. Their father has, and he has the nerve to drive a fancy car. They've seen it happen to me. They've seen me pulled over, detained and given a warning for something I did not do, while in a predominantly white neighborhood, while also driving a fancy car. 
Because of their autism, their facial expressions may indicate nervousness or even anger if they were pulled over, which could be interpreted the wrong way and their life could be ended in the blink of an eye.
They know this much about racism.

In the fog, I said to Blue, "Our country and our people have been through times worse than this. We lived through slavery. We lived through the depression, through the Civil Rights Movement. We lived through Presidents who took us to wars we should not have been in.
We survive.
We get through.
We get up.
We go to work.
We go to school and do our best.
We build our own life.
We take care of each other, and try to make whatever small changes in the world around us that we can make."

Blue's response, "People died going through all of those things."
He is right.
Some did die, but overall, our nation survived.
I sensed his dispair, his vulnerabitlity.
His anxiety wants him to live in a world that he can control.
It just became more uncontrollable.

Photo Credit to Someone other than me.  Found it on FB. 
I tried to bring these astronomical feelings and worries down to a size that he can handle. "The one thing we can do on this day, is show someone love and compassion. Show people that some of the hate-filled perceptions they have about us, are dead wrong. Go to school.  Kill them with kindness and your intelect, as your dad always says. You can control that."

That's all I could come up with in the moment. I don't know if I totally believed what I said, myself, but those were the words that came out in the darkness of morning, after not having slept most of the night. I had awakened at four a.m., unable to go back to sleep until I found out the results of the eletion. Once I found out, sleep eluded me.

Blue was still too upset to start getting ready to school. He ranted for a while. I listened, and then asked him, "What choice do we have? Do we just lay down and say the world is over? That's not an option. We have to keep going."

He didn't want to go to school. Part of me didn't want to send him. If he was half as tired, sad and pissed as I was, I didn't know how he would make it through the day.
He's younger. He had slept. He has already missed too much school this year.
I sent him.

It wasn't an hour later, after I dropped him off that he texted me.

Him -"I can't be here surrounded by these people. F*@% them!"
Me -"Love them. Meet ignorance with love. That's how we win,"
Him -"That's useless. They're arrogant! I can't change any of them!"
Me -"Never give up. You're generalizing all of them.  We don't want people to do that to us. Probably more than half of your classmates feel the same way you do."
Him -"But now one of the most arrogant racists in the world, is now the face of America! People all over the world are going to hate us!"
Me -"There is still more love than hate in the world. Today, you are surrounded by the same people you were surrounded by yesterday. You can do this."
Him -"Maybe if they hadn't LIED to us and said America is about freedom!"

I decided to share with Blue the words from a friend of mine, another autism mom, an Advocate and a champion for others. We have become friends through my online autism network. She volunteered many hours for Hillary -for equality during this election. She also served on President Obama's transition team when he was elected. She has young children with autism. She is a warrior for them and many others in the city in which she lives.  She is a total rock star!

My friend Anna wrote on Facebook and I quote, in part,

"I know many of you are devasted and afraid of what yesterdays election results mean for women, African Americans, Latinos, AAPIs, LGBTWIA, and people with disabilities. My son doesn't understand why Hillary Clinton is not President and a bully like Donald Trump, is. It's hard. I'm sending my love. We will get through this together...when you have nothing to lose, when you have always been the underdog, you get used to fighting back. I'm not giving up on our dreams and our vision for an inclusive and just society --not today, not ever... Stay positive!"

After I sent her words to him via text,  I didn't hear from him for the rest of the day.
Coming home from school up, giving in, was not an option.

Worried, I called the school to see if there would be anyone on campus to talk things through with those who may be upset about the results the election. I guess I forgot where we live for a second.  We live in Texas. We live in a school district that asked parents if they wanted to "opt out" when President Obama wanted to address the nation's children in school, about the importance of education. I will never forget the racial undertones in that note they sent home. If you don't want your chidren listening to this black, Harvard Educated, Democratic President, sign on the dotted line. 

Most of the people who live in this community are not upset. They didn't lose anything.  62% of the county that we live in, voted for this outcome.  Most don't have anything to fear. They don't have to worry that racism is more acceptable now. Most don't have to think that people who have disabilities or differences, were mocked by the man who was elected, thereby making it more aceptable for others to do the same.

My sons live surrounded by people who are oblivious to their challenges. Most people are voted thinking  of their own situation and what will help them. How others who don't have their privilege are affected, is probably not even be a blip on their radar.

I realize that the 60 million people who voted for this candidate are not all racist. There are many good people who voted for this outcome. They had their reasons. Some voted for change. Some voted for an outsider, a strong leader who they believe will shake things up in Washington. Some voted for jobs that we are losing to other countries. Some voted against a political system that they feel has ignored them.

What they did not vote against, is racism.  Racism was not a deal breaker.  That is a hard pill to swallow. I'm choking on it.

I could be angry with the so called good people who voted for him, despite his personal failures, depite the freedoms that are at stake.  But what does that anger do for us?  When I'm angry, I can't see clearly. I've decided to try my best not to be angry, but to be motivated. More motivated than ever to fight for those who are being marginalized because of their differences.

The question we should all be asking is, "What can we do that will actually help our country, given our current circumstances?"

We continue to live our lives.
We continue to do our best in our jobs, and in school.
We become the change we want to see in the world.
We can't run.
We won't hide.
We get involved.
We fight -just as I have fought for my children's rights to a fair and appropriate public education.
The fight isn't new. It's just more blatant, and impossible to ignore. We can't sit back, and just wait and see what this guy is going to do, and hope for the best.  I hoped for the best outcome of this election. That didn't work out so well for us.

As I try to find something positive in this situation, I have come to realize that there are more people who are in this fight for equality. As I browse through my Facebook newsfeed, I see more support for the fight, than I ever have before, from people of all races, politcial backgrounds, sexual orientation and religions. I'm one of the lucky ones I guess.  My friends are racially and culturally diverse, but very few voted in a way that could compromise the freedoms of others.

It is my prayer that this new dialog will lead to us banding together in action. I pray that more of us will actively stand up and fight for the rights of everyone in this country. That we will not sit back and say, this is happening to those people. It doesn't affect me.  When one group of people starts losing their rights in this society, it's only a matter of time before there is another group, and then another. This effects all of us.

When we see the President Elect filling up his transition team with more faces of White Supremacy, we have to ask ourselves, what the hell have we done?
We can not remain silent.
We must be vigilent.
We have to actively stay on our leaders in the Senate and in Congress, to make sure they do not allow our country to be further divided.
WE MUST work together.
We can't sit back and just watch it all happen.

It is my prayer that we work together and keep the dialog open about what's really going on. Maybe then this election will be the catalyst for the real positive change, that we've all been looking for.

For the sake of my chidren, I remain hopeful.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Stepping Away

Stepping away from my life is imperative to my sanity. There needs to be some distance between me and my reality to take perspective.

It's impossible to look at the big picture of your life when you are immersed in it. It's just like you can't see the entire beauty of an ocean while you're swimming in it. When you're swimming, you can only see the parts closest to you. You can only think about what you need to do to survive. There is no time for figuring out how to make things better. There's no time reflect or set goals for the future. You are just living from one moment to the next, and maybe, just maybe, you may get some rest in between.

You have to get back in your boat and sail away. You may not need to go far. Just far enough, so that you can take it all in from a distance. Feel the breeze and the sun on your skin.

When you step away, the good stuff happens.
This is where you gain insight...
~in the quiet.
~in the stillness.

That's what I am doing this weekend ...stepping away, having some fun, sitting still, and looking back on my life.

The last several months have been taxing. I haven't even been able to write about everything that has taken place because of my son's privacy. Also, there's the fact that when something heavily emotional happens in my life, I usually have to get some distance from it before I can write about it.

I'm learning a little from my early days of blogging, where I would totally let it all hang out, un-edited, as I was living through it.  This blog was my only release. It was my life preserver.  Now, I have a real therapist, besides my community here and on Facebook. Since the kids are older, I think more carefully about what I am willing to disclose here on the blog.

What is really funny, is when someone reads and makes assumptions about our lives, in an obvious attempt to read between the lines. And then they decide to offer unsolicited advice. I just laugh. Sometimes, I roll my eyes and give them the finger.  As I've said so many times before, you can not know the story in it's entirety unless you've lived it.  I realize that receiving critique and having people feel they have the right to weigh-in on your life, is all a part of the package that comes along with putting yourself out there. The benefits I receive and that I give to this community far outweigh the comments from the peanut gallery.

I write for parents, just like me who are struggling, and maybe afraid to say it out loud. Everyone else, I hope you get some form of education or entertainment from reading, but you can keep your advice. Actually, you know what you can do with it...

I digress. 

If you follow regularly, you know that I've written about the anxiety of my 17-year-old recently. He is now a Senior in high school.  It's difficult to begin to describe anxiety and the way it shows it's ugly face.  To the naked eye, a written description probably doesn't come close t0 describing it in totality. There is nothing about anxiety that is rational or makes any sense.

So today, I am a couple of hundred miles away from my life, visiting my best friend and her family. I left on Friday afternoon. I wasn't sure exactly how long I would be gone when I left. Maybe I would come back on Sunday. Maybe, I would come back on Monday morning, preferably the latter. All depending, on how well I sleep while not in my own bed, and what activities I would participate in, while I'm here.

What I didn't anticipate was how difficult the drive would be this time. I was in a pretty traumatic car accident several weeks ago. So, I wasn't as comfortable with driving at high speeds, being surrounded by large trucks, and being pinned in between both, with no outlet, on a two-lane highway.

Normally when I drive here, I zone out with my music, singing, and car dancing. (Have I told you what a fabulous car dancer I am?)  But this time, I couldn't just relax and enjoy the time alone in my car, listening to my music, with no one to ask me to turn it down or change the station.  This time, I was pretty tense. So I'm not looking forward to hitting the road again to head back home.

The amount of discussion that I had to go through just to get out the door was enough to make my blood pressure rise (and I'm not talking about my children). It was my mother. "Why are you leaving this early? Why would you stay that long?

Since I've been here, there have been phone calls from both my husband and my mother with little digs built-in about my point of return. It makes my heart rate go up just thinking about going home.

My everyday life is boring...busy, but boring. The highlight of my day is usually, my first cup of coffee in the morning and my first cocktail in the evening. Oh! Yes. Let me not forget, climbing in to bed everynight. That's my absolute favorite! In between is busy work, taking care of the details of our lives, the house, and the meeting the needs of it's inhabitants. There really aren't any days off from my job where I get to totally decompress. I have to take them, or they will not be given.

The biggest, most heart wrenching and exhausting part of my job is being a listener.
I listen to my son attempt to get a few of the many thousands of things, that are running through his head at any given moment.
I listen to him try to make sense of a world, that doesn't make any sense.
I am the live-in, on-call therapist, constantly walking a line between active listener, and advice giver.
The fine line that I walk is like a tightrope.
I'm trying to allow him to grow up and be independent...
at the same time, he is begging me for advice that he doesn't really want.

Sometimes, that rope feels like a noose around my neck that I'd like to hang myself with. Most days I feel like  running away leaving it all behind for a while, letting them all sink or swim.  They are lucky that this runway trip is only for 3 days. I could use three months!

The truth is, they all actually function better when I'm out of the picture. Which makes me think, I need to be out of the picture more often.

For example, there has been a meltdown every.single.weekend, for the past several weeks. This weekend, I'm away, there has not been one-single-meltdown. In fact...he made it to Kung Fu for the first time in weeks, and he actually earned his yellow belt!

Hmm...maybe I should get an apartment here. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

My Invisible Job

This morning I woke up tired. Once I got my head on half-way straight, I realized that I was pissed off. This weekend sucked, royally. Saturday morning I woke up and thought to myself, Shit! It's meltdown day. I got that sinking, queasy feeling in my stomach.

There has been a meltdown over homework, or time-management, in general, every.single.weekend. Like clockwork over the past few weeks.

Anxiety is a nasty bitch. It can't be explained. It doesn't make sense. There is no magic formula or protocol to follow to get  rid of it.
We are tweaking and attempting to manage it, with meds and therapy but it's slippery like a soapy, wet dog during bath time.
He melts down about being late, or not making it at all to Tai Chi and Kung Fu class. The irony here is that the meltdown either makes him later, or it completely depletes him of energy to go at all. 

Does he really want to go? He says he does, but he keeps sabotaging himself. 

He has managed to fall behind in Kung Fu. He should have tested for a yellow belt weeks ago. This is really no big deal, but to him, it leads to more feelings of failure. It's just one more thing that he isn't completing.

The meltdowns are not as severe as they were over the summer. He is more measured. He knows the lines not to cross. However, they are still disturbing, disruptive, and emotionally draining for him and for me. They effect the whole household.

The concerted amount of patience that I give him leaves me with nothing leftover with the adults who live here, my husband and my mother. The tension in the house is thick and mucky. It's definitely not exactly conducive to romance. We can barely tolerate each other.

There is little energy even for myself. Yoga hasn't seen me in the studio in months. I absolutely will not miss my therapy. It's the one thing I make sure I reserve for me.

I am trying to give Blue every support possible. He's seeing an excellent therapist who is working with him on strategies, time and anger management.  Last week we had a Person Centered Planning meeting, where his Facilitator helped him with time-management brainstorming. He has a personal mentor who is also working with him on breaking down assignments, time chunking, and coping skills.

His anxiety...his black and white, all or nothing thinking, seems to keep getting in the way of the application of these skills in heat of the moment.  If there is a plan, and something happens to throw it off by 5 minutes, it's over! Can't do it! Can't fix it. Can't change it. Can't move forward or even sideways.

I try to coax him into the mindset that the plan is more of a guide. There has to be a degree of flexibility in order to use it.

He is blessed with a teacher in his Advanced Placement Calculus class who has been more than accommodating and willing to work with him after school. She is even willing to break down assignments. He does fine at school,  but at home...nada! Nothing seems to help.

He won't consider dropping the class. In fact, he was highly insulted when I brought up the possibility. That would mean that he failed. Mind you, his counselor told me that he doesn't need this class for college unless he plans on being a math major.

I usually give him the benefit of the doubt. I am always trying to find the bright side of a situation. My first instinct is optimism.

I look at autism and anxiety. I study it. I turn it inside out, trying to figure out answers.
What is the motivation behind this behavior? 
How can we help him? 
What is this mental block that's in his head? 
What has him so traumatized that he is almost immobile? 

Yesterday, my optimism flew out the window. Fatigue can do that to you.  I found myself doubting the authenticity of his meltdowns. I started feeling like he is doing this on purpose.
He is trying to drive me up a fucking wall! 
He is being lazy! 
He doesn't really want answers. He wants to just sit there on his god damned phone, texting and watching videos!
He is avoiding responsibility! 
He begs for solutions, only to meet each of them with objections! 

This morning as I drove him to school, I wanted so much to just lay into him.
What is your problem? 
Everyone is willing to help you. 
Why are you unwilling to help yourself?  
This is bullshit! 
I need to take away your phone and your privileges! 
I need to drop you off at the library and not pick you up until your work is done! 

Last year, the library totally worked. If not, then he went to Starbucks or Panera. Why isn't any of this working now? 

I'm a grown up. I didn't say of any of the vile things that were in my head. It would only upset him more and start his day at school off in a downward spiral. I kept my thoughts to myself. After I dropped him off, I drove to Starbucks to buy a cup of energy to help me face the day.

Once again, I stifled my anger, which I know isn't healthy. But, what choice do I have? There is no one's ass that I can kick, legally. And if there were, I would probably be too tired to do it.

It was bad enough yesterday when he told me that I was embarrassing him by walking outside the house during his meltdown, because I didn't want to give him an audience.  I actually said, "I don't really give a shit that you're embarrassed! I'm tired of listening to you scream!" 

I have moments when I feel like a failure.  I've never had to ground him or take his phone away.  I start thinking, I did it all wrong. I should have disciplined him more. I start to question everything I'm doing and have ever done.

Then again, he has always handled his business. If he didn't, he dealt with the natural consequences without completely falling apart. Now, it just seems stupid to have to resort to taking things from him. He is seventeen. He wants to go to college. He is going to have to learn to discipline himself.

I won't be in college with him, telling him to put his phone away so he can get his work done. He has to do this if he wants to be successful.  The best way to learn is to fail a few times, to feel the sting of your choices. It's a painful process for a mother to watch.

At this point, any way that I insert myself into the process of helping or teaching him these life lessons, only seems to create more of a power struggle. He has to take ownnership of his life.

So, he works with his therapist,  his teachers, counselors and mentors. He wants to be seen as a mature, serious student to them. He can be a baby with me. There is no need to impress.

There comes a time when as a young adult, you have to remove your own mental blocks. You have to take the advice of the professionals and peers that you respect. Your mama knows nothing anyway, right?

Once upon a time, he was fully capable handling his schoolwork and even managing a great part of his daily living skills. I don't know what happened. I don't know if it's fear of becoming an adult, or fear of leaving high school and transitioning to college. It could be unconcious, self-sabotage. Lots of seniors in high school go through that when they are afraid of the new life they are facing.

I don't know what else to do for him, or even if there is anything for me to do.

I just know that I'm exhausted. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Senior Year Hell

I've done this before.
I should know what I'm doing by now, right?
How come it doesn't feel like it?
Why does it all feel brand new?

One would think a mother of three, just might have shit figured out by the time her last child reaches his senior year of high school. Nope! Not when autism is involved.  You just never know what will be waiting for you when you turn a corner.

One thing my boys have in common, is they are both exhausting to parent.

Someone who knows my life intimately observed, "It's like you are raising 5 or 6 children."

I was surprised to hear someone else verbalize what I have felt for years. And frankly, I am tired. Burnout.
Spent, like an old dollar bill.

I was so relaxed for a while there when Red moved out. I wrote about feeling like I was ready to ready to retire. I felt like I had already done a lifetime of work. It was like a new era. I could breathe again. I could watch a television show live, not recorded weeks earlier on my DVR. There was less bickering and fighting in the house with the two brothers living in different places. It was sweet, juicy, savory, peace and quiet.

Apparently, God laughed at my retirement plan.

The peace is over.

We are swimming in Senior Year Hell without a life preserver, and no swimming lessons.

Blue has always been the most independent of all of my children. He was the toddler who climbed out of the crib, over the safety fence, down the stairs, up to the top shelf of the pantry, to get his cereal before I woke up. He then climbed back up the stairs and over the fence. He came strolling into my room with the box of Froot Loops, like a boss!

He has kept up with his grades and school work since he was in middle school. By the time he reached high school, he had become his own advocate. I never have to follow up to make sure homework is complete. He is self-motivated. He usually chooses the kind of classes that will be a challenge, where he knows he will have to work hard. He doesn't need constant prodding and reminders. Up until recently, he has just done what needs to be done.

I have always considered him to be my "easy" child, even though some of his teen years were difficult. He diligently asserted the fact that he didn't need parents.  This 17th year, however, has been exceptionally difficult.

The night school let out for the summer last June, also happened to be the night before he was to take the SAT for the second time. He had a major meltdown. It was awfu1! He was more enraged than I think I had ever seen him before. He ended up walking home a couple of miles in the rain, at night, because he just couldn't bare to be in the same car with me a moment longer.

The meltdowns over the rest of the summer would go downhill from there.

Why this sudden change in persona?
He was leaving his carefully built support system at school, the teachers, and mentors who he talked to every day.
He would be stuck at home with us. Yuck! Who wants to be around their idiot parents all day, every day for the summer?  
There would be no daily routine.
He would not be able to see his friends as often.
He couldn't stop thinking about the fact that everything is going to change next summer, after graduation. 
All of the things he was missing this summer, in his mind, he will lose permanently, next year.
How is life going to look?
How is he supposed to be able to figure out how to get there?
Becoming an adult and college student will require a lot of work.
What if he can't do it all?

The unknown is a pretty daunting place.

Senior year is a freaky thing for the average student. For a kid with autism and intense emotions, it can be even more overwhelming.

Well, we made it through the summer on a wing and a prayer. The saving grace was the Job Coach we hired to work with him, one on one. She was a life saver! She gave him back a sense of structure. The two of them worked together fluidly.

He took his first college class on the community college campus, which gave him back a little bit of a "social vibe," as he put it.
He met a new friend of the female persuasion, who seemed to like him a lot. He had a friendship connection with her, which he found comforting.

Then, all of that was over.
His Job Coach moved away to further her education. We vowed to stay in touch, but it was gut-wrenching to say goodbye.
The job that she helped him find ended, with a bang.
 (And by bang, I mean another pretty awesome meltdown.)
Then his summer college class ended.

The day before his senior year was to begin; he had the most epic meltdown yet.

So here we are now, at the beginning of senior year, and nothing is how I anticipated it would look. I don't think he pictured any of this either.

He is having trouble sleeping. His anxiety is higher than it has been since the beginning of freshmen year in high school.  He is managing his classes by a very, thin thread. Miraculously, he is still making good grades, but the amount of energy he has to put out to make them is draining.

Things that came easy to him a year ago are a struggle today.  The intensity of his emotions has taken out a huge hit on his executive functioning and planning.  It's like he's a different person.

He is still in the top 25% of his class, and the top 25% of SAT scores, in the country. This does not mean that his path will be immediately going to a university.

The excellent SAT scores and all of the colleges knocking at our door are a painful reminder that even though he has the ability and the academic resume, that would get him into most any university...he is simply, not fully prepared. We are facing the reality that right now, during college application season, he is not mentally ready to add the task to his plate. 

With his current level of anxiety, he is doing well just to make it to school and last through the entire day. Doing homework, has suddenly become overwhelming for him. When it's time to get started, he starts listing ten million reasons why it will be impossible to get it done. Everything that he used to do, will now, not work. He winds himself up to the point where most of the time, he can't even get started.

And so the dream changes, again. He will most likely start community college next year.  Perhaps all of this is happening now to show us, that a university experience right now, would probably make him unravel completely. There is more growth needed in other areas of his life.

I am having to regroup, and look at parenting him at this stage, in a whole, new light. I thought he would be so much easier than his brother was. He isn't. He is just at a different place than what I expected at this point.

I  have to watch my words and actions meticulously. I tape my mouth shut, to keep from offering advice. I quell my natural instinct to help --to be the fixer of all things.

Instead, I try to listen actively. I  ask questions that help him find his own answers. It is NOT easy for me to change my mom-to-the-rescue mentality. Sometimes, I crack under pressure.

I am working to consciously keep boundaries, and not just for him, but for myself. I work to stay in my lane and not cross over into doing things for him. It's a constant battle I fight with myself.

For example, suddenly he is struggling to get to school on time. So a few days ago, I found myself making breakfast for him ...something that he has done for himself for years. When he sat down to eat, without a thank you, and still had an attitude on the way to school, in the car. Immediately, I felt like an idiot for doing it.

Making things easier for him is not helping him. Making it through the struggle is where he will grow and learn. I have to allow him to do things for himself, even when I see him struggling, even if it kills me. My job is to promote independence, even during a time when he is vulnerable and afraid.

I am a continual work progress. I made the mistake of running to Red's rescue automatically, for so long. He didn't want to let go. He's been out of my house for almost a year, and we are still working on him letting go of his dependence on me.

I know that Blue has it in him to make it through this.
He will become independent.
He will make it through this transition.
He will rise.
He will grow.
And hopefully, so will I.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Wanted -Mom Replacement


Mom replacement for teenager. Only one child left in this family of difficult children, to finish raising through his senior year and transition into adulthood.

This teenager comes with autism and anxiety. You may be called upon at any time, to do research on doctors, medication, various therapies, individual education plans, and coping strategies both for yourself, and the teenager. You will become an expert in all of these fields because you must stay a step ahead of the professionals that you pay to do these jobs.  (Look will basically earn an honorary doctorate in the field of pharmacology, nursing, education and therapy.) The maid and cook duties are just an added bonus of skills that you can add to your resume, to show that you are great at mult-tasking.

The pay is non-existent for a shit ton of work, none of which will be appreciated. You must have infinite patience, the ability to smile and act like you love every minute of the job, while being told that you are in fact, incompetent and can't do anything right.

You will spend the majority of your time driving, mostly in circles within a 20-mile radius of your home.  Your ungrateful passenger will likely be angry,  (maybe not at you, but that doesn't matter) so use your words very carefully.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT engage in debate with your passenger.  Do not offer any advice (even when he asks). It's a trick. You will be sorry!

You may often find yourself often operating your vehicle on auto-pilot, because of sheer exhaustion.   Drink plenty of coffee to help you stay awake.  *Do not add Bailey's unless you are staying at home. Bailey's can nullify the caffiene effect, plus the whole illegal to drink and drive thing. (In fact, definitely keep it in stock in your liquor cabinet, along with plenty of vodka and wine. Buy the gallon-size bottles so that you don't have to go to the store as often. Never let your supply run-out! NEVER!)

When going into a grocery store (which is also a major part of your job)  take a picture of your vehicle with your cell-phone before parking, with markers of exactly where you are, so that you can find your car when you come out of the store. Not only, will you often forget where you parked, you may also forget what your car actually looks like.

The original mother lost her ever lovin mind, but don't let that scare you. He will probably be an angel for you since you did not actually carry him inside of your body for 9 months, while getting fat, your feet growing a size and a half, and your boobs left hanging on the ground.

This could be considered to be a community/societal service project, earning you a permanent place in heaven, which is ultimately the best pay ever.

Bonus:  You will not be blamed for everything that ever goes wrong in his life. He will continue blaming the woman who gave birth to him for all of that.



p.s. I will not be available for questions after you're hired. I am moving to a non-disclosed location.
p.s. s. Your face will have this expression most of the time.

In this momlife there is either laughter or tears.
Sometimes both within minutes of each other

Friday, September 23, 2016

Keep the Crazy To a Minimum

It seems like everywhere I turn in my small world, there is some kind of crazy going on. If it's not one of my boys, it's the other. If it's not one of them, it's my mother. If it's not my mother, it's my husband or it's me. I just woke up from a morning nap. After I dropped Blue at school this morning it hit me, the crazy has been slowly draining the life out of me.

As for my husband,  yes, we drive each other crazy, but he is my safe place to land and I am his. We can say some pretty shitty things to each other when we're frustrated with one of the kids; when he's frustrated with work or whatever. (Okay, it's mostly me saying the shitty things and him putting up with me). After so many years together, we know that we can take the hits and get right back up the next day, apologize and keep loving each other.

He just got home from a business and pleasure trip to Georgia to see his father and Florida for business. I was happy that he was gone, but missed him at the same time. When he crawled into our bed last night, I felt safe again. My teammate, who gets on my last nerve, is home to have my back.

Kendal (also known as Red) turned 21 over the weekend.  I can't believe that I officially have a legal adult! He now has the right to go to nightclubs and if he so chooses, consume alcohol.  His father and I took him out for dinner for his birthday, right before Alan left for his trip.  I offered him a taste of my martini.  He declined.  A few days later, I tried to coerce him to some champagne. I thought, maybe if he has a drink, maybe just maybe, he will shut the f*#% up for a few minutes and go to sleep. No luck. He wasn't the least bit interested. I think it mostly has to do with his obsession with keeping his body lean and healthy and for now, that's probably the best decision.

Not only is Kendal 21, but soon Blue will be 18.  He will graduate high school in 2017.  I had to write 12th grade on a document this morning. I couldn't believe it. Me. A mother of 2 young adults. No more babies. Boy! I miss those sweet, innocent days.

A memory...

A few days ago I was walking through the pet store when a memory waved through me. Those Texas, hot, summer days when I would take them there to wander aimlessly down the air-conditioned aisles. We would watch the dogs play in daycare behind the plated glass, and pet the ones who were up for adoption. Blue would find the cat laser toy and spend an hour making the cats chase the little light.  Then we would move on to the birds, the gerbils, and the fish. It was a fun, inexpensive way to keep them occupied and cool in-between trips to the pool. That was when they could stand to be in the same room for more than 10 minutes without wanting to kill each other.

Since they are both young adults now, I am trying to do to less and less hovering and fixing the things that I want to look differently for them.  (It's actually a big part of my therapy, and part of the reason why I find myself so exhausted all the time.) I am learning that it's their job to move their lives forward. I'm here in the background to support them. Sometimes that means sitting on my hands and putting tape over my mouth. My therapist is helping me to stop being the fixer. I've been doing it so long, it's a hard habit to break. But, being the fixer stunts their growth and it keeps them unhealthily attached to me.

I don't sit in classrooms, or walk through a job site with them. They need practice in self-advocating, thinking on their feet, solving their own problems and making their own life decisions.

This was a good day.
The boys worked out together
at the gym where Red is employed.
As for the crazy, they may be young adults, but when it comes to getting along while they're sitting in the same room, it's like they are still children. They are still siblings whose habits and idiosyncrasies drive each other nuts. Which means, I still find myself juggling them around each other when Red comes to visit us on Sunday afternoons.

It's crazy, and it's sad to me that they still can't get along and we can't enjoy family time together. It's almost like I'm new here. I don't know why I'm still surprised, or disappointed by this.  I know that they love each other. There is the rare occasion that they will get together and actually enjoy each other's company. It's usually best if I am not with them. When I am present, it's like they show off and compete for my attention.

Lately, Blue has been under a lot of stress as he transitions into his senior year. Senior year is stressful for most kids.  He is in AP Physics and AP Calculus, which are demanding classes. He's also freaking out about exactly what life will look like after high school. He isn't sleeping well. He wakes up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts. So his fuse is extremely short. He can only put up with Red for very short periods of time before it blows.

Red drives him crazy with his incessant talk about his body, his workouts and his diet. The more anxious Red becomes, he ramps up on his repetitive and relentless dialog on the subject. He asks us for our opinions, only to refute whatever we offer. If Blue tries changing the subject, it's like talking to a rock, you can't penetrate. It's like he doesn't even hear you.

Blue has his own agenda that he would like to discuss. He wants to save the world, including his brother, who he believes is clueless.  It's infuriating when he wants to have a "teaching" session with his older brother and he just isn't listening.

When Kendal is going on and on, Blue wants to interject and share his own diet and weight loss methods, which are totally different than his brother's. Blue is going the pescatarian route. Unlike his brother, he believes in carbs, vegetables and moderate exercise like walking and Kung Fu. Red isn't trying to hear anything that his brother is saying.

(Have I told you all that Red has lost 100 pounds and Blue has lost 75 over the past year? The boys who once wouldn't eat anything green now eat vegetables, and drink green smoothies!)

So most of the time when Red visiting us on Sundays, Blue leaves the house to go out to Starbucks, the library, or Panera Bread, to do homework.  He is avoiding his brother. I facilitate this to keep the peace. It's crazy.

This week, however, we all needed a few things from the grocery store. Out of convenience, we went together. I figured I would (juggle) send them off in separate directions to do their own shopping.  We wouldn't have to be together the whole time. But, at the end, when were standing in line, Kendal said something that triggered Blue. They both walked away, leaving me to pay for the groceries (of course). The fireworks started as soon as we all got back in the car. I couldn't separate the two of them fast enough.

Just when I start trying to let go of their crazy, my mother starts in with hers. I believe that Alzheimers and dementia are knocking at her door. She sees how stressed I am. In her her head, it becomes all about her. She starts to feel like she is another burden.

Out of nowhere, she will wake up in the morning and say things like "I just don't think this is working out. I need to live somewhere else. I just don't know where, but my being here is just too much for you."

More often, she is hearing conversations in the middle of the night that we are NOT having about her. She isn't sleeping well, which makes her thoughts go further into the dark side.

So here we go with a new challenge I have to deal with. What to do to keep my mother's crazy to a minimum. Apparently, that is my assignment in life ...figure out the puzzles dear Karen. Keep the crazy from completely taking over.

My husband loves my mother so much. He is gracious, always asking her if he can do anything for her.  For example,  he is going to the store. He offers to buy wine for her. When we go to the wine store, it looks like we are having a party over here. There are no parties. It's just our regular supply of liquid calm to help get through the days.

The following day after he bought the wine, he leaves the house. She actually says to me, "I know Alan bought wine for me yesterday, but am I allowed to drink it? I know he thinks I drink too much."

No mom. Don't drink the wine! He bought it just so that you can look at it.

I say to her, "Come on now. You see the amount of crazy that I am already dealing with. Please don't put your crazy on top of it."

I know that she really can't help it, no more than any of us can help our crazy.

For now, I just sip my wine and hope that the next day has a little less crazy in it.