Wednesday, March 3, 2010


There is a new show that premiered this week. It is called Parenthood, like the Steve Martin movie but with a modern spin.

When they said one of the kids have Asperger's and that the directors son has Asperger's, I wondered how they would portray it and if it would be high functioning or flat out Autism. I wondered enough that I set the DVR for it.

Blinking back tears through bits of the episode and smiling for others, I have a new favorite show.

I am a single mother of three kids. My sons are ADD and ADHD respectively. My daughter is high functioning Asperger's. Apparently it is all genetically connected. I know that "researchers have found that many people with autism share common genetic variations(1)." I also know that out of three kids, I am 0 for three.

To say that life in our house is interesting is an understatement. I should have further testing done, as I am not alltogether sure we aren't 2/3 with Asperger's, but honestly treatment for the different disorders isn't all that different, so he isn't missing much without his tag.

I never knew my daughter was different. At least not for years. When she was born she was so perfect that I wept with it. The child was born beautiful, coming out looking as if she had been dipped in water rather than fighting her way out the birth canal. Her tiny cupids bow lips curled into a smile and she was simply lovely.

I remember holding her and stroking her soft cheeks and wanting to pause in that moment forever.

But time went by. She was still lovely but when her brother came along, I began to notice subtle differences. Learning for Jus was a struggle. Ever tiny bit of information was repeated and repeated before she learned it and once she had she would be just as likely to forget it as to remember it later. Ash learned to read through this repetitive teaching... at three he could read some words and write his name just because he had heard it all so much. She would have these strange fits where she would just scream... nothing would stop it till she was done. Not holding her. Not yelling at her. Not anything. I had lots of chances to try different methods. She would just scream for awhile until she got tired then sleep and not remember doing it.

I thought it was frustration because she did not have the words to explain how she felt. It was not. It was Jus. David never did it, nor Ash. Just her.

But I was young and she was my first so I didn't know how odd it was. She tried to eat paper or toilet paper. Erasers were chew toys. Leave her alone for a minute and her school work did not get done but she would write on a wall... at eleven.

I was at a loss. And she hated meeting your eyes. It is very disconcerting when you realize your child does not like to look you in the eye. I remember turning her chin back to me and she would look anywhere but at me.

You wonder, as a parent, what you are doing wrong.

You cry and pray and scream at God. She is so perfect! Help me help her!

Silence greets you. Silence and the sound of your kid talking to the water in the shower.

Shaking hands that never quite settle.

A child who goes off into a world where you cannot touch her.

I fought all this with normalcy. I refused to let her use her disability for a crutch and I exposed her to life at every chance. Justice has been to Disney and Canada and she does not usually do change well... but she is better at it now than she was. She trusts me to not take her "bad" places.

I also know not to get her dolls or stuffed toys... because they watch you and you can't sleep like that.

I have something new every day with her.

And the boys? ADD is not altogether bad. David can spend hours turning boxes into spaceships for one or creatures. He can fold a bubblegum wrapper in a way that makes a tiny man.

(Zombie, mom. Not a man)

He writes this brilliant comic book, Doom Dream, with a cast of characters he created...

But he writes them on his school work and his teachers are not sure what to do with him. But he is my social butterfly. He makes friends whereever he goes. People flock to David.

Ashton is a picture of frustration. He is an amazing reader, mathematically clever and if you give the child a computer he can do things that he should not have figured out till he is sixteen. He was the kid at seven that had to have a chat about identity theft and not hacking mommy's passwords.

He can read tenth grade level books and is fascinated just now with Greek Mythos and can discuss modern art vs expressionism as well as the fact that there is a supermassive black hole at the center of every galaxy.

But friends... Ash has a hard time with friends. And school... he is a train wreck at school. He just does not feel he has to listen to anyone. He knows what he wants to do and he does it. When asked why, he states he wants people to like him but he can't help it.

But I would not trade them for the world. Other peoples daughters don't stand and look at a bug for an hour, just watching it being a bug. Until you sit down and watch the bug and realize it really is interesting.

Other people don't have son's that at ten are torn between becoming a comic book artist and an archaeologist. Other people don't have the joy of reading the next misadventure of Doom Dream and see where the portal has taken him today.

Other people cannot sit with their eight year old on the hood of a station wagon at 2am watching a meteor shower and discussing the peril of the world and the speeds of the meteors. Other people don't go to a library with their eight year old and explain that yes, he can read the Greek Myths and we just talked about them at dinner... Why? Don't your kids?

And yes, they have mature content, but he gets it. Am I supposed to hide books from them?

I cried during that show because it is real. Really hard and really wonderful. When the little boy was looking at his reflection and not happy with it because he was probably wanting to be normal and wasn't and he kept jumping on the puddle to smash his own reflection... in a plaground full of toys and fascinated with destroying that reflection, I cried.

Because I got it. I live it.

I do it alone. It is easier that way. They have me and I am all they know. But there are times, times when I am alone and feeling particularly small and useless to them... times usually around parent teacher conferences when I realize what a whomping failure I am as a parent, when I doubt my ability to be up to it. When I wish there was someone who understood to hold me and wave a magic wand over them and make their lives easier.

But then David brings me his latest cardboard robot. And Justice shows me her latest art work, which is all about boys, and rolls her big blue eyes at me. (She is still lovely) And Ashton, who fears nothing, sees the sun go down and remembers that no matter how big and bad he is, he is only a very little boy and afraid of the dark, so he comes and curls up with his mom... to be safe.

And I realize that the school can't make me feel bad. The world cannot judge us. It is just me judging and feeling bad. I am doing fine because they are happy. And strong. And amazing and unique.

And I am blessed.

I must have done something very right to be triple blessed with kids who dare to be different every day. Who believe in magic and bring it home to me everyday.

Thank you, Brat Pack. Mom loves you.

Sweet Dreams, all.

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