Stay Tangible

I can remember what the term Best Friend meant when my age was still a single digit or long into the doubles. It was whoever you liked the best at the time. I’m not sure when that superficial notion dissipates, and I know that there are people older than me that still believe that. I can’t really pinpoint when I realized what having a “best” friend really meant but I guess to me it means no amount of distance or disagreement can change how I feel about that person. It’s like having a spouse, that’s not my spouse (but who would grow old with me and my 30 cats if for some reason we both became spouse-less). It’s unconditional.

crazy cat lady
Something else that I’ve realized is that best friendships are not necessarily exclusive. My definition of best friendness allows for more than one person to fill the role. While there will always be that one person that survived me during my most moody and awkward teen years, and vice versa, that doesn’t mean that new friendships can’t become just as bonded. When you find someone you can trust, someone who makes you better and tears the duct tape from the mouth of the voice in your heart, you cherish them and hold on tight.
But this isn’t about somebody’s traveling pants or divine secrets. It’s about how if I’m not careful, all that will remain of that solid pact of mutual adoration, is a thumbs-up on a newly posted Facebook photo. The internet has given opportunities, where there were next to zero, insights I may never have had otherwise, and the choice to be the best, or worst, version of myself behind the comments I wield. It’s allowed me to stay in touch with people I might’ve otherwise lost contact with, and to find again, the ones I lost years ago.
But a side effect of all this digital interaction is that what was once a tangible human being becomes a series of “lol’s” and emoticons. The constant connection I feel with the web and my smart phone give a false sense of friendship. It sets me up to go months without actually seeing someone and to somehow be okay with that.

thumbs down
Well, until this morning. I had another one of those face-slapping epiphanies while I stared at the chat window on my computer screen. Messages from ol’ Trixie (from Silhouetted In The Background), making me laugh mostly because I could hear the exact way she’d say the words. I’d “lol’d” and that got me thinking about how our friendship had been relegated to interactions of the electronic kind. While it hasn’t happened yet, I started to worry about forgetting the way her laugh sounded. In the years passed, we may not have always had time for each other but we still talked on the phone semi-regularly. There’s something about hearing someone’s voice that all the texting and messaging and commenting and poking will never be able to replace. I almost typed, “I miss you.” Instead, I took my turn in Words With Friends.

Like hell! We never let each other win! Battle to the death!!
Like hell! We never let each other win! Battle to the death!!

I will never let her go. Of that, I’m sure. What seems unclear is if it will only be her cleverly typed responses on social media and an occasional email that will be the friend that I cling to.
Life is hard right now. I’m diving into my new career and she’s excelling at hers, all while raising a family. But when will it get easy? It seems like I was citing the hardships of existing several years ago and for totally different reasons. I don’t think life ever gets un-hard.
I can’t rely on the hope that she too has had this epiphany, that all the people I’m close to in the physical world as well as the virtual understand how important it is to keep ourselves tangible. If we dissolve into electronic hearts and smileys, I want to know that I did my part to reach out, to touch—to literally laugh out loud alongside someone who knows exactly how to make me giggle.



Confessions of a Special Needs Mom


When my children were born, I wish I was also handed a guidebook to each one. “It’s a boy and here is the complete guide to (insert child’s name here).”  The first year of motherhood would have been much easier. I would have spent a lot less time worrying about a fever or fretting about how to curb tantrums. I could turn a page and I would have all the answers to each child. No doubt my special needs child would need at least three manuals. One for his primary diagnosis, one for autism, and one for epilepsy. I would also need some additional emergency booklets labeled, “What Kind of Seizure is This?”, “Why He Won’t Eat,” and “The Complete Guide to Sensory Issues.” Autistic meltdowns would require a complete desk set. Sadly, no such manuals exist. Navigating parenthood is rewarding but also scary. Figuring out how to be a good parent takes trial and error. I have made my share of mistakes, especially with my special needs child. I don’t have all the answers to my child’s medical and behavioral issues so it can be hard to for me to be honest about the mistakes I have made as a parent.

I have made assumptions on the behalf of my child. There have been times that I have not allowed my child to participate in an activity because I didn’t want to have to deal with the possible anxiety he would have. Sometimes this is necessary. I know him best and often get frustrated when others insist that he does something when they know very little about him. In turn, I have also denied him the opportunity to find out for himself what he wanted to do.

I have sheltered my child. I have kept my son inside or away from activities for my own benefit. I have been afraid of the stares an autistic meltdown would draw in public. It has taken time for me to build confidence and know that I am strong enough to handle whatever might happen.

I have underestimated his abilities. Sadly, I had already determined that he would never be able to do things like communicate efficiently or write his name. I was so convinced I was right about things like this, I would fail to push him to pursue certain goals. He has proved me wrong. His vocabulary has exceeded my expectations and he can independently write his name.

I have played out his worst case scenario. Instead of thinking that he could be independent some day, I have determined he would always be living with us. I think maybe I want to protect him as long as I can but again, I should not set limits on his potential.

I have distanced myself from him. I know this is normal but I have taken his outbursts toward me personally. I frequently forget that he is at the mercy of his disease and the side-effects of multiple medications.

I don’t always let him fight his own battles. I am guilty of this with all my children. I intervene when I should let him try to work problems out on his own. Sometimes, I need to step back and allow my children some trial and error of their own.

I talk about him as if he isn’t in the room. This is something that I promised myself I’d never do. I can’t assume to know that he does not understand what I am saying. I have to be careful not to make him feel like we are not including him in conversations.

I have not always been patient with him. Patience comes with practice and I have had plenty of opportunities to practice it.

I also have failed to be consistent with the way I handle things. I have not always stood my ground when he demands something in an inappropriate manner.

He needs structure and I have not always provided it. Sticking to a routine is hard for me. I have three other children and my special needs son sometimes feels like two kids rather than one.  It is easy to get overwhelmed.

I have been lazy. There are days where my life exhausts me. I let this be an excuse when we do only what is necessary.

I have put my needs before his own. I know my well being is also important and I do need to make time for myself, but any time I do so, I feel guilty about it.

I have wondered if I love him. I have made so many mistakes and have failed so many times that I wonder if I truly love him. Then I think about him and I feel how deep our love really goes.

I have given up. Yes, I have thrown in the towel on more than one occasion. I’m human and I get frustrated. He works so hard to grasp a concept and then his seizures increase or we do a medicine change and he regresses. It is hard to keep trying when we have to keep going back to square one.

I have failed to see the bond our difficulty has formed. Adversity really does strengthen a bond. We have been through a lot together and I wonder why he likes me so much. I feel like I have failed him two times over. I feel like I have failed him as a typical mom and a special needs mom. It almost feels like I have the potential to make double the mistakes.

I have been a “helicopter” mom. There are times that I would sit on his shoulder if I could.

I wish I knew what joy this experience has already taught me sooner. It is so hard to explain this to people who don’t raise a special needs child. I don’t want any of the difficulties for my son, yet he has taught me so much about life in such a short period of time.

I forget how much he has working against him. I have been frustrated when he can’t grasp what seems to be simple concepts. I forget to look at things from his perspective.

I have to keep reminding myself that his age on the outside does not match the age on the inside. I must remember to consider his developmental age and stop expecting too much from him too soon.

I am overly emotional. I know it is hard for other people to understand why it is a big deal when he independently wrote his name or put together a complete sentence but it is for us. Learning is often an uphill battle for him and we celebrate his victories.

My son is amazing and I love him deeply, even when one of us, or both of us, are at our worst. The responsibility of raising him and my other children is something I don’t take lightly, that may be why I hold on to so much guilt when I do fail. I want to be the best mom I can. This means that I have to be honest about the mistakes I have made and learn from them. There is always a time to get real, try harder, and give him the best of me.