I was really hopeful after such a great day yesterday. It had been a full Saturday for Sam. He went to a new soccer group (his very first!), got his hair cut, and had an ice cream date with me. It was one thing after another, and that’s a lot to process. He had a great evening too. We had family devotions that didn’t end with my husband in the fetal position wondering why our kids can’t get it together for 5-10 minutes without breaking down into fits and tears. Sam even had a bath. But then, just minutes before lights out, one shoe dropped.
Confusion over the allowances during quiet time turned that glorious day on its head. Quiet time is a period of 5-10 minutes prior to lights out when all children must be IN their beds. They can read or play quietly (hence the term, “QUIET TIME.”) But when an exception to the rule was made the other night, confusion ensued last night as he expected the same treatment. There was a lot of yelling, and a very frustrated parent who stood outside of his bedroom door, ready to throw in the towel.
This morning was going great too. I didn’t have to drag Sam out of his loft bed – not an easy feat to accomplish with a 9 year old 12 inches away from the ceiling on a thin ladder. He got up on his own. Got dressed. Ate breakfast. Nice to brothers. Followed directions without argument. He did a great job in Sunday school, thanks to a second teacher who is able to devote extra help as needed. He sang in church with gusto.
And then… the other shoe dropped. It didn’t take long once the pastor began preaching. It was just little things here and there that grew too big to ignore. “Stop kicking the pew; I’m sorry, but I can’t give you popular names that start with every letter of the alphabet while I’m trying to listen; Lower your voice; If you can’t be quiet, then I’ll have to take you out.” Except he’s insistent that he’s not loud, and is quite loud in the process.
My inner dialogue is something like, “I’m missing what the pastor is saying. He just said something that made people laugh. What was it? Oh, oh, oh, this is one of my favorite passages. And I’m missing it. I hate missing things.”
Kyle and I exchange looks – the ones that say, “I told him this is the consequence for this action; now I HAVE to act on it. But I really don’t want to;” and the response look of, “Do you want me to handle it? I’ll handle it for you. Just say the word. But we’ve got to do something.” So we did. Because as parents, you do what you have to do.
After an indeterminable amount of time had passed where my mind was completely free to focus on the sermon, Kyle returned with the boys. (Because it wasn’t just Sam who was having issues.) Several minutes later, a very penitent, tearful Sam hands me a note apologizing for his behavior, asking forgiveness and telling me he loves me. After a couple minutes of considering how sincere this note really is (because maybe it’s a form of manipulation?), I respond in kind. He leans his head on me. As I stroke his back, I know it’s over now.
But the thought in my head sighs, “Why does this have to be so hard?”
After church, a very dear friend (who also happens to be Sam’s Sunday school teacher) strikes up conversation with me. She told me how great he did in class. She’s excited to use the visual schedule I made for her class (and specifically for Sam.) I started saying how I’m just trying to put as many helps in place as possible to make Sundays as smooth as possible. But that after today, I feel like nothing works. I keep trying to have consistency, and make sure that he understands the rules and consequences ahead of time. I keep trying to stay calm. To be patient. To be understanding. But I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I can’t assume that a good day on Saturday means a continued good day on Sunday. History shows I can actually expect the opposite. But I don’t like pessimism. I keep praying and hoping and striving for the best. To lead him in the right way. And when he doesn’t go in the right way, I wonder where I went wrong.
As I talked, I sat back down crying as I hid my face with my kids’ papers from Sunday school. It was all too much. I felt her hand on my back and I heard her words. She’s not the sit-and-be-quiet type. Not usually. When she’s passionate about something, she talks. Passionately. So she’s telling me how great Sam is. How great of a mom I am. How far he’s come. How much he’s grown.
I wanted to tell her to stop talking. I don’t need the words. I can’t hear most of them anyway. Just be quiet. Just sit with me. Just let me cry. You don’t get it. You can’t understand. Please… just stop.
“I know that autism affects everything he does. I know that’s hard to deal with sometimes. But when I look at him, I just see Sam.”
She just sees Sam. And I realized in that moment that I was back in Grief 101. I knew grief was a cycle. I have written and talked before about finding yourself at any place in the cycle at any moment. Here I was. Back at square one.
But I wasn’t alone. I had a friend who could see in that moment what I couldn’t. He’s just Sam. He struggles with autism day in and day out. But he’s growing. I wouldn’t have gotten a note a year ago expressing sorrow and requesting reconciliation. Now I get one nearly every time he has a meltdown. He has professed faith in Christ, and he shows evidences of true faith. God is doing an incredible work in the life of my son.
Sometimes, the shoes drop. What a blessing it is to have someone there who helps you pick them back up. Thank you, friend. You know who you are.