Tag Archives: parenting

Ode to The Other One

My handsome oldest son!

My handsome oldest son!

A couple of weeks ago, #1 Son turned 21.  21!!!  How did that happen?!  My birthday is 2 days after his – I’ve been telling him his whole life that he was the absolute best birthday present I ever got in my life.  By the way, we do not actually call him #1 – that would infer a Second-in-Command status that is presently the job position of Left Brain…  On this momentous occasion, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about what it’s like for The Other One.

There is obviously a whole lot that can be written on this subject (see earlier post, https://mypuzzledlife.com/2015/01/11/recommended-reading-part-2/).  John was perhaps the easiest baby ever born – he was happy, placid, easy-going and slept through the night at 3 weeks old.  We used to dine out in restaurants often with the baby seat beside us with no worry about disrupting other diners (obviously, not so with Henry…)  He had a quiet watchfulness about him – as if he was observing everything around him before making any judgements – he’s very much like Left Brain in this sense.  He was the little guy that everyone invited over for playdates.  I never had to worry about him in new situations – he went with the flow.  In fact, when I found myself pregnant again before John’s first birthday, there was no panic – we had this parenting thing figured out!!  It was easy!! (Let me take some time here while I laugh hysterically at our innocent naiveté!!!!!)

When our life exploded with the arrival of Henry, he again, went with the flow.  He was very sweet with his little brother, often making him smile and laugh.  I have a video of John making faces at Henry, with his little brother breaking out in belly laughs – the camera is shaking because I was laughing so hard.  And he would do this over, and over, and over again.  He shared everything, without hesitation.  I remember at the time, there being a lot of discussion about easing the transition when a new child comes into the house – about smoothing over any jealousy the older sibling might have.  I have never seen that emotion from my older son – not to this day.  Irritation sometimes (and well deserved)… but never jealousy at the time I have had to spend looking after Henry’s needs.

There were things that we didn’t do because it would have been too much – ski weekends, family movie outings, family vacations sometimes, family dinners to restaurants.  The most notable family rite of passage that we skipped, was the trip to Disneyland.  As I’ve said before, I think the #1 rule of having a child with special needs, is this;  ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN B.  Sometimes the creation of a Plan B is too much work – there – I said it.  But John never complained.  He saw his friends doing things that we weren’t doing – and he never complained.  As I said, occasionally, there was irritation.  Around the time that teenagers start caring more about what their friends think than you, he said he was embarrassed to have friends over because Henry “did things”.  “I understand,” I said.  “Do you know how many times he’s embarrassed me in public?”  I didn’t tell him that he was lucky because he didn’t have the same problems that his brother had, or that life was easier for him in so many ways than his brother. I acknowledged his feelings – John felt validated by that and accepted it.

As my intelligent, good-looking, funny, introspective, popular and easy-going son has matured, I am continually impressed by the man he is becoming.  He is actually a lot like Left Brain, version 2.0.  It’s no wonder I love and like him so much.  I am amazed, as every parent is, at the wonderful combination that our DNA has produced!  He knows that at some point, he will have to be responsible for his younger brother (hopefully, this won’t be necessary – but the story hasn’t ended yet and we don’t know…)  He accepts it without resentment.

So, The Other One does not have a typical sibling relationship.  There have been times when #1 Son has received the short end of the stick.  But we are so proud of this unique young man.  So, my darling boy, Happy 21st Birthday and congratulations on being who you are.

I Can Do It “By My Own”

He is, indeed, doing it "By My Own"...  nothing a hose couldn't take care of after!

He is, indeed, doing it “By My Own”… nothing a hose couldn’t take care of after!

“By My Own…”  This is a phrase that Henry used regularly when he was a little guy.  He couldn’t quite get the phraseology right…  I would patiently remind him that it’s, “I can do it on my own,” or the ever popular, “I can do it by myself.”  But I’ve gotten used to the By My Own phrase – because he still uses it.

Towards the end of his last semester, he was required to pick his courses for semester 2, all while studying for exams for semester 1.  Was he stressed?  Uh – yeah!!  He is registered with the Center for Students with Disabilities and has an advisor.  As well, we connected with his guidance counsellor so that he could discuss his options.  So – courses were picked, he studied and wrote his exams.

Fast forward to his return to school.  His first week back, he attended one of the selected courses, Chemistry, and decided he didn’t like the class (or the prof, or the vibe or whatever…)  So he wanted to drop the course to lighten his load – given that he’s taking two math courses this semester (and math is always a challenge) – this would give him more time to work on math.  Great idea…  But let’s meet with your guidance counsellor or disability advisor first just to make sure we’re making the right move.  He agreed.  And then could not get a meeting fast enough before his next Chemistry class to drop the course.  Anxiety and a sense of urgency (on his part) started to set in.

But here’s the thing…  Certainly, there are many things that we can all do on our own – but we don’t have to.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help.

On Wednesday morning, my lower back spasmed while doing a yoga pose.  And you can bet that I didn’t hesitate to ask for help and call in the professionals as soon as I got home!!  But it took me a long time to learn this lesson – it’s NOT a sign of weakness to ask for help!!!  For a 2-3 year period when I was looking for a school for Henry, and then we began the arduous process of trying to get a diagnosis for Henry, I became slowly and more overwhelmed.  After his diagnosis, I had a crisis of sorts.  It all caught up and came crashing down.  It was at this time that I sought help – and realized and learned in the process, that I needed to ask for help.  (This is a long story and worthy of several posts….)

We ALL need help from time to time.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a team together to achieve a desired goal.  How about peace of mind?  So…  Henry; and I; will continue to do it “By My Own”, with help.

What is my Deal?

This week I’ve been feeling kind of low…  I injured my back in yoga this week, and as Left Brain keeps reminding me, “You are turning 53 and we are getting older and you have to expect this kind of thing once in a while…”  Whoa, whoa, whoa….  First of all, I’m turning 52 next week, NOT 53….  He has to be reminded once in a while that he did indeed marry a trophy babe – he is waaay older than me – he’s turning 56 this year….  And after making that comment, he was pleasantly surprised by the response time of the EMS team…  But back to the injury…  I am pissed that I’ve been waylaid for the week, but the blues I’ve been feeling are a little more than that.

So, I tried to figure it out this afternoon – while I cranked the tunes to continue painting the basement TV room – which is basically only used by Son # 1 – Left Brain likes to call it the room where our son has sex in (!!!!)  OK – ew…  Even if I do acknowledge that in the far reaches of my mind, I don’t need it pointed out to me!  I’m repainting because I have to look at this room on my way by to the laundry room!  And I might use it occasionally, because Left Brain and I do not always agree on the Netflix selection for the evening – which he maintains has saved our marriage since the kids left in the fall….  But I digress…  Back to the tunes – I had Supertramp going (I didn’t realize as a teenager how deep some of those lyrics are!), Phantom of the Opera (because what’s a work session without some show tunes?), and finally, ELO (Electric Light Orchestra for those out there who were born after 1975…).  By the way, I challenge anyone not to “air drum” at the beginning of Evil Woman – listen to it again – you can’t do it!!

1977 - the era of the music...  I'm wearing my railroad overalls - cool, man!

1977 – the era of the music… I’m wearing my railroad overalls – cool, man!

But while I was working and singing away, my subconscious was figuring out this latest problem.  Why have I been so bummed out?  While I was out in the car doing errands this morning, I called both of the boys (relax – I have Bluetooth…)  And then it hit me.  I’m missing them all over again.  It’s like September again…  I feel like I’m experiencing the Empty Nest all over again.  I thought I had re-adjusted – but I guess not.  Anyways, just figuring this out made me feel better – and belting out all those old tunes!

Recommended Reading – Part 2

Looks fascinating!!

Looks fascinating!!

So, this is a follow up to my first post on Recommended Reading.  There are sooo many books out there – some are absolute crap – but others really helpful.  In fact, there should probably be another post on what not to read.  I find that the ones that tell us what it’s like to be inside an autistic’s brain to be the most helpful.  Here are my other Top 5 (to finish the Top 10 list – because nobody does a Top 5 list….)

  1. Carly’s Voice – Breaking Through Autism – by Arthur Fleischmann with Carly Fleischmann – This young girl is a twin and is non-verbal.  With help from her therapists and the world which was opened up with a computer, she is able to communicate what it’s like to be her.  She also writes a blog, which you can find at carlysvoice.com.
  2. look me in the eye – my life with asperger’s – by John Elder Robison – This guy did not find out he had Asperger’s until he was 40.  He dropped out of school, and worked with KISS – he developed their fire-breathing guitars.  He has a dark sense of humour, and it is fascinating to read his story.  Mr. Robison also wrote a subsequent book called be different – Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian.
  3. the curious incident of the dog in the night-time – by Mark Haddon – I’m sure practically everyone has read this book; but if you haven’t, it strives to solve a mystery as told by a young autistic man.  Mr. Haddon worked with autistic people, and he really “gets” it.  The story is also very funny – at least I thought it was – but then, I recognized a lot of the idiosyncrasies.
  4. There are 2 books by Gabor Mate, M.D. that I thought were fascinating.  Although they don’t deal directly with autism, they do capture what it’s like to be on the fringe of society.  They are:  In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, and Scattered Minds – A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder.
  5. Being the Other One:  Growing Up with a Brother or Sister Who Has Special Needs by Kate Strohm.  Siblings of the disabled face particular emotional challenges that are often overlooked.  The author conducts extensive interviews with siblings of all ages.  This particular topic is obviously worth a blog post – more to come on that….

So – that’s it – for now…

Happy New Year!!!

Guess who!!

Guess who!!

I cannot believe it’s 2015!!!  But first – a few musings on New Years Eve…

  1. Ryan Seacrest is a poor substitute for Dick Clark.
  2. All of the other hosts on the other programs featured people I’ve never heard of….
  3. I also have never heard of most of the acts that were “performing” (doesn’t anybody just sing anymore?  I’ve never seen so much lip-synching in my life!)
  4. I couldn’t care less whether or not I make it to midnight to see the ball drop!
  5. I’m not much of one for New Year’s resolutions.  I’m more of a beginning of school, September kind of gal.

I did get to thinking about resolutions that we make around this time of year.  Of course, there’s the usual losing weight, quitting smoking, getting healthier kind of fare.  And these are all laudable goals.  But why particularly, on January 1st?  Aren’t these things we should be striving for every single day?  It can also be rather overwhelming if you’re facing a goal of 30+ pounds to lose, or cutting out your regular 10 ciggies a day, or trying to start exercising if you hate it!  But I think that if you break your goals down into small, measurable steps, you’ll be surprised at how far you’ve come when you look back.

And, if you are a parent to a child with special needs, the future can be quite scary.  When we first moved into our present house 13 years ago, Henry was just beginning primary school.  Besides the fact that it felt like we jumped through hoops to get him accepted to this school in the first place, the other things that I worried about every day could be rather overwhelming.  Would he ever learn to read?  Would he ever “get” math?  Would he have friends?  Would he get kicked out of the school for acting out?  Never mind – would he ever graduate from high school, go to college/university, find a girlfriend, get a job, live on his own…. If I thought about these things, I would have driven myself crazy.  So Left Brain and I learned very quickly to only think about the things that were directly in front of our face at that particular moment.

If I could share my New Year’s resolution wish for all of those parents out there who are frightened and worried about the future, it would be:  “Deal with what you can at the moment.  Don’t beat yourself up – and don’t sweat the small stuff.”  As time passes, you might be surprised and amazed at how far you’ve come!

“The Uniform”

That was Robin's cape - we also had Batman & Superman...

That was Robin’s cape – we also had Batman & Superman…

“I’VE BROKEN MY BELT!!!!”, he bellows in a panic.  Now, this is a key part of his uniform – but having said that, I guess I wasn’t picking up on the immediacy of this problem!  Let me explain about “The Uniform”…

Since Henry was a little guy, he has gravitated to the same thing every day – whether it’s his attire or what he eats.  When he was little, he wore a superhero cape everywhere!  He especially loved running and looking behind him to see it fluttering in the breeze (there was also an Acadia hat that was worn…)

When he was a little older, there was an Acadia sweatshirt that his grandparents sent one Christmas to Left Brain – which was sized for a 12-year old…  This got worn until it fell apart – even during the heat of summer at camp.

Notice the toque... This was an accidental overlap of the whole hiphop-gansta thing...

Notice the toque… This was an accidental overlap of the whole hiphop-gansta thing…

Then the age of the baseball shirts – even though he hadn’t the slightest interest in the sport…

He had the Blue Jays, the Tigers & of course, the Yankees...

He had the Blue Jays, the Tigers & of course, the Yankees…

Then came the age of plaid shirts, jeans, belt cinched as tight as possible, and the ever present hat – which is a good thing, because it coincided with his proclivity to laser part his hair, and plaster each side down…

IMG_0010

 

So, having one part of his uniform on the IR (“injured reserved”), was causing him stress.  So, I reasonably asked whether or not his pants were in danger of falling down.  “ARE YOU CALLING ME FAT??!!”  Uh – no….  Then I asked him whether or not he could wait until Christmas break to get a new belt.  That idea was NOT flying…  After some conversation, we got to the root of the problem.  Although he is fastidious and dogmatic with his “The Uniform”, there were other bigger issues causing him stress and anxiety.

With exams approaching, he was worried about getting a high enough mark in math to ensure he gets admission to his chosen program at university.  Also, in the next week, he had to select all of his courses for semester 2.  So, after some calming discussion and problem solving together, he was a little more calm.

However… having said that – the next Saturday, I drove to The Shwa, with a new belt, a pizza and a big hug.

 

Recommended Reading

She's clearly under the age of 45 - where are her readers??!!

She’s clearly under the age of 45 – where are her readers??!!

If you’re Canadian, you absolutely have to read the Anne of Green Gables series… (and even if you’re not – Canadian, I mean.)  I think I read the first 3 in the series twenty times!  My copies actually fell apart!  And I’m crazy about Ken Follett (I’ve just started the 3rd book in his Century Trilogy), as well as Game of Thrones (natch!!! – is that seventh book ever coming out?!)  Greg Iles is pretty awesome too – but beware – if you start his new fabulous novel called “Natchez Burning” – beware….  It’s a trilogy and I didn’t know this when I started.  It’s like waiting for the next season of Game of Thrones to start.  All that aside, you’re probably more interested in what I’ve found helpful in my quest to understand autism.  These are my Top 10…  (starting with my Top 5 – because 10 is too much for one read…)

  1. Thinking in Pictures – and other Reports from my Life with Autism – by Temple Grandin – an absolute must-read.  She describes what it’s like to be in her head, and the ways that she’s figured out how to function and interact in a world she often does not understand.  In fact, anything written by Temple is amazing – this just happens to be my favourite.
  2. The Way I See It – A Personal Look at Autism & Asperger’s – by Temple Grandin – ditto on the above – fabulous read.
  3. Emergence Labeled Autistic – by Temple Grandin and Margaret M. Scariano – you really just need to read all of these books by Dr. Grandin.  In fact, I’m going to re-read some of these.  It’s been a while since I waded through them.
  4. Making Peace with Autism – by Susan Senator – Susan is a writer/poet/advocate who writes eloquently and sometimes heartbreakingly about being a mother to an autistic child.  It took me some time to get through this one, because she brought raw emotion to the fore – I would start sobbing and would have to put it down for awhile.  But she also communicates that it’s going to be okay.  I leant this book to a friend, who like me, has an autistic son.  She could not get through it.  She said she was “not ready to forgive it.”  I totally got what she meant…  but I also wanted some peace.  Susan’s blog is fabulous, especially if you are American – she has great insight into services that are offered in her system.  Find her at http://susansenator.com/blog/.
  5. Songs of the Gorilla Nation – My Journey Through Autism – by Dawn Prince-Hughes, Ph.D. – The best way to describe this is to quote Dawn herself:  “This is a book about autism.  Specifically, it is about my autism, which is both like and unlike other people’s autism.  But just as much, it is a story about how I emerged from the darkness of it into the beauty of it.”  Enough said…

And that’s the point, I think.  There is beauty and advantage to being an autistic person.  I’m not saying it’s not scary, or frustrating, or confusing.  You just have to find those particular gifts and celebrate them.  It has been a distinct pleasure and joy to watch Henry’s attributes and strengths grow.