I was hesitant to write a post on this, I had already written half a post on Observations but after breakfast with a younger group of kickass Autism moms I think perspective is needed more than observations. That isn't to say that they need perspective, actually they were all pretty well and truly grounded and focused. Probably way moreso than I was early in our diagnosis!
I think a lot can be said for perspective and it isn't only parents of special needs children who need to do a perspective check every now and again. What we see on tv and read about in books is very rarely actual life even if it is called "reality tv". I know in my reality that if I got into a cat fight at a local restaurant with another housewife I would be thrown in jail, not signed on for another season with a fatter paycheck. If I fought with my friends, punched a girl in the face and slept around indiscriminately I would not get a book deal (meanwhile, shame on the population for buying that book and making it a #1 best seller!!!). I'm off track. Sorry. I understand, it's a train wreck and you can't look away.
Here is my reality, I have 2 boys with Autism, I am married, I am educated, my husband travels for work at least 50% of the time, I am overweight, I have insurance, I have a home, I have a little savings, I drive a minivan (how much more real can I get with a minivan?!).
Here is what I have to keep in perspective when I start focusing on the details and forget the whole picture.
Autism does not reduce my child's life expectancy. Let me repeat that because is it so very important. Autism DOES NOT reduce my child's life expectancy. Around the same time we received Cameron's diagnosis, I also met another boy around the same age as Cameron. His diagnosis was Muscular Dystrophy. I was worried about how to help my child have a full-filling and rewarding life. His mom was worried about how much she could teach and show her child in the short 12-14 years he was estimated to live.
Last month I was talking with my friend who has a daughter in high school. She mentioned that she needed to go to WalMart and buy travel size bottles of shampoo. I asked if they were taking a trip. No, her daughter was taking them to school to donate. What? Her high school has 27 homeless students. TWENTY-SEVEN!!!!! The school counselor is giving the kids small bottles of shampoo so that they can hide them in their backpacks and so that they can bathe without the other kids knowing they are homeless. There are 10 high schools in Frederick, if every school has 27 homeless students that is 270 kids without homes.
I could go on forever about the injustices in the world. My heart breaks to think of a child going to bed hungry or cold and to think of a mother who is some day going to have to go on living when another cannot. It is very easy to get lost in the details of life and to forget the greater picture. Solace can be found within the grand scheme of things. You can celebrate little things and you should.
Cameron didn't talk until he was three and a half years old. The moms in my local moms group were talking about their child's first few words...mama, dada, cat. I wrote down Cameron's first 100 words. We celebrated each and every one of them. The day he reached for me and said "Mommy" was one of the happiest days of my life.
On Monday Cameron and Adam received Academic Awards at school. Both got the "Hard Worker" award, it isn't the highest honor at the school but it is recognition of their work. We sat through an hour of 5th grade awards, Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade then it was time for 3rd grade. All the kids politely stood, received their award and stood in the front of the auditorium with their parent for a picture. Cameron's name was one of the last names called in 3rd grade and when it was he jumped up and shouted, "WOO HOO! I DID IT!!!" He ran to the front of the auditorium and gave his teacher a big hug and a high five to the rest of the teachers. He stood on the risers with Rob and beamed from ear to ear and congratulated all the other 3rd graders around him. His 1st grade baby brother stood up and went to the front of the room and gave him a hug. Other parents tittered and giggled and I stood up and clapped for him so extremely proud of his accomplishment.
I learn something every single day. My teachers are other mothers going through the same thing I am today, and other mothers going through more painful things than I can ever imagine. My teachers are high school students who want to lend a hand to a fellow classmate with only caring and not judgment. My teachers are my kids who celebrate with me every single step, word, award, and hug. My teacher is me, making myself take a moment to empathize, to listen, to help and to share.