Click, click, click… is quietly added, as my fingers fly over the keyboard of my computer.
H is at a birthday party. It is for The Lovely S – and part of me is so proud that he is there and so grateful to this wonderful girl that she invites H to her party each year. They are both 13 now, so I suspect these parties will soon be coming to an end: if not this year… then very soon.
Earlier in the day the anxiety from H almost crackled in the air as we got the present and card wrapped and ready. I gave him a pack of gum for his pocket… gum is calming. Now, I reflect, I should have kept a piece for myself.
I gave him a bright blue paper with our number and my cell number – also for his pocket. I tried to review some skills for interacting with peers, quickly one last time, as we were in the car. A brittle balance – treading carefully – not wanting to raise his anxiety, or have him frustrated with me… but rather, hoping to remind him of some of his most recent aha moments so that these skills could be brought with him to the party.
Perhaps we were both faking it… or maybe it was mostly me.
The time ticks by – I have not received a call…
Every moment – I am full of hope and full of this anxious feeling that things will go well for him. I wanted to stay – to offer to help – but at 13, that is just awkward. It also transmits my own concern to H in a way that I don’t think is particularly helpful. How can H be confident if he has to deal with my anxiety and the embarrassment of a hovering mother?
And too… there reaches a point when my staying at the birthday ‘to help out’ is like a red flashing light for H’s peers that only highlights his differences and makes interaction more challenging. It is one thing to have your mom stay at 6, or even 10, but quite another at age 13.
H revealed that he understands the social awkwardness of this as well. As we drove up to The Lovely S’s house he asked, “Mom, are you coming to the party too?”
“No, I don’t think that is necessary… but you can call me if you need to…”
He was visibly relieved, “Oh, that’s good!”
I have to trust. I need to trust. I feel guilty that it is difficult. I feel like a liar…
Trepidation… Aaaack! I resist the urge to call… to check…
My chest is tight…
Most of the time I think my kid is doing so well, and he is! Then there are these moments when I am faced with the fear driven glimpse of the possibility that my child will always be on the periphery, misunderstood and socially isolated. During these moments it is a forward-thinking all-encompassing fear… and sometimes I wish I had more trust for what the future might hold for my boy.
Right now as these two hours click and tick slowly by… I am uncomfortable, anxious, worried, and ashamed that I do not have more faith in this moment… in these two hours.
I know that when I pick up H I will be sunshine… and positive… and smiles – because that is what is useful. I will put aside my disquiet because these feelings are mine, and I need to own them… but I do not need dangle them in front of me always or in front of my child. I do not need my not knowing the future fear to act as a lens through which I view all things. I think that might be almost immobilizing.
This is not the first time I have reflected that there are times when my internal and external worlds are not a match. I’m trying to unravel this sense of discomfort from what it is my son needs. My feelings are intertwined with my own perspective and I need to move cautiously – because the value of his experiences cannot fully be measured from my non Autistic perspective.
I suppose this is a practice session for me: a microcosm of things to come.
And I find myself noticing the recurring theme and that the phrase one-step-at a time is indeed my mantra…
And, as well, my disquiet reminds me that if I want the world to be a better match for H, and others like him, there is work to be done…
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2012)