Ever wish you could turn back time and and speak to the younger (and less wrinkly) you? I do. Every day. Since I can’t do that, I wrote this letter. Now about getting my hands on a time machine…hmm…
Listen chica, it’s 2006 and that mousey brown hair color is only accentuating your quickly carving frown lines. Hire a sitter, and get that mop of yours trimmed and dyed. It will do wonders for your mood. Trust me!
Now that I have your attention, hear me out. It’s me, Kristi. Yeah you, but a bit more pulled together (minus the deflated mom boobs- we’ve still got those). It’s 2012 (so far the Mayans have been wrong) and I have to admit I can’t stop thinking about you, I mean me. Simple math suggests that you live at least six more years, long enough for me to write you (er, me) this note, so there’s some good news for you.
Kristi, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish things were easier for you during our son’s early years. Come to think of it, you don’t even know he has autism yet. Autism, PDD-NOS, spectrum disorder, delayed, whatever- purely semantics; trust me.
J.R. is out of control at the moment, I know. Whoops, I can see he’s working toward yanking his bedroom door clear off its hinges. Impressive for a two-year old, really! Here’s the good part Kristi: he’s your only job right now. Dive in. P.S. Nobody becomes supermom before her kids are out of elementary school anyway, so please quit trying. Leave the laundry. Oh and for the love of God ditch that crock pot. Your poor husband will be nice enough to wait until 2009 to report your five ingredient, slow cook meals have zero taste. Order takeout. You’re about to lose your ass in therapy costs, so you may as well enjoy a rainbow roll and seaweed salad here and there for now.
Now the bad news: as you learn more about children on the spectrum you realize you’re probably hovering somewhere over the wheel yourself. In your case, if you didn’t already suffer from ADD you do now, hence the following advice that is all over the place:
J.R.’s progress will be slow. Very slow. That goal you have in your head for him to “catch up” by Kindergarten? Not gonna happen. Put your calendar down and your running shoes on for the long road ahead.
I know how you think. You feel like everyone is staring at you. Okay they kind-of are, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to surmise that J.R. is different. And difficult. Tell me again how that is a reflection on you? Right! It’s NOT! Jack up your big girl panties and learn to laugh at yourself- oh and laugh out loud so you don’t hear everyone else whispering about “that mom and weird kid over there.” Kidding Kristi; kidding!
Brace yourself for that awful day you nearly bite our husband’s head off when he accuses you of crying too much over J.R.’s diagnosis. You will never forget that moment you stood up for yourself and your right to a personal grieving period. Nobody, and I mean nobody will feel the pain of a loss of a child more deeply than his own mother. And there is certainly no expiration date for those oh-so therapeutic tears! That being said, begin today worshiping the ground that husband of ours walks on. Most men in his shoes would just walk out.
Your mother-in-law is not the enemy. Laugh all you want now at her comments about love being the best medicine. To your chagrin, she is going to be right about lots of things.
Don’t believe the doctors who say there is nothing wrong with your son. Don’t believe the doctors that say there is everything wrong with your son but there’s a pricey fix for that. Believe your son will improve. Because he will. And your love alone will have a huge hand in that. Told you she would be right.
Stop correcting J.R.’s behavior. And no I didn’t mean behaviors. Let me educate you on the difference: It’s NOT acceptable for J.R. to take off on his scooter and be half-way around the block before you even get a chance to scream out his name. Oh and no, he isn’t developing normally just because he appears nearly ready to qualify for The X Games. It was pretty cool though to see him pick up a bike without training wheels and ride off like he’d done it his whole life, at age 4 ½.
On the other hand, J.R. will never stop (I repeat, NEVER STOP) wanting to engage in repetitive behaviors. Today it’s watching The Wiggles (ugh I’m so embarrassed to admit to that personal crush on Greg). Brace yourself for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, anything spewing from the Cars never ending merchandising monster (oh and don’t hold your breath for Cars 2, it sucked) and wait for it, wait for it: TRAINS! Toy trains, stuffed trains, wooden trains, plastic trains, train DVD’s, train displays, and ESPECIALLY … TOM HANKS. Ugh! Exhaaaaaaaaaaausting!!!!!!! My point? It is a part of J.R.’s makeup to find something to obsess over, so don’t YOU obsess over his obsessions? You follow me?
Give yourself a break, as well as others around you. You’ve got it rough, I know, but so does everyone else. Yeah I said it, having a child with autism doesn’t really make you that special. By the time J.R. is five you’ll look around and think man is there something in the water? but that aside, know that everyone has a “thing” he or she must deal with. Whether it be a lack of job satisfaction or spider veins, we all have pressing issues that hinder our ability to enjoy life to what we think is its fullest.
Seriously consider doing something for yourself, and I don’t mean an occasional mani/pedi. Learn a foreign language. Travel. Take a creative writing class (hint hint). Nurture friendships.
I promise you that having to raise a child J.R. will make you a better person. I see at the moment that you can barely make the bed, but listen up. Every single solitary milestone J.R. reaches, from forming a two-syllable word to performing in a school play will evoke an excitement in you rivaling that of a ticker-tape parade. And believe it or not, there will come a day when he too realizes this. And celebrates with you.
Kristi, you wont always be the hot mess you are today. I am proud to announce that you will grow and develop emotionally right along with J.R. and learn to handle the cards you’ve been dealt with grace (and a great deal of alcoholic beverages). Other parents will look up to you (except of course when you are spied flipping off another parent), and after a few years you will even be able to say the word autism out loud. Oh and by the way, our 40’s are FAB! Just hold on girl!
Unfortunately, some things will remain the same. Autism will continue to be misunderstood in the years to come. Argument over its possible causes will overshadow efforts to find a fix. Sad. And in case you are wondering, yes, John Mayer will forever be considered a douche bag. Poor guy, and so cute! His lyrics, though, will bring you lots of comfort when the gravity of our situation gets to be too much . I’ll close this note with a few of your soon to be favorites, which pretty much sum things up:
Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No it won’t all go the way it should
But I know the heart of life is good.
Hang in there Kristi. I love you, I mean you love you more than you know,