Monday, March 26, 2012

Look Mom! Yes Hands

“Well, I kinda sorta looked….”



And you wonder why my friends think I should be medicated full-time…

Six weeks from now Sean will be turning 14 years old.  Surely, most kids his age are riding their bikes in the streets and exploring places without direct parental supervision.

Why then as I’m sitting in a chair on the driveway, my cross-legged appendages feverishly swinging back and forth, can I barely contain my nerves as I watch Sean ride his bike into the street?


Because he only kinda sorta looked….

I can understand not looking at people’s faces due to his autism.  I can understand that and so many other things.

But seriously Sean, you need to look!!!!

Luckily the infraction of making a left turn onto our street without even so much as a glance backwards occurred within viewing distance of my home and boy, did I ever give it to him good when he pulled into the driveway.

“Yea, well, I looked before.”

“Before what?”

“Before that runaway bus streaked down our road???” my mind shouted.


Now I know that just getting our kids to ride bicycles or passing any “typical” milestone is a big deal and I really should count my blessings that Sean is so high functioning.

But that also comes with a conundrum and a price that I’m not always willing to pay.

Do I let him go off on his bicycle and risk all the horrors that my mind can imagine?  Or do I keep him doing the same small driveway-to-driveway loop that his 6-year old sister is beginning to master?

I think to Carissa…Sean’s 12-year old sister.  Would she look?  Does she look? 
Oh the horrors of parenting!

I’m just as overprotective of her as I am of Sean. 

Carissa will roll her eyes and give me the “Oh Mom!” when I insist upon watching her cross the street down at the corner.  I’ve reluctantly given up trying to watch every step she takes as she walks to her friend’s house but I still do quietly cry out “Don’t run” when she kicks it into high gear.

What if she fell?

What if??

Of course if I gave into that question I would never let any of my children out of the house.

So I won’t…. give into the question that is… because two days into Spring Break and the idea of not letting them out of the house is the essence of insanity.

But I will try and get it into Sean’s head that he has to be aware of his surroundings.

Autistic or not, he has to look.

I thought my little overbearing-mom-lecture mini-freakout on the driveway would have made an impression on him until we were exiting a grocery store later in the day.

Sure enough, Sean walked out the door, gave a quick glance at who knows what, put his head down, and began to walk out into the parking lot.

“Look up!” I called to him as I threw my arms up – half out of futility and half out of prayer to some unforeseen Autism Angel.

“Look up.”

Am I frustrated?  Yes…  It is yet another thing to add to the daily lessons that go into sculpting Sean.

It’s difficult to know just when to let him go and find his own way and when to keep him close to you.

I guess it’s instinct.   Mamma Bear protective on my part.  Autism on his. 

Tomorrow the weather turns nasty so the bikes will stay inside.   After that I can’t exactly say when I’ll let him venture off the driveway again.

As for the parking lot… one of the things I love about Sean and his autism is that he still likes to hold my hand.

And I’ll take Sean and everything wonderful and scary and complex about him and his hand any day!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Shoelaces, Soap and Letting Go

As I sat here this morning, thinking of how I’m wasting precious minutes of my life while untying the multitude of knots in Sean’s shoelaces, I could only think back to that first blog entry from just over a year ago.

I wrote about how I one day picked up Sean’s shoes and discovered a normal double knot instead of knot after knot until the laces were at their very ends.

I was surprised, shocked, at how this seemingly normal habit had crept into our lives without me noticing.

A year later that “normal” has disappeared and once again we are back to one of the unique aspects that comprises my wonderful son, Sean.

I used to untie his shoes on a regular basis so he could practice tying them.  He has fine motor difficulties and it took him years…and finally his occupational therapist…to ultimately achieve independence from Velcro closures.

Once he learned, he never wanted to do it again and thus would tie his laces into a plethora of knots in order for them to never come undone…ever.

That is, until I would sit one morning with time on my hands and ruin whatever fingernails I had trying to undo my son’s minor obsession.

I’m not sure when the knotting began occurring again.  There have been bigger issues to deal with… more important fights to fight.

There always are, aren’t there?

So let him knot away.  Have at it.  His new shoes have already begun their journey with Sean’s fidgety fingers leading the way.

As for other battles that I can think over the last year….

Remember the liquid soap?  Kryptonite.  Absolute Kryptonite. 

I gave up that battle as well.  Is it worth torturing my kid so he can fit in with society’s bathroom norms?


I’ve tried different things over the year.  One was to simply drag him into the bathroom every day and try to de-sensitize him. 

Sometimes I wondered if we treated our prisoners better than I was treating my own son.

Thus, I gave up.  I shouldn’t say forever but for now, I have other things on my plate.
Sean’s currently taking a “Life Skills” class… think “Home Ec” for us oldies.  He asked for a bar of soap to take to school so he could wash his hands in class.

Wow…. solid thinking there.  Independence.

I was impressed.

Of course, I tried to convince him to just suck it up (ok… I’m not mom of the year here…) but he said no and I respected his wishes.

I did notice that he had used it.  A win for not only Sean but for any mother of a teenage boy!

I look at him now, on the verge of graduating from 8th grade, and I get anxious about his future.  How will he do in high school?  Will he find friends?  What life skills will he be lacking along the way?

I can only anticipate the battles and worry so much. 

And I’m tired.  Always so tired.

Thus, I will let Sean tie his shoes in whatever manner he pleases.  I will let him wage war against the liquid soap industry.  And I will try to guide him and support him, teach him, throughout his life.

But it’s time to start letting go and giving him the lead.

He did, after all, come up with the idea of taking a bar of soap to school for his class all on his own.

It was something so normal, so independent, surely a sign of him growing up.

Just like when I picked up those shoes a year ago and looked at the “typical” double knots, when, Dear World, did that happen?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Mom's Coping Skills.... by Sean Lehning

  NOTE:  I thought I'd do something different today and let Sean speak for himself....  Enjoy. 

           Sometimes, people annoy and irritate me with their words and actions. Sometimes, that person is my mom. 90% of the people in my life have done something at least once that I didn’t like. But that’s mostly because I only see that other 10% for a short time each day or don’t interact with them much in general.

My Mom annoyed me today when Ashley, my 6-year-old sister who went with me to music therapy today, had a meltdown near the music therapist. My Mom smiled a fake smile. She says she does this to be positive in a negative situation. To me, when she smiles in a negative situation, it seems like she’s pretending the bad situation is just a cruel joke of sorts. 

I have two general rules for my facial expressions:

  1. When something exciting happens (being rushed in a game, playing an intense sport), I smile
  2. When something bad happens (a pet dying, hearing bad news that personally affects me), I look angry and sad at the same time.

So when something bad and exciting happens, I smile like a madman. It’s just natural to me to make an expression like that. But I’ve never really gotten why Mom fakes a smile when there is something bad going on.

Now I know. But I don’t care. Because I am very tolerant of what people do and say. I accept people for who they are, because I know what’s it’s like to criticized for being you as an individual. I can put up with other people’s crap for so long, and when I can’t, I’ll meltdown for a few minutes then go back to normal.

I’ve never really bothered to ask Mom why she fakes smiles in bad situations, but now I know she is just trying to be positive. And I can accept that. If that is how she copes with bad situations that way, I’m okay with it. Because if it works for her, I’ll be happy she deals with the situation instead of just sitting there. I learned something about my mom today that satisfied one of my questions, and I love her, regardless of how she deals with bad situations.