Tuesday, August 23, 2011

GBE Challenge: Growing Wild

Here's my challenge for this week. The picture below with the topic "Growing Wild".

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA! Did someone take a snapshot of my life? Am I on a hidden camera? This family wrote the book on all things wild!

When our older son was first diagnosed with autism, I went through a period of denial. Oh, I knew he had issues, but even though he was nonverbal, didn't point to a darned thing in his life and barely looked me in the eyes, I wasn't buying his diagnosis.

"Well, he may SPIN things, but that's only because he's curious about how they works," I'd argue.

"He knows his name! He's just too BUSY to answer to it." That excuse was my personal favorite.

I suppose it is natural. My husband was doing his own processing and one day passed along to me something he had read with regard to autism. It was a story of a father walking along an endless patch of beach with his son, a child living with autism. The child loved the freedom of the ocean, and he took off running as soon as his feet hit the sand. The father said to himself, surely this child is going to turn around soon. Surely he will reference me, my presence, check to see how far away from me he was--acknowledge me in some way.

The child never turned around.

He lacked that social connectivity to even his parent. This is not uncommon among people with autism.

I wondered about our own son at that time. He loved me, didn't he? I know he didn't like to sit in my lap or be held or hugged by me, but, surely he loved me and would want me in his world.


I felt sorry for the father in the story because, darn it, THAT WAS NOT US! However, as soon as I heard the story, I could not explain it away. I had to test it out. So, I took our boys to a playground with lots of land--LOTS of land. Our son was not quite three, and his brother was a newborn in a stroller. I pulled our toddler out of the stroller, set him down to walk and to see what would happen.

He wasted no time. He ran. He ran hard and fast away from us. I watched and waited as he was headed toward the woods at the back of the property. Here I was with a baby in the stroller, and a child who was not looking back at us. I called his name, but at that time, he didn't answer to his name.

Another mom agreed to watch our younger son while I took off after the older son. And, as I carried him back to the playground equipment, I thought, yes, yes we are exactly like the father and son on the beach.

Today, our son is able to listen to our direction. It has taken eight years of chasing him down in public places to accomplish some sort of compliance on his part. Yet, we have not won the battle. If he wants something enough, he'll break away from us and run like there is no more tomorrow.

That's what I think of when I see this picture. It reminds me of the father and son on the beach or my young family at the playground; however, we now have added a lack of compliance to the equation. Now he knows we are calling, but he doesn't care.

Here in this picture, I can see my children, young in their autism and behaviors, growing, wild and in great need of patient redirecting. If someone were to tell me that this is a place I was about to visit, the first thing I would think of is, oh no, there is a body of water in the distance, and, if I were unlucky enough to land in that field, I have no doubt that our child is going to scream, kick, cry and eventually bolt from us in a compulsive effort to get to the water. It doesn't matter that he can't swim. It doesn't matter that we are calling to him to be careful. He doesn't think of those minor details. Who cares about safety?

By the way, there are bugs that walk, bugs that fly and bugs that buzz and, even worse, NO ELECTRICAL OUTLETS in the meadow! Our younger son would be one big labor of love for us to manage through this environment.

It looks awfully hot for parents running after crazy kids, and where are the bathrooms, anyway? If there are no bathrooms, I am NOT responsible for any naked child that walks into the scene and ruins the peaceful viewing pleasure of others.

To the average person, I'm sure that this meadow looks beautiful. Mentally stepping into those shoes for just one moment, I can imagine leisurely walks among the flowers, or, better still, running with joyful abandon until falling breathless into the sweet summer grass? The wild flowers blossom as I dream of beautiful moments yet to happen.

I don't know any family with autism that lives this life.

This picture looks like a lot of work! No thanks. I think I will walk away from this one, and, taking a cue from our older son, I'm going to elect to not look back as I leave!


  1. As much as when I read your posts, I think that I understand your life and what you go through every day, I am certain that I am wrong. I might temporarily get it--in theory only--but that's not getting it. Not really. Not really at all.

    I come to your page well-rested. I visit from my quiet house, my children grown and on their own. And honestly, had I even read the words that you write even when I had a houseful, I wouldn't have really gotten it.

    So I'm not about to insult you and pretend that I can feel what you feel or truly understand the path that you and your husband (and your children, for that matter) walk every day. But what I do know, what I really do get is that those boys are luckier than they will ever know to have you--to have been born into a family where exhaustion is brushed aside because no matter how overwhelming it is, the love is stronger.

    I don't know that I have appropriate words to tell you how much I admire your strength. I hope you won't always need to be this strong; I pray that one day, a switch will flip and and it'll be easier and your instincts won't have to be so heightened and you can exhale.

  2. Beth, your words have really hit home for me. I'm sitting at the end of our son's bed, having exchanged vomit vigil for the fluid pushing patrol, and I'm crying!!

    Thank you for reading, for your insight and for your support.

  3. This has given me a greater insight into autism than anything I have ever read before. Thank you so much for sharing it.
    My heart goes out to you, and I so admire your patience and perseverance, despite all the difficulties you face each day. Your boy may not be able to communicate but I am sure that deep inside him he knows he is loved.

  4. Paula, what a compliment this is! Thank you.

  5. Every single week I read, I cry sometimes, I imagine. I can't. Imagine, I mean. I can only praise, admire and pray. You are one of God's most special creatures and he gave you 2 of his other special creatures because he wanted to help you help them. He gave you a heart with gigantic capacity and the patience he gave Job and more than all of this...he gave you writing skills to share with all of us who care about your family and now know them, second hand. You are sooooo loved and appreciated here in the blogger world as much as you are in your home.


  6. When I wrote this post, I thought that it came out a little light. I didn't think I did justice to the level of chaos that can acccompany life with autism, the ever-hyper response system that is required and the social isolation that comes along with saying, "No thanks, that event/atmosphere does not work for us."

    Thanks for reading. I have appreciated the feedback more than I can say.

  7. What Beth said was spot on - I cannot imagine the strength it takes to get you through each day. The fact that you make time to share it, and reach out in that way astounds me. Love teaches us lessons that we couldn't find anywhere else. Thanks for writing.

  8. God must have seen incredible strength, purpose, and resolve in yous to bless you with a child who will run away and not look back!! I would go stark raving bonkers. But here you handle it fine with love and grace. A person tends to rise to any occasion given in life. Love conquers all and makes all things bearable and workable.


  9. When I am working outside on the coldest winter day, I bring my mind around to Ernest Shackleton and his crew stuck in the Antarctic ice for months; When I must work on the hottest of summer days I recall those soldiers in Iraq who can not strip down to shorts and a t-shirt, but must endure heavy, burdensome battle gear and body armor for the important cause at hand; When I am carrying yet another bundle of shingles up a ladder I remind myself of the firemen who faithfully went up the doomed stairways of the twin towers with impossible loads of equipment on their backs.
    Now, when I weary at the pile of chores awaiting me at home that my semi-invalid wife can not manage by herself, when I must clean up again after our (stupid) little dogs, I will call to mind the best example I know of a deep sacrificial love--second only to that of Jesus Christ's willingness to go to the cross: Amy McMunn Schindler.
    Hang in there. You and your husband are doing vital work, not just for your boys, but for all of us!

  10. YES i LOVE your childs choice; DONT LOOK BACK hehe

    just reading in the word this morning about our whining and Gods smiling; FAITH IS GROWING and this truly pleases him!! You are chosen..Psalm 44 even David whined...its ok...cuz JOY COMES IN THE MORN..when we realize (that hind site thang) not looking back is OK!! hehe

  11. My, my, Brenda, your words fit me this morning! Thank you!

  12. You write in such an honest way and I am constantly amazed (and amused) by the way you infuse humor into your posts. This is fantastic!