Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Being Jack's Mom

Summer is here in New England, and it's hot and sticky. Given our recent move and no longer having a lake in my backyard it's not nearly as enjoyable as it has been. Change. Yuck. Another change this year is no summer childcare. None. Zip. Zilch. Every year until now I've had some sort of "paid help" whether it be school camp, a baby sitter or day camp at the lake. It was nice because it gave me a break and some time to work uninterupted and it also got Jack out of the house and with "other people", which everyone has always stressed the importance of.  This year it's the two of us, here, mostly in this house. It's going okay so far and I'm quickly realizing that the "nice" part of having childcare was for my benefit only. Don't get me wrong, I'd take someone up on the offer in a heartbeat. I still enjoy getting time to just be me, without mom duties 24/7, but he's over the moon with most of it.

Life is busy for us, even at the slower pace we like to move. I try to wear many hats in the summer, but between being a doll artist, a housekeeper, a cook, a house renovator, a girlfriend, a daughter, a friend, and a woman, the largest part of me is still mostly Jack's Mom. 

I've struggled with that, probably since the day he was born. Not because I didn't want him or love him, but mostly because I realized I wasn't made for this. I was completely out of my element, and that mothers instinct thing was lost on me, at least for a very long time. Some woman are definitely cut out for the job of motherhood and I have absolutely nothing in common with them. The struggle was made even harder by not having the same type of child rearing experiences as these "other" moms.  All of our "stuff" was different. Not necessarily bad. Just different. I had an amazingly polite 2 year old who said please and thank you, but for life of me I couldn't get him to wave, or play with other kids, or even acknowledge me half the time. "Our" struggles were different, and our time table and milestones were different too. I didn't fully know that then, so I kept reading the books and trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. It wasn't an easy road in the beginning, even though I was sure I had an amazing kid. I fought against what was, in order to try to get us to what we should be. I listened to a lot of the wrong people. 

I know, now, that wasn't what I should have been doing. Hindsight. 

Over the last year and half I have learned so much. About myself, about my son, and about accepting what is. Although no one has an official diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, living "as if" has changed things drastically for both of us. It's still a process of living and learning and making a few mistakes, but  everything that was so confusing way back in the beginning now makes perfect sense. That's not to say that we don't still have our struggles. We do. Almost daily. But we can manage them and solve problems and do whatever it is that we need to, regardless of how typical or normal it may seem to anyone else. 

Today was a pretty "typical" day with Jack, and inside each "typical" day with Jack are amazing little gifts...

We started off by sleeping in, which is a new novelty for both of us. The latest he's ever up is 5:30am, with 4am being the earliest. Sleeping until 8am is a gift in itself and I thank and bow down to those budding hormones. Our plan for part of the day (because we like to have a plan) was to organize his room to better display his Legos (because sorting and organizing and creating order is fun.)  He was excited to do it so we headed to the store to pick up a new Lego bin. We've gotten into the routine of him heading straight to the Lego aisle, while I do a quick shop and then meet him there. 

This is what I found when I arrived I the toy section. 

I asked him what he was doing as I watched him move box after box. "I'm putting everything where it goes."  And there you have it. Sorting, organizing and creating order. Even in Walmart. Some people might be seeing a red OCD flag. It's possible. But what I saw is a kid doing what he likes to do. He was having fun. 

Once he was done we headed out with a small new lego set in tow, simply because he didn't even ask to get it. That in itself is worth $7 to me. 

On our way home I stopped for coffee and he wanted to stay in the car, which I normally allow so long as where not in the ghetto. When I came out the set he had gotten was opened and already built. A time waster he is not. On the ride home he talked about the Lego set and how he was going to put the stickers on and how he would play with it when we got back. I asked him if he was getting bored with vacation yet.

Jack: "No. I love summer." 
Me: "But we're not really doing anything or going anywhere. "
Jack: "That's what I like. Staying home." 
Me: "So you wouldn't want to go to a camp and play with your friends? You don't get bored not playing with anyone?" 
Jack: "No. I like being independent and doing my own thing."
Me: "What about when the kids are around? Would you still rather play alone?"
Jack: "yeah. Sometimes. When I'm playing Legos I like to play alone. And if I'm playing Basketball I'd rather play with Tori because when I play with Ryan there are so many rules and it's confusing and I just like to keep it simple."
Me: "Well, you're definitely a kid who knows what he likes. I used to like to play alone in my room too, but Grandma would usually make me go outside to play with the other kids."
Jack: (shocked) "Why would she DO that?"
Me: "I don't know I guess they just thought it was better for me."
Jack: "How is it better if you don't want to do it??"
Jack: "You know, you probably would have gotten grounded, but you COULD have said...No, I don't have to! I know my rights!"

Wish he had been around all those years ago to advocate for me....

A little while later he said, "When summer is over I won't be that happy to go to school, but you will because you'll get to be alone for six hours a day!"

Yeah. He gets it. And what is amazing is he gets it a way that he knows it has nothing to do with him, just like his desire to play with his Legos alone has nothing to do with anyone else.

Once we got home I started lunch and within minutes he was in the kitchen fighting back the tears. Apparently the stickers to the Legos were proving, once again, to be a major pain on the ass. The lack of fingernails and poor fine motor skills has made this task a difficult one for him. I tell him to ask for help but he rarely does. 

For a perfectionist, this sticker is just plain shit now. It will never do. In his frustration, he asked if he could write a letter to Lego. I told him, sure, that would probably be a good idea and he could take his anger out on the paper.  This one is him taking his anger out on the paper...

This one is the letter. In messy/mad handwriting. 

It says: Dear Lego, Make all the stickers print ons NOW!! I don't want any more stickers. In fact lots of people all over the world may not want stickers. Please make that happen! Loads of people have trouble putting them on, getting them in a good position, and it's FRUSTRATING!

Not a very polite letter and he refused to sign his name. Later tonight I have to find out where we can send it because he's had enough. :)

It didn't take too long for all to be well again, and we went on to spend two hours organizing his room.
I don't think we can fit another lego book or set in there. That doesn't matter though, because we will. Somehow, we will. 

And this is how it usually goes with us. This is a pretty typical day minus all the other stuff I didn't include. It's days like these that make me realize that, even though I'm still sure I wasn't cut out for motherhood, I was supposed to be Jack's Mom, whether I was ready or not. And for that I'm grateful. 

Hope, who is mostly grateful, because, seriously, mothering those " normal" kids would have sent me over the edge. 

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