Friday, April 8, 2011

overrated

When a child receives a birthday party invitation, most parents put the date on the calendar and grab a gift on the next visit to Target. However, birthday parties are always a source of conflict for us when it comes to our oldest, Luke (8). Asperger's has a way of doing that sometimes.

When he was a toddler, he often got over stimulated due to the sensory overload. The noise, the activity, and the break from his regular routine were too much for him to handle. Meltdowns were not probable. They were guaranteed.

We'd often end up flustered, embarrassed, and exhausted as we drove home in defeat. To make matters even worse, we carried a tremendous load of guilt for feeling flustered, embarrassed, and exhausted.

I was envious of the other families who didn't have an Asperger's diagnosis control every single factor of life. I wondered what it would be like to pull up to the party, hop out of the car, and simply watch Luke play with the other children, play games, and happily skip out to the car once the cake was consumed and party favors were passed out.

We sadly came to a premature conclusion that birthday parties were never going to be easy for Luke. Truthfully, it was easier to accept this and attend parties with a real perspective rather than to be filled with anxiety and ultimately disappointment.

When you see your child struggle everyday to fit into the "norm" it slays you when you watch other children so easily function within a social setting that requires no prompting, teaching, or stress. Most children inately know how to socially interact and have fun with one another at birthday parties.

Which is why it hurt so much.

Now that Luke is 8 and has progressed so significantly, we worry a lot less about parties. In fact, I worry no more or less than I do with my other two little guys.

However, when we read that my nephew's upcoming birthday party was at a BMX racing course, I have to be honest, this was my 1st thought:

"He's never getting on his bike once he sees that track." Riding bikes is one of his least favorite activities.

When we pulled in and he saw the track he didn't protest a bit.

When I opened the trunk of my minivan I expected him to complain about riding.

He helped me pull his red and black bike out.

When he found out that he could not wear his helmet from home and would have to wear a racing helmet, I knew we'd be watching from the sidelines.

He thought about it. He protested a bit. Change is not easy when you have Asperger's.

Then he reached for the racing helmet and asked me to strap it on.

My heart was pounding. The anxiety peaked. It was almost easier for me to know that he wasn't going to try. Now I was filled with fear. I didn't want him to try and then get hurt since he's not much of a bike rider. What if he put himself out there and didn't succeed? I was simply so proud that he wanted to even wear the helmet. I didn't want it to be one step forward two steps back.

I watched him from the benches as the group of boys stood at the top of the hill by the racing entrance gates. I nervously gazed at him as he slowly started to back away from the gates as he cut through the crowd of excited boys. My heart sunk. He got so close to trying and now he was backing out. I could tell he was bravely fighting back tears. He was convinced it was just too dangerous. I could sense his internal conflict of wanting to try, but being too afraid to try. He knew he was the only big kid not going on the track and it bothered him.

I was that kid too. Always afraid. Wanting to try. Letting my fears get the best of me. Always the wimpy one. Carrying that shame.

Although my initial reaction was to push him to try, I've learned better. I accepted his choice. I told him to come sit with me and watch the other boys. Kids need to feel safe and accepted when they are feeling intimidated and afraid. It is not about me it is abut him. It has taken me a long time to learn this lesson.

Within 15 minutes he caught me off guard with, "Okay, I'm ready now."

And with that, he put his racing helmet back on, grabbed his bike and walked it up the dirt hill to the entrance of the gates.

He was off. He was slow and cautious. He needed some help from the supervisors to get up a few hills, but by his 3rd time around the track, he was cruising at his own pace. No longer afraid, he'd pedal past me and yell, "Hi Mom!" and then he purposely skid at the end of the track as if to throw in some extra attitude. I could feel my heart swelling to the point that I thought it may burst. My brother, sister, and I cheered like crazy. When he gets over those hurdles it is so huge and it is a triumph for all of us. I just cheered and cheered and cheered as if it was the fuel that kept him going.

Oh, that kid has taught me so many lessons. How I wish I could trust my instincts as well as that kid trusts his own. How I wish I would be less influenced by what other's think about me. How I wish that I would do things when I know it is right instead of when other's think it is right. He's his own guy and he's not afraid to be himself. I wish I could say the same.

Above all, I'm learning to let it go. I'm learning to let go of my preconceived ideas. I'm learning to respond to each of my children in a very self-specific manner. There is no one size fits all approach to parenting in this casa.

Most importantly, I learning to let go of living up to the "norm."

It is so overrated.

Check him out on youtube. He's in the middle of the track when it starts in the jeans, black jacket, and black and white helmet. I cry when I watch it. He's come far. The sky's the limit. Soar high, Luke. Soar high.

Much love,
Katie

21 comments:

Alyss said...

This is so encouraging. My husband's godson has Asberger's and is just around Luke's age. Life is affected by it so greatly for him. I understand the anxiety you feel for your son's sake. I'll be praying that God will continue to let him surprise you like he did this weekend!

Rachael said...

i love this story.

Courtney said...

Thanks for sharing Kate! It made me cry...I can't even begin to imagine how proud you felt at that moment! You have an amazing kiddo...and you are right, the sky is the limit for you both! xoxoxo

Charla Liedahl said...

Tears are streaming down my face, Katie! What an AWESOME moment for you all!

hannah singer said...

beautifully shared-wow!
agreed, the "norm" is overrated.
xo happy sunday, katie!!

Krissy Engle said...

I love this post!!

Janna said...

This is encouraging to a mom who earlier today found my daughter in a precarious situation involving the dog, a pair of scissors and dog hair all over the floor.

katie said...

Aww, thanks for all the love! It was quite a moment for Luke (and me!).
Much love,
Katie

Cherry Tree Lane said...

beautiful.

Mommy of three said...

There is wonderful Katie. For so many different reasons. Way to go Luke and way to go Mommy for being open to learning from him!
Love from,
Greta

katie said...

elsiee said...
I was already crying before I watched the video - you and your little guy have inspired me BIG TIME! thank you

michelle said...

You are a good mom...Katie. Luke is lucky to have a mom that can accept him where he is at......and I admire that you were able to let go when it was time :)

Rebecca at Cotton+Wood said...

This was a great post, Katie! Thanks for sharing. There is a boy in our church who is autistic. It is so awesome to see how much he has grown and changed over the past few years -- for the better!

Thanks also for the comment on my blog!

Brooke said...

sniff, sniff! What an amazing little guy you have there :D Way to go Luke!!

{cuppakim} said...

totally awesome. what a brave boy you have. :)

and you are a brave mama too. that's probably where he gets it.

Jennifer said...

That's simply amazing. I know you're so proud of your little guy!!! I'm following your blog now. I have a special place in my heart for kids with Asbergers. You are doing a great job as a mom!! I look forward to reading your blog.

Jessica Johnson said...

such a sweet, sweet story. you are a special mama to a very special boy. :)

Mrs. Dunbar said...

Powerful story. Sounds like you have such a sweet little boy. One of my closest work friends has a daughter with Aspbergers. I have shared many a tear with her over struggles but we praise God above every time one of the hurdles is crossed. Looking forward to reading more of your story.

Jessica said...

What a wonderful mama you are! I'm tearing up after reading this! What an awesome moment for you and for him!

Kirsten said...

this is AWESOME.

xo katrina said...

this was so wonderful to read, katie! i'm so happy for you and for your son. happier than you could even believe. my little liam is 2 years old with a fairly new diagnosis...so we are stumbling through this new journey. i'm so grateful i've found your blog.