I have this friend, HI Anya! And she makes these shirts called, Mama Ninja shirts and they’re for any hardworking mom, but I always think she’s really made them kind of for the really “fierce” type of mom. You know the ones – they’re THERE – they’re ON it – they do it like a JOB. That’s who I aspire to be. This is my JOB. Its what I do. I’m at the school, I’m in the meetings, I know my child’s reading level and IEP at a conversational level. I can discuss language processing delays, stemming, and decipher tantrums caused by environmental overstimulation. I volunteer to gain access to my child’s school and classroom, to be pro-active in reaching out to other families and de-mistifying autism. “Yes, special needs kids can have play dates too. Yes, my child is academically at the same level as yours. Yes, actually he is fairly good at math but – no, they’re not all twice gifted in that way.” There is a certain amount of Mama Bear instinct that goes into parenting a special needs child. Its actually the things that they DON’T ask that are the hardest to explain. The smaller emotional range, the inability to understand the emotions of others, the unfortunate habit in our case of “faking” emotions in an effort to fit in, unnatural fixations on certain objects, hobbies, colors, etc. Dealing with autistic children could be its own job. And then we have the new issue of my younger children trying to very naturally immitate their older autistic brother. ::::deep breath here:::: Its hard. Hard to handle, hard to explain, hard to unlearn those habits. But I perservere Mama Ninjas – I do it. I’m not the only one, and I’m not looking for sympathy. This is my child. My Child and I wouldn’t have him any other way, truly. I have lots of Mama Ninja friends and we support each other mostly over coffees or evenings out and share stories to just check to make sure we’re not all nuts. I called my friend Andrea (Hi Andrea!) last night when in a panic over M’s latest struggles and I just wasn’t even sure what to say. I wasn’t sure she’d pick up. (She did.) I wasn’t sure how to start a conversation with, “I know I don’t usually call you on the phone, but I wasn’t sure who else to check with to see if this was an actual problem or if its normal”, but I did. And she very calmly talked me off my very nervous shaking craziness edge of oh-goodness-what-do-I-do-now?? And then I was fine, and I got everything cleaned up, kids in bed and went about my evening. Sometimes that’s all it takes. She’s a Mama Ninja too. (She really is.) I have a morning coffee event once a month with my special needs support groups, and its important. Really important. My husband realizes this and we’ve occasionally had to rearrange his work schedule for the day if he’s working from home, just so that I can attend. Its important that I don’t feel like I’m doing this alone. It’s important that I share what I know with other families navigating this winding special needs path. This group showed me how to get my child diagnosed using my insurance so it wouldn’t cost me a bundle. They provide strategies on how to get through our latest fixation (oral, stemming, sensory seeking, etc). I learn from the parents with older children – no, our children aren’t the same exactly – but they have some common traits and I can sometimes get a glimpse of what to watch out for next. What helps, and what doesn’t. Learning milestones and where the road blocks for a spectrum child might lie. Like I said, this group, its important. Initially I joined because I was concerned my child wouldn’t have any friends to play with and they provide a play group as well. As it turns out he has lots of friends! Still, its my back-up. I always have a back-up. This provides a non-judgemental group of children for him to play with always, no matter what is going on at school, church or our outside life.
Sometimes I feel like my oldest and youngest child get all my attention. Its kind of the roll of the dice. I have begun to incorporate special outings for my middle child with mommy or daddy a couple of times per month so that he can have some special time. Usually its to the bakery to get doughnuts! Or to the bank to get a lollipop (my children think that is what you do at the bank – I’m going to have to sort that out soon). He’s all into “being” a middle child right now. The whining, the pushing limits, the ‘IT’S NOT FAIR!!’. We actually got a book recently from the library called, The It’s Not FairY, by Ros Asquith. Its about a fairy who is at her wit’s end flapping about trying to sort out all the “It’s Not Fair’s of the world”. I’m always worried that I’m too hard on him, but I know that I’m not – I know how much he’s capable of. I know he reads at a first grade level NOW, before first grade! I know he’s bright and loves to learn – which is why I expect so much of him. I feel like he fights me – pushes those boundaries to see how bad its going to get. And I have no answers – this is not one of those “I’ve got it all figured out with unicorns” blogs. I have no idea – I do the best I can, I ask for advice, put my children in classes, we go to church and I pray.
Speaking of prayer, I’m going to need it – my youngest child, my daughter Miss. S, is 3 and she’s absolutely precocious. She’s got a huge vocabulary for her age and is pretty sure that’s she’s in charge of being a Butterfly Princess. She’s looks adorable, but she’s fiesty and can be vicious. She’s not afraid of children twice her size or age and she can really push their buttons. Mostly she’s very good about including everyone in playtime, but we’re still working on how to share. That’s super hard when you’re 3.
Anyway. I’m totally getting a bunch of those shirts for holiday presents.