Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Awetism Awareness

It's April, which means it's Autism Awareness Month Again....

(Or......Awetism. Because Awetism is Awesome!
 This is what I tell Owen......)

In our house, every month is Autism Awareness Month. Actually, to be honest, every hour is Autism Awareness Hour. There is no escaping the joys and trials of autism because it is present in every moment that Owen is awake. Some days we have really really good days with few meltdowns and a child who is trying his best to be present. Other days we have really really bad days with tantrum after tantrum and a child who is in his own world and refuses to come out of it. Most days we're somewhere in between.

And as the years have passed, I can FINALLY say that autism doesn't really scare me anymore. I can look back on my old self (the one who was scared out of her mind post diagnosis) and know that I'm done with that phase. I don't wake up at night in a panic about the future or how we're going to handle things anymore. With time, I've learned that sometimes a bad day or week or month is just that: a bad day or week or month. I've learned the tide will turn; it always does, and so we just keep plodding along, taking it one day at a time. Sometimes we handle it with grace, sometimes we handle it with laughter or tears, and sometimes we handle it with all that plus a big ole heaping glass of wine, but we're handling it. I've learned that life with Owen is equal parts amazing and frustrating, but really that's life with any kid, right? At least, it is with any kid in this house...... Maybe you have magic kids that never frustrate you at your house?
If so, wanna trade? No take backs. 

But even without that all encompassing fear, I do still have days where I wonder what the future will look like? I mean, I know we never know the future for any of our kids, but it's kind of easier to "guess" what it looks like with typically developing kids. But with my Owen? I honestly have no idea? And occasionally that drives me crazy because I wouldn't be female if I didn't want to think I have control over something, right? I have a few questions that I have to hash out with God from time to time:

Will he drive?
 (I don't know. That's a lot of quick processing and quick processing is not our specialty.)

Will he have TRUE friends?
(I don't know. He's still learning what that means and doesn't quite get that a kid who throws rocks at his head at recess is not a "best friend.") We're working on it....

Will he always depend on his brother (and sister) for so much?
(Isaac is his idol. Literally. He follows him and learns from him and takes his cues from him and imitates him and tries to impress him. If the rest of us were being abducted by aliens and Owen had to choose one to rescue, it would be Isaac. Hands down. And that's okay. But what does that look like in the future? For both of them??)

Will he ever go to college or live on his own?
(I have no idea? Right now I wouldn't trust him to feed himself. Literally.)

Will he be able to  find and keep a job he loves without melting or shutting down when he makes a mistake or the schedule changes?
(I don't know. I really just don't know. Right now it's hard to imagine, but he is only 8.....)

Through the years and after MANY MANY MANY times of prayers not being answered the way I want, I've learned that it's okay to not have all the answers.

I've learned that Todd and I may never be empty nesters, but we've made our peace with that.

I've learned that eating and drinking is probably ALWAYS going to be some sort of a battle for Owen, but when I look at how far he's come, I'm okay with helping him battle that out.

Most importantly, I've learned that autism isn't scary and that I actually can't imagine Owen any other way. (I'm ashamed to admit that I used to imagine it. I used to count down the days to the three year mark when they can retest kids and imagine the doctor saying, "my bad; he doesn't have it. Don't know what I was thinking??") That three year mark came and went without fanfare and I have realized that to take away his autism would be to take away who he is and who God created him to be. And to take away who he is and who God created him to be would be absolutely devastating. He makes us laugh, he's tough as hell, and he's taught me more about myself, my family, and God's faithfulness than anything else I've experienced in life. Because if there's one thing I've learned through my questioning and doubting and hurting over the years, it's that God is always faithful! He's not always timely (well, within the time frame I want), but He's always faithful.

But the question that I still struggle to trust, the one that still haunts me the most is this:

Will Owen be lonely?
Because the truth is, Owen doesn't always know how to interact with people, but he wants to interact with people. He doesn't like going to birthday parties, but he wants to be invited to birthday parties. He doesn't want people to talk to him, but he wants people to want to talk to him. Does that make sense?

As a parent, the last thing we want for our children is loneliness. So as his siblings and peers grow and start becoming more independent and having deeper relationships, I do wonder, will he have that? Will he need that? Will he be lonely? I talk to God about that one. A LOT. And today, out of the blue, He showed me one possible answer just through the magic of modern technology.

I came across this story and my heart literally melted inside my chest.
This is absolutely the sweetest thing. I love every part of this.
I love the fact that they call it a "romantic friendship."
I love that they understand each other.
I love that they don't have to hide the parts of themselves the rest of society finds quirky and weird.
I love that to them, their mutual love of pizza is a great connection.
Because who doesn't love pizza?? Really!

And I don't know if this is what God has in store for Owen in the future, but it reminded me that I can't plan and control and worry and fret, because He has a plan and His plan is much better than any plan I can come up with. And most importantly, He has Owen.

And that is more than enough.
More than Enough.