August 21, 2008 at 9:48 pm 11 comments

     As any parent with a special needs child will tell you, there are moments of extreme heartbreak. The moment when the specialist renders a diagnosis, or when you realize your child will struggle with something his whole life that other kids get in ten minutes, or when a school lets your child down. Yet often these moments come when you least expect them, and they are so swift and painful they take your breath away. Sometimes you don’t fully process them until later and you find yourself crying in the middle of the grocery store, reaching for your sunglasses and hoping you don’t see anyone you know.

     When I watched C wander around the playground this morning before school, aimlessly looking for a familiar face, something started to well up inside me. The time was only a brief five or ten minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. It’s not for lack of wanting to connect with someone; this child is about as social as they come. So I watched, while he walked around, anxiously looking for a friend to share his time. All the playground noise of the zillion kids running around faded from my ears as my chest swelled with a sob. There’s something so awful about watching your own child, whom you love so dearly and so completely, struggle with something so basic, so fundamental to his very existence.

     The moment became far bigger than it was, simply because it represents C’s challenges in the most profound way. He no longer approaches anyone and everyone with abandon, so he’s learned a lesson or two along the way. This is good and bad for the same reason: he’s more aware. Aware of some of the rules, yet aware he still doesn’t know exactly how the rules work. It’s a core issue of C’s version of autism.  

     The moment continued for me, while I later went about my day, sneaking up on me at inopportune times. Tears continued to drop here and there as I remembered his forlorn look as he milled about. Surely parents of “typical” children experience this at times, but I comforted myself by remembering that with the heartbreak comes moments (and there are more of these, truthfully) of extraordinary joy. Perhaps parents of special needs children experience the heartbreak and joy in more extreme ways, simply because there is nothing we can take for granted.

Entry filed under: autism. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

C-isms, Part VII It’s all about muscles

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Good Fountain  |  August 22, 2008 at 4:55 am

    You brought a little tear to my eye.

    I know this is difficult. I won’t offer up platitudes as you know them too well.

    Hugs, friend.

    Thank you! It’s so weird, because we’re having a fine morning, everything is going well, and then BOOM – it’s like a smackdown, it happens so fast. I used to get those feelings at the park when C wasn’t crawling yet and he was well over a year old – while other kids were climbing around on the playground equipment. It was really hard. I always think I’m more prepared as a seasoned parent of a 7 year old! But I guess not….

  • 2. robinaltman  |  August 22, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Awww. Hugs. (Don’t tell anyone I said that.)
    I know this is a dumb and unfair analogy, because my boys aren’t autistic, they’re just weird, but when Alex was young he was incredibly socially awkward. He hovered on the edge of the playground during recess, scared to ask other kids if he could join in. He had one friend. One day I urged him to invite a kid over, because he had mentioned that he liked the kid. Alex said “No.” I started getting mad. It digressed to a fight where I threatened to ground Alex if he didn’t invite this kid over. He thought I was nuts.
    I was crying (how calm and mature a parent I am), and I said, “Alex, I just want you to be happy!”
    Alex said, “I am happy, Mom! I swear! But I don’t want to invite anyone over!”
    Suddenly, last year, he joined stuff, and made more friends, and became social. It seemed like he had to do it on his terms.
    I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Maybe that C might be happy the way things are, or at least not as dissatisfied as you think. Alex knew he had a family that adored him, and that was enough for him for a long time. C certainly has that. And maybe C will come into his own socially in his own time. Maybe not a transformation into Mr. Popularity, but Mr. Comfortable with himself and a couple of good friends.
    Sorry to be so wordy.

    Yes, I could live with Mr. Comfortable. It’s funny, because I try really hard not to impose what I want for him onto him. I KNOW he wants friends – lots of them – he’d like friends over all the time, and wonders why no one invites HIM over. So I try to give him the tools to make that happen. But despite all that, sometimes it just doesn’t work. Of course, the school year is young, I know that, and I’m sure it will get better. I just keep thinking he’ll find that one little quirky friend like him and they’ll be bonded for a long time. Someone he could say was his “best” friend. Someday…

  • 3. pixiemama  |  August 22, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Sometimes I see Foster in public settings as though I’m looking at him through someone else’s eyes… especially when we are around other families. (Kind of like when a guest walks into your house and you suddenly see the dishes in the sink and cobwebs in the corners.) And that’s when it really hits me.

    feel better…

    Yes, you are exactly right. It’s hard to stomach sometimes.

  • 4. mommy~dearest  |  August 22, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Yes, the heartbreak does hit us at inopportune times…like sitting at your desk at work…right now…


    It does hit at the most random moments. It’s weird how the mind works, no? Thanks for the hugs – I needed them!

  • 5. kristi  |  August 22, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Oh yes, we do have to cherish the small things. But I think the heartbreak is harsher too. It isn’t fair at all some days.

    I do think it must more extreme on both ends for us – and likely for our kids as well. You have summed it all up perfectly.

  • 6. acollage  |  August 22, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I’m sorry, I know how that feels, and how hard it is to move past it and get on with the day. It sticks with you, and there’s just little you can do about it. The heartbreak of loving your child and wanting them to be happy — we can only do so much, and that’s so hard to accept. I hope your weekend gets better.

    Thanks, friend! Good to “see” you. It’s the ultimate lesson in not being able to control everything, I guess. I just wish I didn’t have to learn the lesson at the expense of my child. 😦

  • 7. babs  |  August 22, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Sometimes I’m glad Little Miss is so happy playing by herself; I think maybe she won’t experience all that angst when others find her weird and unapproachable. Better than the Captain, who obliviously pushes himself into many conversations where he’s not wanted, can’t contribute and this leads to bullying and threats of violence. Hard to tell.

    My MIL says there is a program designed for schools called “Circle of Friends” which guidance offices use to structure a small group to meet and greet our kids and help them make a few friends, to lead to more. Anyone else heard of this? We could certainly suggest it to our schools to help our kids before they become the kind of loner that was shot in Tennessee this week…

    It’s a double-edged sword, for sure. I love that he’s aware, but it also brings him more sadness, I think. I have heard of “Circle of Friends,” actually. A friend of mine brought it up recently, but I don’t know much about it. You do wonder about those kids who are part of the violence – it’s hard not to think there’s something going on with them. I think growing up is really, really tough.

  • 8. embracingspirit  |  August 22, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Bless your heart. I too have been there and felt the pain…those playground times are tough. Hang in there….Peace, Stacie

    Honestly, I kind of hate the playground. It’s always been a struggle – since C was an infant. So perhaps it’s an ongoing theme. I’m just so rarely prepared for these moments, and you think I would be by now! Thanks, Stacie, for visiting.

  • 9. goodmum  |  August 22, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    My heart is breaking right now. The tears are flowing. As I tried to envision you and C, I also had this double image of me and my LM, going through something similar. I’m so sorry you had to see that today. I can fully imagine how it must have felt. I can also fully imagine the tears coming at different times throughout the day. There should be a place where all of our wonderfully special kids could come together in the world and be sweet and quirky and “different” in the same place. That would truly be a place of compassion and understanding.

    Look at me, sounding all philosophical and new-agey. Sorry. I just really feel for you and worry for myself when I eventually have to release my boy into a bigger school with bigger issues….

    Many kind thoughts and virtual hugs to you, friend.


    It really does make you think about the future for them. I used to think C’s issues would become less obvious as he grew up, but now I’m wondering if that quirkiness will become more obvious. It’s so sad, because these kids have so much to offer. I did talk with his teacher yesterday and am going to invite one little boy over who is new to the district. She thought they might be good friends, and C has been sitting with him at lunch, so we shall see! Thanks for your warm, fuzzy thoughts!

  • 10. Kathie  |  August 23, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    We seriously need to meet up. Ya know, My little guy has a twin sister. You knew that, right? She is not on the spectrum,but has some quirks that are “spectrum-like.” Like socially… I work at the school she attends and have witnessed moments like you described more times than I care to count. It’s awful. I am sorry you had a bad “moment”…or five! It really stinks. Anyway, I think twin sis would really like C. 🙂 My little guy would just bounce around him, but his sister would love to have a new friend.so….one day we will meet. Okay? 🙂

    I know – we’ve only been planning this for what? Years? LOL! But that would be great. We’re so close! I’m in – you’ll have to let me know your school schedule – days off and such and we can see if any of them match. Or just a weekend if you can!


  • 11. robinaltman  |  August 24, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    I really hope the thing with the lunch kid works out! I’m so sad that C wants to have kids over all the time. I was so hoping he was more OK with the situation. That is so heartbreaking. He’s such a little sweetie. You would think that would attract some of the gentler kids. I’ll cross my fingers for tomorrow.

    I know – it’s that awareness piece that kills me sometimes. I can’t tell you how many tears he shed last year that no one invited him over. I begged one Mom to have him over, and she did, but they never invited again. 😦 Poop on them. But he’ll get there – I have hope.


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