Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Of Toddlers and Teens

Remember how I mentioned that Sam has mastered the scissors? There's the evidence right there! I about had a heart attack when I stepped out of my bedroom and saw that. He's sitting on my one year old couch! He could have cut my couch! David thought I was concerned because Sam could have cut himself. Honestly? No. I assume that he would have stopped once the blade would start to cut his skin. Besides, toes heal. Couches, however, do not! Argh!

Well, what's going on in my corner of the world? Let's see...our snow is all gone. And now it's flooding. Not here, thankfully. But last night when I was driving up to my support group in downtown Des Moines, Gray's Lake was lapping at the side of the road - just a few feet away. Within an hour they had closed Fleur Drive. I need to go there again this afternoon, so I'm going to have to find an alternate route. Some of the people that lost their homes in the floods of '08 are in danger of the same thing happening to their now re-built homes. They built a new levee, but last night they discovered that it is leaking.

Things are not getting any easier with Ben these days. My stress levels keep rising. He just won't stop the arguing and continual badgering. Saturday Paul and I met with Pastor and I ended up breaking down in his office over this. I was mortified because I hate crying in front of people. Pastor was asking if there is anything the church can do to help. Well, I was a bit stumped. I've always considered this to be MY burden and it is, really. Finally, we came up with the idea of asking some of the high school and college young men to be "buddies" for Ben. We're thinking that if there would be some that would volunteer to come to our house and then take him places it would be a good thing. The more I think about that idea, I like it. Although, to be honest, I can't imagine anyone wanting to spend time with him. He's quite a pill right now.

Sunday I'd just had it with him. Paul goes to choir practice an hour and fifteen minutes before evening church. We go with him to save the gas of driving a second vehicle. Every other week I take Ben with me and we head to Walmart and I get a jumpstart on our grocery shopping for the week. But the "off" weeks are just awful. He won't obey me by staying where his brothers or I can keep an eye on him. He wanders all over the church and gets into things he has no business messing with. I told Paul that either I'm going to skip church on those Sunday nights or I'm going to drive a different van, coming in later, just before church starts. I don't want to deal with this anymore.

Last night at the support group there were only two of us moms there. The other mom is brand new to the whole autism thing, her son only being 4. So I was kind of giving her some pointers as she starts down this road. She's where we used to be - trying all different kinds of therapies and programs in a desperate attempt to cure her son, or at least make him more "normal." She was expressing how wonderful it was to be able to talk to another mom who's "been there." I agreed with her and commented how, while I am so incredibly grateful to all my friends who listen to me vent about Ben, nobody truly, truly understands what we're dealing with except other Autism moms. I said, "They (my friends) say things like, 'I don't know how you do it' and I just shrug it off because I don't have a choice." At that point, Tony, who moderates our meetings (he's a staff person there at Advanced Therapy) jumped in and said, "Oh, but Sarah - you don't have to do what you're doing." He went on to tell me that many, many mentally retarded and especially behaviorally challenged children end up in residential care when they turn 10 years old. Apparently, the facility where Ben does respite care also takes these kids in to live there. Wow - I had no idea. I exclaimed to Tony, "I couldn't! He's my boy!" I mean, if Ben were a danger to the family - plotting our murders or regularly assaulting us, that would be one thing, but to just dump him because he's difficult? How could any parent do that? But I guess they do. I want to hope that's a minority, though, and that the majority of these parents are slogging through the trenches like I am now, attempting to deal with ,while desperately loving, their mentally affected child.

It's now quite a few hours since I typed all that. I had to quit mid-thought in order to run Ben to his social skills class. As I drove, it occurred to me that I am doing an awful lot of complaining these days about Ben. It's not that I don't have a reason to. Our circumstances are extraordinary, with his mental problems. But yet, they aren't as bad as they could be. I do know families that have been forced to give their children up because their behavior was so completely unmanageable - and it broke their hearts. We're nowhere near that nor do I really anticipate that ever happening.

It is a hard time right now. But as my pastor mentioned to me Saturday, it is possible that we would have had a difficult time with Ben even if he were perfectly sound, mentally and physically. I remember a NICU nurse commenting on his "strong will" and wondering how she could tell something like that on a brand new baby who was sedated and hooked up to every wire and monitor imaginable. But she apparently saw something that stood out to her. I like to think that strong will is what has carried Ben as far as he's come. But it's also part of what is driving me crazy. The teen years can be difficult with normal children. Just because we sailed through them (thus far) with Will doesn't mean that we were destined to have it that easy with all the boys. And let's face it - junior high aged boys are probably the squirrliest of characters out there. I have vivid memories of my own junior high school years and they aren't all that pleasant!

And then I think of Sam. Why am I not freaking out when he does things like taking a scissors to a perfectly good pair of socks? Or refusing to tell me until after he wets his pants that he needed to go? Or dumping out an entire tub of legos on the floor? I've been here before. And I know it will pass. Plus, it helps that he's so adorable when he's being so bad! And while I haven't "been here" before with Ben, chances are that things will calm down at some point. Like having a two year old, it's a storm I have to ride out - until the waters are calm again.

Are the waters guaranteed to be calm again? Well, I can't really say for sure. I do know some normal children that "went bad" in their early teens and never really came back. And I suppose that's my root fear - that this is the start of a lifetime of agony for me where he is concerned. But, more than likely, that's not going to happen. He will mature. He will stop arguing with me. He will accept that I have his best interests at heart and that I'm just a tad smarter than he is! And that even now, during the fiercest battles, when I'm so worn down and discouraged, God is working. Perhaps Ben will end up being my greatest joy in life, coming from my greatest struggle.

I pray that's what will happen.

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