I learned (again) a lesson I never tire of learning. I guess it’s a good thing I don’t mind, because it’s a lesson I keep having to learn!
We had the pleasure of hosting a friend and roommate of mine from college for dinner. A Franciscan priest, he was recently assigned to a parish in nearby Baltimore. It was a lovely evening, even if it wasn’t a long one. He was up here in Frederick to fill in at Mass in a local parish.
It was a delightful evening. I hadn’t seen this fellow in about five years, and we picked up again as if it was just yesterday. While we caught up, the kids came and went, some showing more of their autistic “quirks” more than others, and my friend flowed with whatever was going on. Even when one of my kids, full of social awkwardness, hovered nearby, scowling, for nearly ten minutes before coming forward for a formal introduction.
After he left, I felt so much more calm and content than I had all day. A couple of very strong melt downs sapped me in the morning, and I had to go into the office to file a boat load of insurance claims, many of which I wasn’t even sure would be covered. I kept feeling the tension rising all afternoon. But after spending just two hours with my friend, it just melted away. I felt like I had hit the Reset button.
A Big World Out There.
So here’s the lesson I keep on learning: I don’t have to get swept up in this autism parenting gig. I don’t have to resign myself to feeling that everything is closing in around me. There are other people to spend time with. There are other things to do. There’s a whole big world out there.
Of course, I need to keep a balance so that I’m caring for my kids properly, but I also need to come up for air every now and then and get a little break. Work is hard—often 50 hours a week. Kids have needs that can’t be ignored. Therapy sessions continue unabated at a pace of about five a week (I split them with Katie). Tantrums, melt downs, and communication miscues are a normal part of our everyday life. The list goes on and on and on, and there’s no sign of any major changes in the air.
It can be an isolating life, also. I can get so worn out that I can start thinking I don’t have the energy to relate to anyone else. I can feel so isolated because not too many people get what I’m talking about—and what else do I have to talk about except for this? Of course, none of this is really true, but it can start to feel this way. So if I don’t step out of the vortex every now and then, I won’t be of much use to my kids or my job, much less to my wife.
I wrote about this a few years ago and again just a few months back, and the same truths apply today. I don’t live near Disney World any more, so I don’t have a ready-made “happy place” to escape to. But I still need to escape. I just have to get more creative and more flexible to make sure it happens. I’ve got to find ways to unwind. I’ve got to find ways to get out of the house, even, if only to enjoy the benefit that a change of environment gives. It’s not like the place will collapse without me. I’ve got to give myself permission to step out every now and then. Everyone will still be there when I get back. And I’ll come back much better equipped to help them.