It was bedtime. The dreaded bedtime. I'm not sure how it plays out at your house but in ours it is a constant struggle. If you've heard one, you've heard every excuse.
"I need a drink." We provide a bottle of water by the bed.
"I'm hungry." There is a bedtime snack every night.
"I need to use the bathroom." You just went.
"I'm scared about______." (Fill in the blank, it could be any given reason on any given night.) We will pray about it.
"I had a bad dream." You haven't even been asleep yet to dream...
And the list goes on...
It often ends in tears. For us both. Because let's be honest, by this point the day had been full of trials and frustrations and I was more than ready for bed. I can't quite figure out why it's such a fight, but for us, in our house, it's much more than stall tactics. Often it's about control. And even more times than not, it's something more.
"Just be still," I said calmly as I softly rubbed his back. "Calm your body. Rest." I could tell he was trying but still wired.
"Mom, my body is calm. My heart is calm. It's my brain! Everything is just jumbled up in my brain," he said through tears. Now my own tears were falling but not out of frustration. Out of pure sympathy because I knew this wasn't an excuse. This was real.
It's not like I haven't laid there, frustrated, body exhausted but my racing mind preventing me from sleep. I knew it was more than an excuse tonight. The day had been long and difficult. I pray often for the Lord to help me understand the way this buzzing mind works, so different from my own, and here it was right before me. A glimpse into his world, his "jumbled up brain" that often gets in his own way. The creativity is unmatched. The ingenuity is apparent. There's undeniable gifts and talent and wit. Yet jumbled in among all this possibility is an amount of chaos that I can't begin to explain or understand. And often, neither can he. It's part of who he is and while there may not even be a definition or label for it, there is no mistaking its prevalence in his life and how it affects the world around him.
Talk about issues of control. I can't control him or his behavior and it's all I can do to control my own reactions. It causes me to lose my cool. I get so frustrated I can't see straight. Which makes me realize in my own frustration how he must feel in those quiet, calm moments when he acknowledges, "I'm different from everybody else." No, you can't visibly see differences but observe for a few minutes and then you'll notice. We're not talking about a hyperactive boy. This isn't being unruly or undisciplined. Although the cashier in Target seemed to think it was and gave me quite an earful about how I need to get control of him. I bit my tongue. The defiance is a struggle but not just because he's allowed to act this way. It's a diagnosis I have trouble wrapping my own brain around - let alone trying to get inside his and begin to understand.
Thank you, ma'am. I'll take my purchases and my out-of-control son and we'll be on our way. I will discipline him like a maniac because of how embarrassed I was in public then apologize to him through my own repentant tears because I can't help that he can't help it. I will struggle to determine if its disobedience or a malfunction in my parenting. I will pray to God for more wisdom and understanding - not to figure out his jumbled up brain but to be able to reach his heart and not break his spirit in the process.
He's wired differently than me. Not because he's adopted. Not because he's not parented or loved. It's his God-given design. It doesn't make it wrong or bad. It can be, at times, difficult and challenging. Baffling and frustrating. It can also be witty and smart, ingenious and brilliant. Just last week he figured out a contraption to shade the sun from his sister in her bouncy seat that I stared in amazement at wondering how on earth he even thought to do it. He's not just wired and bouncing off the walls, he's wired for life, for creativity, for heart-melting moments of adoration and love towards his sister, for his attempts to be accepted and act like everyone else when he was created to be uniquely him.
It's April and it's Autism Awareness month and I hold a special place in my heart for those parents I know deal with struggles and challenges I can't even begin to understand. This hasn't been our world even though we're staring down assessments and testing and results to help us figure out exactly what all this may "be." The reality is it doesn't take a psychologist or diagnosis to tell me what I already know. I have been gifted this amazing boy whom I love as fiercely as I fight for him. I fight for him to be understood, to be loved, to be accepted despite his differences but more than all this, I fight for him to be the person God sovereignly created him to be. The only label that becomes necessary is simply that, child of God. That's my boy. My amazing boy.