I Blinked

Dear Addie,

I feel like as soon as I get used to a new behavior and see it’s repitiveness - I blink and it changes.

Oh the joys of Autism. Predictably unpredictable - always. Don’t get to comfy, because it’ll change.

I remember when you use to love elephants. I mean really love them! We were “all in” and jumped right on board! Shirts with cute elephant decals, jammies, blankets, books...you now own what seems like a whole stuffed herd that could put FAO Swartz to shame! They used to live a great life of being placed strategically around your room, often times interacting in some fisher price little people scenario.

Now...

Well, they’ve all been officially banished to bins in your closet. Not sure what they did, but it must’ve been serious!

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Likes, dislikes, and behaviors they can all change with a snap of our fingers.

And it’s not always toys!

We went from swinging, to climbing, to escaping in what seems like the blink of an eye.

While so much can change without warning, routine is crucial for all of our sanity. Especially with your new found role model - Harry Houdini.

So after a long, exhausting week of researching, talking to contractors, taking on a new job as security detail for you as if you’re Beyoncé, and ordering products to keep you in our house and yard, due to your new found love of leaving on your own terms - it was important for us to stick to our “normal” routine and continue to take you out.

Seems like an oxymoron right?! Trying to keep you in, but the importance of taking you out.

Addie, here’s the deal, going out can be difficult to say the least, but every single outing (guess I should stress with an adult), whether it’s the first, or the 100th time we’ve gone somewhere is an opportunity to continue developing social norms within our community. Just for the record, jumping fences and freely walking through homes per last week’s letter is not the social norms I’m talking about, unless you wanna wind up in jail someday.

Remember the “exposure is key” advice?! I have a love/hate relationship with this, but that’s besides the point. Going out and about is a way to help you plain and simple.

It’s during these routine outings that we (and sometimes others) can really see the growth and progress you’ve made.

Having said all that, it was Sunday, we were headed out, and it was time for church.

We tend to sit in the lobby during mass because, well, you sit as still as a mexican jumping bean and your stimming is often accompanied by a rather loud, uncontrollable sound. You know who else sits out there? Every baby that starts fussing. As parents we’ve all been there. This however hasn’t always been your favorite part of the lobby. I can still remember when you would scream bloody murder when a baby would whimper, giggle, or worse...cry! God forbid! Instead of myself swooning over the sight of an adorable bundle of joy, that surely would’ve given me baby fever, I suddenly found myself avoiding them at all cost only seeing them as sensory assaults to you and looking for our nearest escape route. But somewhere along the line we blinked and it got better.

Your patience can usually only take so much, so mommy and daddy used to have to take turns heading outside (rain or shine) to walk with you, blinked again and now you can stay the whole mass. *Although you do enjoy a few too many trips to the restroom - apparently washing hands is awesome :)

It’s these moments that I remember so vividly thinking - is this just how it’s always going to be? And if I’m being honest - feeling quite sad, because these times were truly stressful.

Now, for our usual church outing we would arm ourselves with a giant bag of tricks, loaded with snacks, drinks, toys and activities and let us not forget the headphones that you yourself have a love/hate relationship with. Yep, pretty much looks like we are moving in with all of our “stuff” just to do something relatively easy as going to church.

Having gotten your anxiety in a somewhat manageable position, we have been slowly pairing down our distraction activities. So for today’s routine church service, we went for the gusto on a learning opportunity in patience and focus (kinda gutsy) and took nothing but one drink, a pull up and a prayer - we were in church after all ;).

We found our usual lobby spot, and you sat immediately stimming and rocking back and forth. You were repeatedly yelling “black kettle, purple star, green bug!” Addie, I have no idea why you were mentioning these particular items and I’m sure others were just as perplexed seeing as you lack any sort of whispering abilities when it’s necessary.

You stood when we stood, knelt down when necessary, even gave peace to fellow parishioners!

We blinked.

There was no screaming, crying, asking for snacks - you were just there, with us.

Dare we try to blink again...brunch?

You know what Addie, not only are these outings sometimes challenging and good for you - it’s good for me too. I carry a heavy weight of social anxieties and I can greatly benefit from this practice as well.

With a few deep breaths we were off to a familiar brunch spot for us, The Bass Lake Draft House.

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Now, yes, we’ve been here before and have had our fair share of meltdowns. But not today.

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Today with the patience and kindness of this restaurant, we blinked.

On this day, a very friendly regular waitress approached us and asked if there was anything they could keep on hand that may perhaps help you or others with autism enjoy their meal and stay a little more feeling less stressed.

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Addie my heart almost exploded with happiness! How kind and amazing was that! They themselves have blinked on our presence and were eager to help others!

While we are navigating our next set of challenges, I will keep reminding myself that one day we will blink and look back at this as a “remember when.”

I know this next chapter is going to be challenging, but one day it’ll be just another chapter.

Love,

Mom