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Great Expectations

I am not sure if “Great Expectations” is the right title for this post, or, maybe “Letting go of Expectations”. Let’s take and look and see, shall we?

I have been the mother of a child on the autism spectrum for eight years now. He has been diagnosed for five of those eight years. J’s rigidity and need to adhere to protocols and schedules and just what he generally expects will happen, I have become so conditioned to, so prepared for. So much so, that I realized just yesterday, that maybe some of the time, it is me and not him who is conditioned.

I anticipate his every move. Yet I am often ill prepared for what is going to happen because I can not understand exactly how his brain works. I mean, I get how it works, but the cause and effect are sometimes only clear after the fact.

But I think this anticipation has turn into expectation. I think that I expect that A + B will always = C. But what if that is because I expect it, not because he is going to actually go through it?

As I have said before, I am a planner. I probably have a touch of OCD. It most facets of my life, it has suited me well. But it has been my Achilles heel as well. I have lived enough years on this earth though to know that you can not put your expectations of other people onto them. It is unfair to them, and will only set you up for failure. Yet, this is somewhat innate to me. I struggle with this. (My entire family can tell you it’s true!) I work very hard to keep it in check and I fail a lot of the time.

The time that failure hurts the most is when it involves my kids. When I put unfair expectations on them. Both my typical child, and my ASD child.

So, when I think that something coming up is going to unnerve J, or rattle him, I wait for it. I brace for the impact it will have on all of us. My body physically prepares when this is about to occur, or I think it is about to occur, and it can not be stopped short. My pulse races, my shoulders tense, my throat gets scratchy just thinking about what may happen. And even though my eyes are seeing it NOT happen, my brain is not on the same page yet, and those “Red Alert!” signals are already on their way to the rest of my body. And the fight or flight response kicks in.

I am there waiting, prepared for something that is not actually going to happen. My dukes are up, yet there is no opponent.

J has matured a lot in the past year. He has shown me that he can handle the big stuff, with help, but still. It’s the little stuff that can be a problem. Like when he can’t find his favorite car. He will just not look for it but tell me he can’t find it. He whines. He refuses to do anything else but talk about the dang car that is missing! So, my brain sends the signal that we are getting ready for a doozy! This is going to be rough if we can’t find this car! And then, I turn around, and the friggin car is RIGHT THERE!! Crisis averted. But my body has yet to get the message.

I am noticing more and more that I am waiting for a reaction that does not come. J is maturing, but I am still stuck thinking that the fallout will be great. I think it’s time to let go a little.

And so, yesterday, as we waited around with not much to do once school and swim lessons were done I felt the feeling creeping its way in. I felt the frustration of hearing the iPad, the Wii. I got anxiety about going out to get J’s hair cut. And then something hit me. Like a lightning bolt. THIS is what every mom meant when they said they were ready for summer. That they welcomed the freedom of not having to take the kids to school and sports and play dates but to let them just be.

You see, there has been very little “let’s see” with J. He has always needed structure and a lot of it to keep himself together. He has needed to be occupied for long periods of the day, in a constructive manner, in order to not be bouncing off the walls. This is why he was in full day camp last summer. This is why he is in extended school year this summer. But, the difference between the two is that this summer he is free at noon. I use the word ‘free’ deliberately here because I think, for him, there is a tremendous sense of freedom this summer and I think it is the first time he has sensed it.

As I sat there yesterday afternoon at 2:30, when my daughter was picked up for a playdate and I got ready to take J to his haircut, I thought how there was nothing to rush to. We had plenty of time to get to the hair cut and then time to do whatever we wanted afterward. And I could just sit and enjoy my boy. I could look across the table at him and just BE. Just be in the moment, just be happy, just take it all in and enjoy it. I am ashamed to say, that I can maybe count on one hand how many times I have been able to do that. But now I wonder if it was because J wouldn’t allow it, or because I didn’t let it happen.

So, I will give in a little more with the iPad, the Wii, TV and media in general because it is not causing J to unravel. There is no repercussion. He has matured enough to know when it is time to stop and go play with something else, or go read a book!! I mean, how awesome is that??!

And I will be present. I will allow myself, and my family, to just be in the moment. To drink it all in and relish it with wild abandon because we have come so far, and we so deserve it.

Happy Summer!



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