So last night, I had this dream….
Adam and I are on big yellow inner tubes floating on the Chicago River going west. I’m using my hand to paddle while frantically trying to grab his hand so that we don’t get separated. Suddenly, big military ships start heading our way and I quickly realize that they do not see us. Somehow, I get us both over to the side and a black iron fence appears out of nowhere. I reach out and grab on to it and start alternating my hands while frantically looking back to see that Adam has a hold of my tube. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a thick brown sludge start to swirl around us. I desperately try to paddle us out with my hands. We are eventually swallowed up into the sludge and….That’s it… I wake up.
I have been playing this dream over and over in my head all day looking for meaning; and suddenly it occurred to me. I was with Adam traveling up s*it creek without a paddle…..
Who has not felt this way at one time or another with their children? As my husband likes to remind me, after our third child, Adam, was born we transitioned from playing man to man to strictly a zone defense. As soon as one fire was extinguished, another one erupted. It’s life with kids, plain and simple.
Monday is the big day. Adam has had this date circled on the calendar for months. Never mind that we still had half a year of 5th grade to finish. He has been ready for a new chapter in his life to begin before the last chapter even ended. He spent the summer practicing creating “the flow” with an obscene amount of hair gel. He has decided that he is too old to take a bath and has switched to exclusively taking showers.He faithfully washes his face every night in anticipation of the non-existent pimple all because that’s what his older brother and sister do. He has even explored deodorant. On August 24, 2015, Adam will officially be a middle school student. His next three years will be filled with pre-teens and teens jockeying for a spot on the ladder of social hierarchy. He will be entering a new world filled with cell phones, texting, social media, boys liking girls and girls liking boys. He will be entering a world in which where you choose to sit at a lunch table is probably the single most important decision and possibly the biggest disappointment and source of drama that a middle school student will face in the first couple of weeks of school. He will be surrounded by a new world of academics and demands that can send a young 6th grader into a tailspin of uncertainty. On Monday, Adam will be navigating this new experience. He is my third child to go off to middle school, but my first middle school child to charter these socially treacherous waters with autism. He is confident and ready; and as uncertain as I am, I couldn’t be more proud.
In June, as he excitedly walked out the doors of his grade school, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness for we had been a family at that school for the past 10 years. Ferris Bueller once said it perfectly: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and awhile, you could miss it.” This statement couldn’t be more true; I literally blinked and elementary school for all three of my children was over. My sadness, however, was quickly replaced by a huge sense of pride, for over the past 4 years, Adam defied the naysayers. He continued to prove that he could be successful in a mainstream classroom with the proper support, which I largely attribute to a wonderful and dedicated group of teachers and therapists that have faithfully stood by Adam’s side for the past 4 years. These wonderful teachers rolled up their sleeves, and went to the mattresses for our son, when we made the decision in the middle of his first grade year to move him out of his self-contained classroom back to a mainstream class. Adam has been on quite a unique journey; a journey that I know will continue to unfold. But just as each and every child is unique, each and every child with autism is unique. Just as he has been taught by many over his short life, he has taught many, many more.
You may be scratching your head and questioning…. ‘Tales From the Butt’ ?? This very, very, VERY long story has twisted, turned, evolved and has taken on a life of itself. Just as autism is very unique. My butt is Adam’s unique autism perseveration. He loves to talk about how big it is. (I’m 5’3″ and 120 lbs.) He often expresses how ‘boincy’ and bouncy’ it is. He loves to remind me that on May 4, 2014, he noticed my butt under a blue blanket, marking the date that his fascination with my behind began. He likes to imagine that I have train tattoos on my butt. He likes to pat it, talk to it and for whatever reason make the “mmmmmmm” sound by it. He has nicknames for my butt such as ‘hip hip hooray butt’ ‘engine butt’ ‘jazzy butt’ and my all-time favorite “found it at Costco butt”. I have tried with all my might to understand why my butt is so interesting to him. Our discussions about his fascination circle right back to that infamous day in May when my butt caught his autism eye under that blue blanket. I have identified dates on the calendar marking the time in which he needs to stop talking about my butt…..with no luck. I’ve also tried to ignore his perseveration, but his intrigue with my booty is endless. As exhausting as all of this “butt talk” can be, I am grateful for two things: 1.) Adam is only fascinated with my butt. 2.) He is a rule follower and therefore abides to my strict instruction that he may not talk about my butt at school or the principal will call me and he will be in “big trouble”. I have put all of his teachers on “butt alert”. This was quite a unique and interesting conversation the first time I presented it in the “parental concerns” portion of the IEP meeting. In the end, even though at times I feel like I am only a butt to him, I’ve come to realize that my son’s fascination with my butt is his unique way of expressing that he loves me. I have no choice but to find the humor in his unique and endearing way of displaying his affection. Therefore, I in turn, love him with all of my butt….and my heart!
And so, in two more days, I will have a sophomore, a 7th grader, and Adam will land at his new middle school as a 6th grader in his own unique blaze of glory. I’m excited for him to begin his new chapter. I will be right there along side him paddling west on the Chicago River, with ships coming straight at us, helping him to navigate this socially awkward time in his own unique way. I’m sure that there will be many, many more unique ‘Tales from the Butt’ to share.