Autism: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

When my firstborn son was first diagnosed with autism five years ago, the force of it all was like a kick in the head. I honestly did not know how I was going to live the rest of my life as an autism parent, especially with the doom-and-gloom picture that was presented to us by the diagnosing doctor.

But life has an uncanny way of continuing, no matter what. We adapt and survive, and sometimes we even manage to see the positives in a situation that is, by most people’s standards, less than ideal.

The Good

* Every moment of accomplishment is a cause for celebration. I have a true appreciation for what most people think are “the little things”.

* My son can problem-solve rings around the rest of us. His thinking is at times very effective while also being wayyyyy out of the box. It offers a whole new perspective on life.

* My two boys have a healthy amount of sibling rivalry going on, but they also have a great deal of love for each other. My younger son’s empathy and kindness toward his brother that has to be seen to be believed. It makes me well up with tears every time.

* Let’s face it, many kids with autism are computer geeks. And it’s very handy having a built-in computer geek.

* I believe that having a child with autism makes me a better and more patient parent.

* Kids with autism can have funny, quirky senses of humour that take you where you least expect to go.

* Hugs from kids with autism can be the absolute best.

The Bad

* When my child is trying with all his might to express something and doesn’t know how to, the look of frustration and desperation in his eyes is heartbreaking.

* Sometimes my younger son tells me that he wishes his brother didn’t have autism. There are no words to describe how that feels.

* Autism is unbelievably, phenomenally exhausting, and that’s just for me. I cannot imagine what it must sometimes be like for my son.

* There is a lot of frustration involved in advocating for my child in the school system. The vast majority of teachers are genuinely good and caring people who mean well, but a lot of them just don’t get it.

* I worry about my son’s future every single day. Will he ever be able to brush his teeth and take a shower independently? Will he ever learn to look both ways before crossing the street? Will he be bullied in high school? Will he be given the same opportunities as other kids? Will he be OK when, someday, I am no longer here?

The Ugly

* There are holes in the drywall from all the headbanging incidents. They are not pretty.

* We are frequently the targets of people who stare and say rude things. They are not pretty either.

* As much as I think that autism has made me a better parent, I am only human, and sometimes I lose it. Big-time. I slam things and scream like a banshee.

* Sometimes, I have to battle my son’s autism and my depression at the same time, and it’s such a battle. I teeter on the edge of these big black pits of despair, and it is absolutely terrifying.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)


Wedding Planning Worries

I have discovered an odd parallel between wedding planning and parenting. With both, you always have something to worry about, but the particular worries change and evolve depending on what stage you are in.

For instance, I look back on the day I first brought George home from the hospital. There I was, a new Mom with this ridiculously small human being who looked so fragile. I was terrified that I’d break him, that something bad would happen just because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

When it became apparent that I actually had the ability to keep him alive, I started worrying about different things. Was he sleeping enough? Was I feeding him the right stuff? What did that rash on his face mean? How did I know whether or not to worry about a fever?

Then James came along and brought with him a whole new set of worries. Now, I worry about stuff like sibling relationships, whether the boys are happy at school, and how to keep up with the fact that they seem to outgrow their shoes within the first ten minutes of owning them.

A year from now, I will no doubt be stressing about something else.

It’s been much the same with my wedding planning.

Right in the beginning, I was focused on getting the reception hall booked. I figured that as long as we had a place to party, nothing else would really matter. It took us a long time to commit to a hall, and throughout the whole selection process I was stressed to the hilt and being pulled in different directions by different people who wanted different things.

The moment we paid the deposit on the hall, a weight lifted from my mind. But soon another one settled there: the weight regarding my dress. A long story, the dress was. It involved a promise from my soon-to-be mother-in-law to make it, a retraction of said promise, and an argument before the promise was reinstated. There were discussions about whether or not I would wear a veil, and these discussions were more heated than one might expect.  Eventually, my wishes prevailed (and why shouldn’t they?) and it is now known by all concerned that I will not be wearing a veil.

Then I started to panic about the shoes. I had to go on several shoe-shopping trips, and I hated every one of them, because – well, I hate shoe-shopping. Just as I was starting to think that I would have to wear my battered running shoes to my wedding, I found a pair of shoes that I love.

Okay. Deep, soothing breaths.

When the shoes were sorted, it was time to worry about the guest list and the invitations. This caused me no end of stress. Initially I was going to keep it simple. I got plain but elegant stationery to print the invitations on, I had the invitations designed and I was just about to print them when…

…the hub-to-be announced that we should have a theme for the wedding.

It’s a great theme, I have to confess. I’m glad we’re going with it. But it meant that we had to change what we were doing with the invitations, and as a result they went out ten days later than I would have liked. But they went out, and all credit to Gerard, they are really nice.

We have a makeup person.

We have a DJ.

Everyone’s clothing has been sorted out.

Now, I guess because I actually have the time to worry about it, I have a new worry.

Who is going to do my hair?

I already know what my next worry after this one will be, but for now, I’m going to focus on the hair.

I can only worry about one wedding-related thing at a time, otherwise my head might just implode.

(Photo credit: