He gouged his arms Saturday.
Long raking scratches because he was angry at me. And then to drive the point home (as if it wasn’t home and parked in the garage already), he bit himself, then punctuated the whole affair by placing his entire hand in his mouth, far enough back to make himself throw up.
In front of dozens of people.
Welcome to the reality of my world.
Sometimes parenting an autistic child takes everything out of me. That was the case this weekend when Craig asked us to come watch the other two boys’ flag football game. I really didn’t want to go. Travis doesn’t enjoy watching sporting events out in a field – It’s usually unpaved and a bumpy trip out in his wheelchair and then an uncomfortable hour or more sitting in the hot sun watching kids do things he can’t.
I spend most of the time there keeping him from wheeling onto the field, answering incessant questions about whether or not we can go to Target afterwards, and sounding like a broken record saying “No, you may not play with my iPhone”.
I took my Nano with me. I had loaded a video of his favorite cartoon on it. He bit it and threw it into the grass because I hadn’t loaded the right one.
I gave him his Leapster with a set of headphones. Headphones are a big treat to which I limit access because he has a tendency to turn the volume up so loud that he risks damaging his hearing. He threw that to the ground as well because it wasn’t the Nano.
After thirty minutes, I decided that nothing I was going to do was right, and quietly let him know that throwing tantrums and expensive electronics just wasn’t going to work, so he could sit there without a toy and watch like the rest of us were trying to do.
That’s when the scratching, the crying, the biting, and the headbanging began.
And when he scratches and bites, he never looks at himself while he’s doing it.
He looks square into my eyes.
To get my attention.
Trust me, buddy, you don’t need to try and get my attention. Most of the time, you’re all that’s on my mind.
And since I’ve parented him for almost ten years now, I’ve learned that if I ignore him and do NOT look at him while he bites and self-mutilates, he will stop rather quickly.
But not everyone else knows that, and I usually sit there quietly in humiliation and try to hold back the tears that always live right below the surface as he inflicts physical pain on himself. And though I tell him that it hurts him worse than it hurts me, trust me, it doesn’t. I feel every bite and scratch. On my heart.
I am not one to call attention to myself, so when this happens (thankfully not often), it is embarrassing to imagine the conversations of others in the vicinity.
Do you see that woman?
How can she just let him hit himself?
Can’t she get him to settle down?
Why doesn’t she just take him home?
At times, the answer is easy. No, I can’t do anything about it when he’s spun himself up so high.
At times, the answer is hard. How do I explain discomfitting others so that I can have the delight to watch my other children run and laugh and accomplish on the field? They had been playing flag football for three weeks. I had not been. This was/is my husband’s first time as head coach. He’s understandably thrilled. I’m delighted for him. I wanted to watch him in his favorite role.
How do I balance the needs of them all? I don’t want the two typically abled ones growing up to resent their brother for keeping their mother at home. I don’t want the differently abled one resenting me hauling him places he can’t participate. I don’t want my husband to have a wife that doesn’t enthusiastically support him in what he loves.
Darned if you do.
Darned if you don’t.
These aren’t the sort of things that I want to write about on my blog. And I know they’re not the sort of things you come here to read.
But it’s the truth.
It’s my truth.
AND YET, when I feel I’m at the lowest point, God lifts my head.
His mercies are new every morning.
The child who raged yesterday is the child that was thrilled to go to church today and learn his verse which he proudly quoted when he got back to the car.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
He has called me to this purpose.
And He has given me the tools that I need and has promised to accompany me to do His work.
I vaguely remember an art project we used to do as kids. It involved scribbling in different colors on a sheet of paper, covering it with wax, then using nails to scratch through the wax and uncover the colors beneath.
I’m doing what He’s called me to do. The scribbles.
I’m getting scratched up in the process. The nails.
It will be beautiful. The end product.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (and in my life) throughout all generations for ever and ever.