We interrupt this broadcast for a moment of honesty

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.

Tough love.

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.

Romans 8:28

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.

Ephesians 3:20-21

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.



30 responses to “We interrupt this broadcast for a moment of honesty

  1. Even though I heard this story last night, I am sitting here with tears running down my face, unable to fathom the daily life that you have. Yet I see such joy in you & watch the tenderness you have with all your boys, but especially with this precious one who attracts the attention of those who” don’t know.” Don’t know why he acts the way he does (& who does except the One who made him?); who don’t know the time & energy that have been invested in him; who don’t know that he has great value; who don’t know that his life has permeated your heart; don’t know what they would do if they were in your shoes (or think they do know & truly have NO IDEA!); don’t know that he is doing the only thing he knows to do to show his frustration (he can’t yell at his spouse or kids, or drink to oblivion, or spend, or….fill in the blank ,like they can); don’t know how to respond ; don’t know that this precious boy can learn & recite Scripture! We are all “handicapped,” “disabled,” unable to do what we should, unable to meet the expectations of others, just plain UNABLE. But our God IS able & only He can do all things right. Only He can equip you to do what He has called you to…your purpose.
    Thank you for your honesty, for giving us a glimpse, & allowing us to pray for you, dear friend.

  2. Friend, you are an amazing woman of God. Thanks for sharing your heart. But you’re wrong about one thing:

    You said:
    “… I know they’re not the sort of things you come here to read.”

    Not me. I come to CPQ’s world for exactly words like these.

    This is the meat and the bones of life. I love how you make me laugh and you do it so well, but words like these encourage us all to do the work He has called us all to. Sharing your heart is valuable. It is eternal.

    So write on, friend.

    And know that your little prophetic one was sharing a word directly from the Lord to you today. To dedicated, loving, persevering, unwavering you.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Karen Dorman

    I love you and your honesty!
    You’re a fantastic mother and I’m glad I know you.

  4. I felt heaviness when I was reading this, but just as God lifted your head, I felt uplifted at the end. You’re right…the scribbles, the nails, the hurt, the daily-ness of it all…it’s all used by God to create a work of beauty in you and in your children.

    Thanks for sharing this, Susan. It was beautiful.

  5. You are amazing…and our God is amazing! Thank you for sharing so honestly. My heart is heavy for you and yet at the same time I was so blessed by your beautiful words.

    Thanks for being real!

  6. Susan, I’m with Candace. This is exactly what we come here to read. We blog to share in each other’s lives. This is a part of you and who your family is. Thank you for being so open, for laying your pain and struggle out there. Many days you share the joys of your boys. All of your boys. You touched my heart today. I look forward to one getting to meet Travis. Whether its a good day or a bad day. I’m sending you a hug right now.

  7. Thank you, Susan. Just.thank.you.

    And God be with you all today. May he make His face to shine upon you and give you grace and peace. And may you realize even in the midst of this that you are extravagantly loved. And so is Travis and the rest of your fam.

  8. You touched my heart with your story. I am in awe of the strength you show. I am humbled by your courage. Parenting is never easy on a good day, much less when our children have special needs.

    I enjoy reading your blog. You and my sister make me smile daily with your humor. However, today’s post is what touches me the most. It is encouraging to read the faith of others and be inspired.

    God bless! Remember, He never gives us more on our plate than we can handle. God knew you were the one to raise this special little boy. After reading your words, I know why.

  9. Wow…Being a ‘newbie’ to your blog, I had no idea you could be so funny and at other times so real and deep. That was an awesome sharing. Thank you so much. After reading about your deep struggles and sadness, it also makes your gift of humor mean all the more to me.
    I love both sides of your writing.
    Keep it up.

  10. My sweet, precious, dear friend. This is what I come here to read. Thank you for your depth, and your honesty, and your spirit. Your courage and faith inspires me. Thank you for being you, Susan, and thank you for opening up and just being real. Because real is good. Very very good.

    This is just what I needed to hear today. Thank you. Again. And again. And again.

    I’m hearting you big time.

  11. Parents of special needs kids are just heroes to me. As a SLP I’ve seen all kinds, and I am amazed by the patient ones who try to involve their children, who try to teach them, despite their handicaps. God bless you!

    I worked with a mom who had TWO kids with autism. They scream, spit, fall over, bite, throw, scratch, and everything else in public. So, the mom got tired of nosey, hurtful comments and had shirts made up for whenever they take outings. “I’m not a brat, I’m just autistic”.

    Sometimes, we all need signs like those for the world to see that they shouldn’t judge so easily.

  12. The fact that you shared such a real, honest moment just makes me like you even more. I read the first part of this post earlier in the day, had to run and anxiously came back to finish reading. Wow, it was so touching how you shared the pain(physically and emotionally) of that day….and then shared the sweetness of the next day.

    I cannot understand the roller coaster that you must go through, but I’m so honored to be getting to know you….and your son(s) sound very special.

  13. Did you know that my favorite characteristic in you is your REALNESS? Today’s post is the perfect example.

    Transparency is beautiful… even in the ugly moments of life. Thank you, thank you for sharing this. I agree with all of the other commentors: you are amazing

    Once again, your gift of writing shines. Thank you for taking us to the place where you are and allowing us a peek into your ‘moments’ ~ good or bad.

    Love you, dear friend!

  14. Oh this is just so beautiful my sweet friend. It brought tears to my eyes (but it has also been an emotional day) What a lucky son you have to have a fantastic mom like you – thanks so much for being open with us and sharing this story!

  15. Hello there,
    I think I have a friend, who may be your friend, Laura Beth….she referred me to your blog; and she said I remind her of you and visa versa….then I read your above post….I too have a son with autism, and I appreciate your honesty….and I really appreciate your sharing of emotions and feelings….especially how to balance it all out between the special needs child and the typical children. Thank you! God Bless!

  16. Susan, you rock. I’m with Hillcrest Cottage….the struggles that you live with 24/7 makes your otherwise typically hysterical posts all the more special. For God to have chosen you, you, before the beginning of time to be Travis’ mommy makes you infinitely special–no one else in the whole world, in all of history, is equipped to mommy that child. God knew what he needed, and it is you. God knew what you needed, in order to rely fully on Him and give Him the glory that you do, and it is Travis. And that you would open up your heart and your pain to not only your dear friends here, but to those of us who are virtual and literal strangers….wow. Thank you. And may God bless you. Philippians 1:3 and 6. I am honored to “know” you. Sniffle sniffle.

  17. Thank you so much. I amen what everyone above has said.

    I come here because I find honesty and humor and reality. I pretty much will read anything you write now. You keep writing and we’ll keep reading.

  18. My heart is so heavy for you. I love your honesty, your perspective, and your faith. I will be praying for you and your family. You are an excellent mother and I admire you so very much. In our weakness, He is strong!!! Sending hugs your way!

  19. Today instead of laughter, you brought tears to my eyes. But if you will believe it, it was wonderful.

    Wonderful, because I was able to “get to know you” a little more today.

    Wonderful, because even in this you are pointing toward the One who can bring good from the seemingly bad, beauty from ashes, purpose and faith from trials.

    Wonderful, because it shows what a loving Mama’s heart you have.

    Wonderful, because it shows how in our weaknesses HIS strength is revealed.

    Wonderful, because you are making people more aware of how, even unknowingly, we can judge things we know nothing about and you are educating us.

    Wonderful, because I like you even more now than I already did …:)

    Thank you for sharing your heart, your daily life, your trials, your Hope. Don’t EVER stop doing that. Ya hear?

  20. Oh, Susan – you are wrong – this IS what we come here to read. Whether you share something funny and light or the struggles and triumphs you go through, that’s why we come. I am so glad that you wrote this, because I think you needed to, and I know that we needed to read it. So that we can pray and rejoice with you.
    God is doing something so beautiful here.

  21. We don’t just want fluff.

    Thanks for keeping us laughing one day, and for being totally real and honest the next! I like reading all of it.

    Sorry things were so tough, and I’m so glad that they turned around!

  22. Thanks for your vulnerability. Ok if I list you on my blogroll?


  23. Wow. That was amazing. I love your honesty.
    I’m thinking I’m gonna love your blog!!

  24. I’ve been trying to think of what to say for two days now. I’m new to your blog and really didn’t know of you son’s difficulties. What a lucky young man to have a mom like you. Thank you for sharing you heart.

  25. Wow. I’m so very glad to have you in my life.

  26. I’m not sure what I could say here that hasn’t already been said since I’m trying to catch up…

    But, I couldn’t read this and not say anything.

    He rejoices over Travis with singing and He rejoices over you with singing…

    I love that you are parenting through the tough moments not by giving in to looks, glares, whispers but by depending on the One and Only…your husband and your boys will see THAT in you and it will speak volumes…it does to me.

    Love to you, my friend!

  27. I can understand a little how you feel. My son is autistic. It is hard to see him stuck in this other world. He is definately a hand full. I know that God gave him to me for purpose, and I am going to fulfill that purpose. Did I mention that I am a single mother with another child as well. Life is hard, but God is on our side. My son is a blessing in my life and I can’t imagine my life without him. God Bless you and your family.

  28. Oh my sweet Sus, how did I miss this one? I am so glad that His girl is reading out loud today, and that she tweeted it and that I now got to read it.

    Im so glad that you shared it, and that now I know you and your family just a little better.

    Love you!

  29. Oh wow. I can so relate about trying to meet everyone’s needs. I don’t even words to say anything more. I am glad that you shared.

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