After reading other autism blogs yesterday, I was set off on a thinking trip. I can't write a totally cheerful blog---that would be a fiction blog. But I can say honestly that there are more than a few parts of raising Janey that are a lot of fun. I thought I should make another list---let's call it "Six Good Parts of Autism Parenting!"
1. Sharing her interests. Janey doesn't have the obsessive special interests that many higher functioning kids with autism do, but she has changing interests that become quite obsessive for a period of time. Most of them are videos. She adores Kipper, and we all have become pretty fond of the little dog also. We quote episodes, argue about favorites and appreciate how well done they are. We've gone through the same thing with Angelina Ballerina, Care Bears, The Wonder Pets, The Backyardigans and so on. Often it's a certain one episode she really gets into, and it can be extremely annoying at first, but strangely, sometimes after 100 viewing or so, it becomes part of your mind, and you notice cool things about it.
2. Her lack of ability to be mean. Girls can be very, very mean. I know---I was a girl. Even seven year old girls are starting to be mean---to tell their mothers they hate them, to exclude other girls, to have that ability to figure out the one thing that will hurt you most to hear and to proceed to say it. Janey doesn't do that, because she can't. I don't think she'll ever able to, and there are worse thing than having a daughter who will never be cruel.
3. The words we all pick up. Janey has limited speech, and she puts the words she does know together in unusual ways sometimes to get her point across. For example, cheese is "cheese cutter" because you cut it with a knife, which she calls a cutter. So we ALL call cheese cheese cutter now. Because we taught her to say "please" by saying "Can you say please?" that is how she says it every time---"I want cheese cutter! Can you say please?" We've picked that up---I'll say to Tony "Could you empty the trash? Can you say please?" It's simple fun for us simple folks.
4. The people you meet. Yesterday, I was having a rough day---just a depressed day. I went to pick up Janey at afterschool in a mood. But by the time I left 10 minutes later, I was feeling a huge amount better, just by spending a little time with a small percentage of all the wonderful people who care about Janey---the teacher she will have next year (thanks, Amy!), the after-school director (thanks, Michele!), a devoted parent who works tirelessly for her own special needs child and others (thanks, Dianne!)---and that's just a tiny sampling of one day. Janey brings me into the path of some great people.
5. The joy when Janey learns something. I was thinking this morning---I can't remember when either of my boys first wrote an alphabet letter on their own, or solved a math problem, or wrote a sentence, or read a book. I should remember those things, but I don't. It's because kids learn in such a rush. One day they are just starting to talk, the next they are taking pre-calculus or physics or Latin. But when Janey learns a new thing, it's cause for celebration. If she ever writes her name, or reads a sentence, it will be a landmark day. The first time I saw her doing a letter matching game with ease on her iPad, it felt like Christmas. When learning is hard-earned, you notice it, and celebrate it.
6. It's hard to put this most important wonderful part of Janey into words. I'll tell a little story. The other day, I saw a mother at school who had recently lost her mother. I was trying to find the words to tell her how sorry I was. While I was doing that, Janey walked up next to her and held her hand. I am sure Janey didn't understand anything we were saying, but somehow, because that was what she wanted to do, she did the perfect thing. The mother wrote me a note that brought me to tears about what that meant to her. When Janey hugs you, it can break your heart with happiness. She does nothing to be polite, or socially correct. She seems to be able to know what people are kind at heart, and to love them for it. More than a few people have been touched by Janey. I feel almost phony writing that line, because it goes against my "just the facts ma'am" line on life with autism, but it's too true not to include.
And so now, off to attend to my little sweetheart, who has been poking me with a spoon for the past half hour and demanding "purple ice cream". Never let it be said I never wrote a cheerful post!