Okay, look — I have a lot of words and I’ve been sitting at my computer trying to form them into readable sentences, but nothing is coming out right, so … I’m just going to do what I like to call “blurt sharing.”
Do you ever do “blurt parenting?” I think I read that term on Facebook somewhere — one of my smart writer friends said it, I think — and it basically sums up my life. I don’t have time to form sensible paragraphs. When I’m in parent mode, I’m seriously outnumbered and outmanned in every way, and the best method of dealing with that is blurt parenting. Here’s an example:
(IN CARPOOL LINE AT THE SCHOOL)
Me: “Hi, kids! How was your day?!”
(All three of my children are yelling over one another, trying and failing to get a word in edgewise to tell me ALL OF THE THINGS)
Me: “OKAY, STOP. HERE. SNACK.”
(Kids make cookie monstery sounds)
Me: “We’re going in order. Pepper, you start.”
Me: “WAIT YOUR TURN.”
Maverick: “I have an inflamed blood vessel under my tongue … is there such a thing as a tongue hemorrhoid?”
Me: “You’re fine.”
Now that I’ve introduced you to blurt parenting, I can move on to the actual thing that prompted me to write today: Asher, our cat-obsessed, overly clumsy, endlessly kind-hearted 7-year-old, is on the autism spectrum. There’s really no way to say that other than to blurt it. I have two children who are, as their pediatrician puts it, “Aspergery.”
It was only two years ago when we learned that Maverick, now 10, has what used to be known as Asperger’s Syndrome (before someone revamped the DSM-5 and made Asperger’s part of the overly-general “Autism Spectrum Disorder.”).
Robbie and I have always suspected, slash known, that this day would someday arrive. We have extraordinary kids with extraordinary abilities and challenges, and there is no shame in identifying what makes them who they are. Also, it’s suuuuuuuuuper fucking hard to parent children who are different, so I feel the same relief now that I felt when Maverick was diagnosed — a giant feeling of “OHHHHH … that explains it.”
And now, we know what to do.
When I met Robbie Hobbs, I found him fascinating. I didn’t marry him for stability or security (although he now offers me that), or because my parents wanted me to. I didn’t marry him because I was pressured into it. I didn’t marry him because it was expected or arranged or agreed upon by people other than ourselves.
No. I married Robbie because he was interesting. Every experience was an adventure, and still is. And then, I was given three extremely quirky children to raise to adulthood, and I could not be more grateful.
Why am I, a recovering alcoholic with not that much money, raising two kids on the spectrum, plus another child, plus two cats that I never really wanted, while my husband works long hours, GRATEFUL? How can a woman drowning in responsibilities and challenges be happy about it?
My gratitude is the sum of moments like the one I witnessed several evenings ago, when Maverick pulled his siblings into the living room and read aloud the books he was given by a dear friend when he was first diagnosed with autism. As they listened, I saw Asher’s body melt into what appeared to be a palpable feeling of understanding and relief. Pepper, who is only 5, listened quietly.
A few minutes later, I turned around to see Asher standing behind me, clutching a dog-eared copy of All Cats Have Asperger’s.
“Maverick said I could have this,” he whispered, almost reverently, before running off to display it on his bookshelf. Mav shrugged it off — “It’s no big deal,” he said — but it WAS, because it showed that we’re all pulling for each other, as a family, and the best part is that I noticed. Sobriety has given me that, the gift of noticing.
It’s easy to forget that a diagnosis is just that: a diagnosis. It’s simply a tool to help us navigate complicated things. Asher is struggling to make sense of the world, and the right help will ensure that he will grow into the very best version of himself.