At the thrift store, I spotted it.
One of those little statuettes from the 1970s. I remember having them in the house when I was a kid, up on the shelves with knickknacks and tchotchkes.
But this one. This one was for me:
World’s Best Mother.
I brought it up to the register to buy it, and the woman in line behind me saw it. Well, part of it.
“What does that say?” She asked.
“World’s Best Mother.” I picked it up off the counter and showed it to her.
And I bought it.
I don’t know about your house, but in our house, summer is rough. Simon *loves* school.
He loves the people. He loves the routine. He loves the activities.
Starting yesterday (Memorial Day), he began to focus on ESY (Extended School Year for y’all not in the know…it’s like summer school, but for kids with special needs who need extra help over the summer).
He spent the whole Monday talking about ESY, asking about it, telling us when it was.
Unfortunately, ESY is only four weeks long. Two weeks in June. Two weeks in July. Four days each of those weeks. Three hours each of those days.
4 x 4 x 3 = 36 hours.
Over nine weeks.
I’m going into the summer prepared and hopeful.
The World’s Best Mother award is part of those preparations.
Like most mothers – especially those of us mothers with special needs kids – there are more days when we feel like the worst mothers instead of the best mothers.
But we shouldn’t.
Even on those worst mother days, we’re still pretty good. As long as our kids are still alive, we’re still alive, and no one is going to jail, it’s a good day.
We’re the World’s Best Mothers.
In under a month, Simon turns 15.
Horrifying, isn’t it?
He will be firmly in teenage-hood, and, come the fall, he’ll be in high school.
I meant terrifying, not horrifying.
But that’s the scary news. Now for the awesome news:
Simon explained why he was stimming and how he was feeling.
For those who don’t know what stimming is, or why you should not stop a person from doing it, here’s a quick explanation. Stimming (self-stimulating behavior) is what a number of people on the spectrum do. It’s what a lot of people might call “hand flapping,“ or it can be any number of other behaviors that help the person to calm themselves or express themselves. You shouldn’t stop it because, well, it’s a person calming themselves or expressing themselves. (Go read this now. And be prepared to cry.)
Back to the story…
We went out to Logan’s Steakhouse. They serve grilled cheese, a veggie plate, and steaks, so they meet all our requirements for going out. They even have free peanuts.
We were waiting for our meals to come out, and Simon was stimming. He was sitting in the corner of the booth, flapping his hands, and moving his head. And smiling.
“Why are you doing that?” I asked him, not actually expecting an answer, but asking because I always try anyway.
“I’m happy,” he said.
Wait. What? He said he was happy?
“Why are you happy?” I asked, pushing my luck.
He didn’t say anything for a minute. Just kept flapping and smiling.
“I like Logan’s,” he said.
First off, I can know with some degree of certainty that he does actually know why he stims, and he’s doing it on purpose. Second, I know that he really does like going out to eat there. I was pretty sure of that second thing already since he asks to go whenever we go buy our comics – I have no idea why he has put that connection there, but he has, and it’s awful hard to say no when you’re tired and don’t feel like cooking.
So, the next time you think about telling a person who stims to stop it or to have “quiet hands,” shut up instead.
Not too long ago, we decided to start getting regular babysitting, and we picked my father’s step-granddaughter.
She seemed nice and responsible when we met her, but I wanted to get some more info on her, so I called my father.
He talked about her and about her son. He went on and on about how awesome his step-great-grandson is. So smart! So clever! So talented! This little boy was the best little boy in the whole history of little boys!
I stopped my father.
“What do you brag about when you talk about Simon?”
Too long a pause.
“Simon’s very special.”
He didn’t think to brag about Simon’s memory.
He didn’t think to brag about Simon’s smile.
He didn’t think to brag about how everyone who meets Simon loves him and remembers him for years afterward.
He didn’t think to brag about how much Simon likes to read (and how he taught himself to read).
He didn’t think to brag about how good Simon is at horseback riding, bowling, or baseball.
He didn’t think to brag about the how Simon taught himself to float and swim.
Clearly, there’s very little to brag about when it comes to his grandson.
Maybe I should make him a list.
Okay, maybe it’s not a true sickness. But it’s one that I caught in my childhood, Patrick caught in his childhood, too. Now it’s Simon’s turn.
I’ve been waiting for this day. I’ve been hoping for this day. I’ve been praying for this day.
And it’s finally come.
Simon has had favorite books before. Every night, he wants to read Goodnight, Moon. By now, everyone has that memorized. (In the great green room…)
We’ve been going to the library at least once a week, and he loves it, but he always tended to get the same books over and over. Board book, specifically. Simple ones, intended for toddlers.
I was fine with that. At least he had an interest in books. But there wasn’t much to them. A word or two a page with a picture.
Then it was summer, and we were bored. We started to go to thrift stores on a semi-regular basis.
He began getting books there. $1.00 here. $.50 there. His collection began to grow.
And then…we went to a thrift store, and he began getting cranky with me. I asked him what he wanted – normally that’s answered with the response of “a big hug!” – but that time he said, “books.”
We went over to the kid’s book area.
I searched the shelves, but I couldn’t find anything that he wanted. Then he reached in, almost randomly it seemed, and he pulled out an “Early Reader” Blue’s Clues book.
I had totally missed it, but he found it. I guess we don’t need to worry about him getting glasses anytime soon.
The minute he pulled it out, he opened it and began reading it. He read it all the way through. When I asked him if he wanted it, he said, “Yes.” Another irregular response – most of the time, he says “no” when asked if he wants things.
We went and bought it, and as soon as we got into the car, he said, “You can have your book when we get home.”
“Do you want it now?”
I passed it into the backseat, and he immediately began reading it again.
The torch has been passed. We have a reader on our hands.
It’s the only logical explanation for the way the last two Mondays have rolled.
Two weeks ago, we tried bowling for the first time all summer.
It was a roaring success! Sort of. The person I’d hoped to meet up with there couldn’t make it. That’s cool. I hadn’t let her know in advance, so it was my bad.
Simon had an awesome time bowling, didn’t want to stop until we’d managed all three of our games that had been included with our summer pass, and didn’t need juice or cookies to help him make it through. Awesomeness.
When we went to get ready and leave, it turned out that his handy dandy notebook, something that he can’t live without, had gone missing. Where, I don’t know. When, I don’t know. All I knew (and he knew) was that it had vanished.
My plans of hitting Starbucks and a thrift store on the way home also vanished. I knew we wouldn’t be able to do anything until we got a new notebook, which was sitting in the closet at home.
Cue a hurried drive home. Grabbing the notebook. Much rejoicing!
One week ago, we tried it for the second time.
I knew in advance that the person I’d wanted to see there wouldn’t make it, but that was okay – two other people (that I’d never met before) and their kids would be there. Massive panic attack. New people! New people! Alert! Alert! I almost didn’t go, but then I pushed through. It would be okay. Simon wanted to go, and I couldn’t let my anxiety get in the way of that. Right?
We went. The new people were cool. Simon had a great time, even if he did start getting distracted a bit during the second and third game. Anytime I asked him if he wanted to leave or keep bowling, though, he went and got a ball and bowled. Nice.
The weather was a bit crazy. It had just been raining when we got there, but about mid-way through our time, the guy on the PA system announced something about tornadoes and power going out and having to go to the bathroom to hide. Not that that bothered my anxiety. Nope. Not at all. Okay, let’s be honest. It powered the shit outta my anxiety. I soldiered on.
When we went to get ready and leave, no problems. Said good-bye. Swapped shoes. Went outside to find out that it had turned into a gentle drizzle. All good. Whew.
This time, we made it all the way to the car before the curse reared its ugly head. I started the car, settled in, heard the ding. It’s been dinging for weeks now, telling me to get it an oil change. I tell it to shut up. This time it wasn’t only telling me to get an oil change. This time, a new light came on. The light that tells me that one of the tires was low.
Did that mean I had a flat? I hadn’t noticed it when I got in. I drove out of the parking lot slowly. Didn’t notice anything. I knew there was a tire with low air, though, and I knew that if it was low enough for the car to notice, it needed to be fixed.
I went into the first gas station I saw that had a sign for air. It wanted $1.50 in quarters. Quarters that I didn’t have.
I went into the second gas station I saw that had a sign for air. It also wanted $1.50, but it took credit cards. Hallelujah! I got out, swiped my car, and waited for the air to turn on. I wanted a really long time before I realized that the air wasn’t working.
Again, I’d been hoping to stop off at Starbucks. This time, I stopped. What was the worst that would happen? I’d blow a tire in the drive thru and block everyone? I could live with that. I needed that coffee.
I drove home slowly, annoying other drivers around me. We made it home safe, and I figured we’d put some air in the tire later. (Which turned out to be another long story involving a missing tire gauge and unsuccessfully guessing which tire needed air and how much.)
Now it’s almost time for bowling again.
I’m planning on going.
Let’s hope that curse is finished with us.
ESY has started back up, but in the two weeks Simon had off, we did lots of fun things. One of those was to hit the Galleria up in Houston.
Now, before anyone thinks I’m a cruel mom who forces her poor child to go shopping, please realize that he ASKED for the Galleria. I tried to talk him out of it. I offered all sorts of other options. No dice. He wanted to go shopping.
Not that he actually shops, mind you. Nope, he much prefers wandering around, staring at things, stopping to eat a cookie, and, in the case of the Galleria, checking out their awesome two-story fountain.
We were wandering around because I am one of those people that always gets lost in a mall. And there it was! Simon was super excited, and I told him to go ahead and sit on the edge because the ledge is pretty wide, and if you’re right there, you can feel the spray of the water as it hits down, and you get a cool breeze from it rushing past you. It feels awesome in the dog days of July.
What you don’t see in the picture below is that the fountain had stopped. It goes through its cycle, and then it pauses. I guess that’s when the water is all feeding back for it to run again.
Simon was waiting patiently on the edge, when – SLAM – it started back up!
He jumped. Almost fell over backwards jumped. Then he got a huge smile and settled back to watch it.
So as the Daily Show always said at the end…here it is…your moment of Zen…
Yes, I’m a big fan of “Trading Places.” The 1983 movie, that is, not the show that’s on HGTV or whatever. It’s an excellent holiday and end of the year movie. Even if it’s completely inappropriate at times. Although perhaps that’s what makes it so excellent.
Regardless, that’s not the point of this post.
The point is that this afternoon, I was sitting around, working on my computer, and Simon walked up to me.
“January first,” he said.
“Umm, okay.” I wasn’t entirely sure how he knew what day it was. I mean, yes, we had changed the calendars around the house, but did that mean he knew how to follow them? He does “calendar time” at school, but that seemed to be less about figuring out the day on the calendar and more about reviewing the day of the week, the weather, and all that good stuff.
“January,” he insisted.
“Yes, it is,” I told him. “It’s the first of January.”
He stood there, looking at me.
“What about it?” I asked. “Why does it matter?”
“Exciting,” he said.
How is January first exciting? He couldn’t really tell me. But it was exciting for him.
And it was exciting for me.
Simon came to me to share something. Maybe he couldn’t explain it, not in words. Maybe he wasn’t sure why he felt that way, and maybe he wasn’t even sure how he was feeling. But he was trying to tell me. He wanted me in on it.
January first was very exciting.
Sixth place out of six, that is. Because sixth place is still worth something.
Don’t get me wrong. I grew up in a world without everyone getting a trophy. You had winners. You had losers. I played basketball (very poorly), and if I was lucky, they would let me in for the last minute or two of the game, when my playing couldn’t affect the final score. I was one of the official bench warmers. And I was okay with that because I knew I wasn’t good at it. But I tried. I didn’t expect a reward for trying. I would skip the award dinners because, well, I wasn’t getting an award, and the dinners weren’t really that great.
But that’s not the same for Simon.
Simon is in Special Olympics. This past Saturday was his bowling tournament.
In Special Oympics, everyone is included. Everyone plays.
Some of the kids there can’t handle crowds. Some can’t handle waiting. Some can’t handle noise. Some can’t handle sitting still. Some can’t walk. Some can’t speak.
And that’s all okay.
Because it’s Special Olympics.
The pledge they recite before the games begin is always the same:
“Let me Win. But if I Cannot Win, Let Me Be Brave in the Attempt.”
They are all brave.
They push past what makes it hard for them. Some of them wear special noise-cancelling headphones. Some of them roll up in their wheelchairs and push the ball down a ramp. Some of them need to have a coach or assistant down in the bowling area with them. But they do it. And they’re proud of doing it. And they have fun doing it. They have fun being involved. They have fun competing. They have fun knowing that they are being like every other kid out there – win or lose, they are playing.
So Simon got sixth place out of six. And he stood there, tall and proud, while they put the ribbon around his neck. And we stood there, tall and proud and taking pictures, knowing that he made it through another tournament, through all the things that normally would bother him, and through two hour of focus.
What’s the cut-off age for Halloween?
When I was growing up, I didn’t worry about it. No one really commented on it (to me anyway), and as I got older, my costume got more complex. When I was 17 and dating, my boyfriend – now husband – actually made me up as a car accident/fire victim, going so far as to cover an eye with a patch and making me look all bloody and raw and burned. It was awesome.
But nowadays, I hear grumbling. I hear people complaining about kids who are “too old” or “too big” to go trick or treating. There’s the old joke about “if you can shave, you’re too old to go trick or treating.” The thing is, some boys start shaving when they’re 12 or 13. Is that too old to trick or treat?
The real worry that I’m bringing up here isn’t actually about general trick or treating. It’s about Simon.
He’s 12 this year. He’s not exactly small for his age, either. He’s in the 6th grade (should be in the 7th, but he was held back a year in kindergarten), and he’s definitely going to need to shave within the next year or so. Puberty is setting in.
He loves Halloween, though. Super duper loves it. He just brought it up to me again, and I had to tell him (for the eight-thousandth time this week) that it is on Friday, and that we can go trick or treating after school. The actual plan is to go trick or treating at the mall after school, and then hit the neighborhood around dinner time.
Will he be able to go?
Will people make snarky comments? Refuse him candy and other fun Halloween goodies?
I don’t know how he’ll feel about it next year, but what if he still wants to go? Will we have problems? Will we not?
I hate to quote the Doors, but the future is uncertain…and is the end of Halloween near?
Today a guy walked by me in the parking lot of the grocery store just as Simon got into the car and I was starting to put the groceries in the trunk.
This guy said, all disgusted-sounding, some comment like, “Huh, he’s just getting in the car and getting comfortable and not even helping you load those up.”
His tone made it clear. “Kids these days.” And maybe even “parents these days.” Because he clearly thought I was also doing wrong by not forcing my son to help.
Part of me wanted to correct him, tell him that I was happier with my son sitting in the car – somewhere safe, unlike the parking lot where the birds crying overhead would scare him and where loud noises would bother him.
Tell him that just minutes before, as I was paying for these groceries, my son had turned to one of the male employees at the store – someone we’d never seen before – and asked for a “big hug” while the guy looked all kinds of uncomfortable, and I’d had to ask Simon to come to me (again) which is what I’d been doing for the last fifteen minutes of waiting in line, trying to keep Simon from bothering the guy buying all the sushi and the woman with the shaved head and the monk’s robe (who I somehow thought should look enlightened or at least happy or even tolerant, yet the only way to describe her expression was disgruntled).
Tell him that the cashier had given Simon “Buddy Bucks” so he could go win stickers to save up for a prize, even though he doesn’t care about saving up for the prize; he just likes to put the sticker on his hand and wear it, going around all day with a yellow square that says “2 points” on it.
But I didn’t say anything to the guy because I’d rather let him be smugly satisfied with himself because I don’t owe him an explanation, and he wasn’t asking for an explanation. He was passing judgment on me and my son without knowing anything about us. And that’s his problem, not mine.
Main take-away point here?
How many times do I have to shout it from the rooftops?