Bumps, Bruises, Breaks

If you are a parent, you have memories of your young child falling and getting a huge goose egg on their forehead.  I imagine every parent has that story.  Fell on the brick hearth, fell down the stairs, etc.  To watch that bump turn into something bigger hurts and can be alarming. 

Then, as the toddler gets older, they come to you with their boo-boo.  Always funny how a band-aid makes even the tiniest spot all better.  Those marketed toward kids are especially fun.

In the blog post One Tough Cookie: https://problemfreephilosophy.blog/2020/04/30/one-tough-cookie/, I told the story of getting him ready one morning many years ago to discover some awful scrapes on his arm.  They were red and looked painful.  I was totally puzzled over the how. 

It was so bothersome that we installed a camera in his room.  It was so long enough ago that it was a hassle to use and pull up images on our computer.  Thankfully, technology has given us more efficient tools now. 

A constant source of unease for me will be a bump or bruise that appears on sweet Jacob.  I continue to watch for those and continue to rarely know the cause.  I wish he could tell me what happened, how it hurt, then let me kiss it and make it better. 

Nineteen years ago we sued the public school system where Jacob was enrolled.  It all started when I was getting him ready for bed one November evening in 1999.  There were horrible bruises and contusions on both arms from shoulder to elbows. Photos that are hard to look at so I’ll not share here.

Come to find out a special ed teacher’s aide, had dragged Jacob down the school hallway. 

It was hard enough when he broke his collar bone at the same school with no witnesses but this, this was truly gut-wrenching. 

Not wanting another family to face abuse at school, we filed a lawsuit.  The amount was exorbitant.  It was all about getting the attention of the school district.  Hoping to pay the attorney, get the aide fired, and secure a monitoring system for parents to see their children in the school via home computers. 

In the end, the lawsuit was dismissed.  Sovereign immunity for the school system was their defense  They argued the abuse was not intentional and never admitted guilt.  Sadly, we weren’t the only family that had been hurt at the hands of this aide.  And he remained at the school after the incident which was equally as disturbing.  It felt like they turned their heads while protecting staff more than their most vulnerable students. 

Bumps and bruises are part of life.  Unfortunately, sometimes so are broken bones.  Accidents happen every day. But when any or all of those come at the hands of a person paid to help and protect your non-verbal child, it is the worse kind of stab. 

I hope no one reading this has had to realize their child has been abused.  It was a nauseating nightmare.  And there was absolutely no way I could kiss and make it better.  It haunted me. I wondered if it haunted Jacob.

During the process, we had an amazing support group.  Our families and our friends.  Notes like these were what helped me ‘hold it together’ during the trial. 

Why am I talking about such hard stuff?  This past weekend I was chatting with a friend.  Applauding her transparency in difficult circumstances they had been through with their child.  In conversation, she said, “when you are going through hard times, it feels like you are alone.  I share because it may help others who are facing something similar.”

Know that no matter how horrific your situation may be, there is probably someone going through something harder.  And when you are on the other side of the pain, be the helping hand they need.  Show kindness and grace.  Do something to encourage and remind them that they are not alone. 

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

1 Peter 3:8

Focus on These Things

In the midst of our #shelterathome period, I was connecting weekly with a small group of friends.  In the beginning, it was via zoom meetings and then later we switched to FaceTime group calls.  During that time we covered a tiny book by Max Lucado called Less Fret, More Faith, An Action Plan to Overcome Anxiety.   If ever there was a time to tackle anxiety, 2020 seemed to be the year.  Right? 

We had a boatload of ’what-ifs’ on our minds. So much stuff to weigh us down. Create anxiety. And, what better place to unpack those than with non-judgmental friends using the word of God as our lighthouse. A whole lotta life has been shared as well as much laughter, sometimes grief, plus happy and sad tears.

Holding on to anxious thoughts actually creates depression in me.  Maybe it does in you, too.  If so, you are not alone! That certainty of a coming storm.  An impending doom that clouds every thought, all movement.  A voice speaking negative thoughts getting louder and louder.  Realizing it is my own internal self-talk capable of causing the most pain.

“Thoughts, whether positive or negative, grow stronger with repetition.”   

Charles Swindoll

When you are overcome with the what-ifs, know God has power over EVERY detail.  No. Matter. How. Small.  If you will  give your anxiety, frustrations, disappointments, and fears to him, he WILL give you what you need for that minute, hour, day. 

More than once, on a Thursday when a blog would go live, something would occur that magnified the very subject of that post. The last time that happened was when It is Going to Be Good was published: https://problemfreephilosophy.blog/2021/04/22/it-is-going-to-be-good/

It was one of those days that Jacob wasn’t happy. I had trouble getting him ready. He was the opposite of cooperative. I was in tears before heading to his day program. I wasn’t convinced it was going to be good.

Part of my anxiety was knowing I had just said to the world, “setting my face to see God’s hand—it is going to be good”.  In that hour, I was overcome and truly had trouble taking my own advice.  I was wallowing in my self-talk, “you need to practice what you preach”.  In all honesty, it was a rough morning and took the better part of the day for me to shift my focus from poor me.  To let go of what was bothering me and give it to God.

Here is the deal: I do not believe Jacob set out to give me a hard time. He is human and not perfect but he is also autistic. Often, what appears to be his determination to give me grief and ruin my morning is not about or against me at all. It is because he is struggling. He is having a hard time. He doesn’t know how to express a feeling. It is all he can do right then.

Lucado asks:

Are you laughing less than you once did?

Do you see problems in every promise?

Would those who know you best describe you as increasingly negative and critical?

Do you assume that something bad is going to happen?

Do you dilute and downplay good news with doses of your version of reality?

Many days would you rather stay in bed than get up?

Do you magnify the negative and dismiss the positive?

Given the chance, would you avoid any interaction with humanity for the rest of your life?

If so, focus on these verses from God’s word:

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 

Philippians 4:4-8
 

Oh, that I could be quick to take a deep breath and remember God gives me today.  I don’t have to do it on my own.  Neither do you.

Literally

One day last week we kept Jacob home from his day program because of a predicted Severe Weather Alert day.  Rain isn’t so bad but when there is a chance of tornados, home is where I want him.  For his sake and others.  It would be pretty miserable for everyone hunkered down in a hallway. Because, he doesn’t do hunker very well.

We were under a Tornado Watch for most of the day. But, by mid–afternoon, the local sirens started sounding and we were getting notifications on all devices.  Tornado Warning!  Take cover now. 

Jacob was living his best life on a pajama day until the sirens went off. I quickly changed his clothes and made sure he had on socks and shoes. 

I grabbed a couple of toys as we directed him toward our safe space.  His dad and I were reassuring him that everything would be alright and we’d all be together.  Both of us saying things to encourage his cooperation. 

He was really good considering we were in a closet.  Played with a toy, twirled around, sat on the floor, and wanted out, all in a short span of time while we watched radar for the warning to be lifted. 

Thankfully, it passed by us quickly and we felt comfortable going about the day.  Jacob had other plans.

As he left the closet, he grabbed my purse.  Sometimes he does that and hands it to me, meaning—’it is time for you to go’.  This time was different.  He was in charge of the purse but wanted the three of us in the garage. 

I could not figure out where his determination came from in leaving home.  Then his daddy made sense of it. Remembering what he said while trying to get Jacob to move into the closet, ‘it’ll be like we are going camping’.  Knowing we could lose power, we’d be in close quarters, and Jacob enjoys going camping (in a cabin), it was what popped into his mind.  And sharp Jacob, he heard that and waited patiently for the tornado to pass so he could go camping!

Bless his sweet heart—that was the very thing he was thinking about while we were trying to see if a tornado was aiming our way.  I love how he has total trust in us to keep him safe.  He also had a plan for when the threat was over. 

Once our best guess helped us realize what was going through his mind, we distracted him and he went about playing as usual.  

Recently a kind man asked if Jacob absorbs things. Indeed. He. Does. He may appear to be in his own world but he is processing every word. Pretending isn’t something that makes sense to Jacob.  A reminder that he listens and he plans.  And we need to plan, too.  Literally.

Happy Mother’s Day

Josh wrote this to me for Mother’s Day in 2005. I suppose it carried extra weight since, in a sense, he was not only writing from him but also for Jacob. As you can imagine, I was moved to tears. The sobbing sort.

A letter is better than any gift, no matter the cost. A conversation can be replayed in one’s mind but interruptions tend to dilute it and over time the exact words can be forgotten altogether.

I needed this then. Autism robs Jacob of expressing so much. My imagination allowed me to see Jacob agreeing with his brother.

Two months later, Josh married the love of his life. So, perhaps when he composed this, he was realizing on that day in May, as I was, that life was about to really change for us.

I needed this then. I may need it even more now. A saved letter continues to get better and better.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone. Enjoy the season you are in now. You’ll blink and it will be over.