Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Veteran's Day Tribute...

This post is not your typical Veteran's Day tribute.  Although I do highly esteem and give thanks to those who serve and protect this country at home and on foreign soil, I want to pay tribute to a different kind of veteran tonight. These veterans are more battle weary than you can ever imagine.  They have stayed many long hours in the trenches, have carried loads far beyond what they ever imagined and few escape the battles unscathed.  The veterans I want to honor tonight are those who parent children on the autism spectrum. 

I can't even imagine what Vietnam must have been like for my dad.  I have seen enough of his puctures to know that the experience surely changed him from the inside out.  I have heard it said that not too many Vietnam veterans came back as the same people they were before they left. 

 The same is true of parents of children with autism.  I can only imagine that few of us are the same people we were before being assigned this difficult task.  Most people have no idea of what we go through to make it through a day.  Most people don't know how many of us lay awake at night crying and wondering if our children will ever live successfully as adults.  Most people have no idea what it takes to be successful academically, socially and emotionally within our homes.  Just like I have never been to Vietnam and experienced it for myself, I truely have no idea whawas like.  If you have never lived with autism and experienced it for yourself, your idea of what my family life is like. This is no different that watching a doccumentary on TV about the Vietnam War and really having been there yourself. 

Tonight was one of those nights when I had to don my helmet and sword to escape the battle at hand.  I was "shot" at from every possible angle imaginable for a mom of a 14 year old Aspie returning from a weekend retreat at a waterpark hotel, complete with Mt. Dew, junk food and a 3 hour bus ride each way. (I can just hear my Aspie parenting comrades moaning over the thought of it!)  The battle began as soon as I saw his eyes when he climbed off the bus and lasted 'till we turned off his light and tucked the weary soldier in.  He was tired, unlike any tiredness you can imagine from a typical teen.  He was high strung from sitting 3 to a seat on the bus and  he spent the whole day coming down off a junk food buzz.  Unlike most teens who may have been tired and irritable this afternoon, the veterans at our house will be dealing with the fallout from this conflict for at least a day or two longer. 

  Now don't get me wrong, we are not in a constant war in our family and home, we just experience more battles on more occasions than a typical family with teenagers.  My admiration goes out tonight to other veterans living through these battles as well.

We also experience some pretty sweet victories too.  My husband explained one to me tonight when I was about ready to throw in the towel.  (OK, I did throw it in! I was sobbing on his shoulder wondering if our son will ever be capable of "just getting over it!")  In his wonderful, calm manner he reminded me that even during the heat of the battle tonight, it did not become physical:  No one had to physically handle our son to keep him under control.  The worst of the battles lasted thirty minutes max!  He went willingly (not without a little verbal backtalk...but physically willingly) where we asked him to go and reletively soon after we asked him!  "See," my husband reminded me, "Baby steps.  We are making baby steps!"  He went on to remind me that God didn't make our son to be like the rest.  He won't ever be like the rest and we can't expect him to.  He will live life and it won't look like the rest, but it will be his life, the one God intended him to have. 

My gratitude tonight goes to my superior officer (aka my super, fantastic husband!), because he was the superior one tonight in seeing past the current battle to the scope of the whole war.  Did we lose a little ground tonight?  Maybe.  Did we gain some ground tonight?  Yes! We did!   

To those of you fighting these battles alongside such a wonderful spouse, my charge is this:  Make sure you thank them for being your rock and helping you keep your sanity! 

To those of you fighting this parenting challenge alone, make sure you find support somewhere, from a friend or another parent who is raising a similar child. You have to build an army of support staff.  A real army can't stand up under an attack for long alone and neither should you.  I know I couldn't!  If you don't know another parent personally who fights these kinds of battles, email me and we'll talk and cry together!

So, whether you are feeling battle weary tonight or celebrating a victory, my hat goes off to you, parents! We may feel like enlisted soldiers now, but some day we will be veterans.  Some day you will celebrate all of those battles won.  You may never receive a change in rank or have a medal pinned on your shirt, but you are praised in my book!  I salute you and your efforts tonight!  My prayer for you all is that God would  protect you emotionally from the battles that sneak up on you and grant you many victories in the days ahead !