Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. No really, it is. And before I get crazy with other glib expressions (whoever coined the phrase, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” should be shot.) let me explain.
My younger son Spence – nearly five years old – has autism. A startling turn of events which absolutely fit nowhere into my own grand plan for my life. It all started to go downhill when he was two-and-half years old and not yet beginning to talk. While we pursued all the regular channels of assistance – evaluations, therapy, etc. – we just assumed it was his developmental pattern and he’d eventually catch up. Well he didn’t, and here we are two years later, still rocked by the diagnosis, never quite knowing what to do next.
Autism presents lots of challenges for us. Our son is not Rain Man. He’s sweet, affectionate, laughs often, and doesn’t appear to have any savant qualities. His language is, while improving, majorly delayed, and his cognitive issues are numerous. Our days are spent cleaning up messes that would be expected of much younger toddlers, and dealing with an enormity of screaming, crying, and fits, some with, and others blessedly without, hitting. We don’t go to the mall, to church, or out to dinner. We don’t do much with friends anymore. We don’t invite many people to our home.
But we have lots of smiles and laughter, and even on our worst days, we couldn’t love him more. And today? Well today we’re potty training. With a typical kid, even without too much parental pressure, eventually, he will potty train – if for no other reason than he wants to fit in with his peers. Well kids with autism don’t work that way; life is in their individual worlds, and there aren’t ever peers, even with siblings, classmates, or other children right in the same room. So potty training is, at best, an interesting journey. And at its worst, it can be a nightmare of epic proportions.
So here we find ourselves. Spring break stretches ahead us with days to focus on the issue at hand, the diapers have left the building, and there’s a foot high pile of clean underwear just waiting to clad the bottom of the most special little boy ever to hate the toilet.