Exhaustion’s claws scratch at my blood shot eyes, as they continue to burn from the week’s events. My stomach churns from the mediocre omelet I consumed earlier in the day, while my tired body begs me to cancel OT, but “He needs it” I repeat in my head.
Twice a week, my mom delivers my 3 ½ year-old son and his 4-year-old brother to my older son’s school, and I bring the baby. We swap cars and kids, so I can take my 3 ½ year-old to occupational therapy. It is a comical routine that we execute well…until today.
The clock blares 2:17 not 2:15. 2 minutes late. My heartbeats begin to rise, but I’m calmed by the fact that I’m the first car to arrive…until I see them waiting. The beats begin to race; the last one faster than the previous. I deviated from the routine. How is Charlie going to respond? As I pull in close behind my mom’s red car, I begin to quell my over anxious demeanor.
In my head, it is fine. He has been flexible lately. Under my breath, I chant: Relax. Relax. As I shift my car into park, I hurriedly open my car door and am met with screams I know all too well. “Momma” pounds repeatedly in my ear; it’s not the happy “Momma” I covet. It’s anxiety-induced, frenzied screaming for me, his mom who is 2 minutes late.
Running to see him, hoping to quiet his fears, I leave the baby strapped in his car seat. I assure my wailing boy that I’m just getting my purse before we head off to OT. He loves OT. This will be okay. I will fix this mess my 2 minutes created.
All my attempts fail to ease the confusion taking over his little body. The tantrum overcomes his entire being, rendering him inconsolable despite my valiant yet unsuccessful efforts to revive his joyful spirit. Spit begins to pour over his soft blue lips. His arms and legs rage violently, as tears uncontrollably stream down his sweet face as he holds his breath.
Pulling the car over, I yell: “Breathe! Breathe!” My pleading for his next breath is futile. Finally, he takes a breath but only to begin screaming again. I dream of unlatching him from his sit, holding him, rocking him ever so slightly, and sharing tears with him, but that is not how he operates. That would only fuel this raging fire.
Despite my motherly instincts to hold and protect my upset baby, I press on and continue to drive. I think, “we will ride this painful trip out together”. My emotions move past frustration as my heart slowly breaks. Something is truly wrong, and I can’t help him in his time of need. I can only pray. My job is to fix things for my son, but I can’t. I remain clueless to what is ailing him. It feels more than the deviation of routine. He can’t tell me, and I can’t read his mind.
As pent up tears stroll down my flushed cheeks, I reach back for his hand. The gentle gesture makes no difference, so I decide to take the plunge. I touch his leg…not a rub just a firm touch to avoid him from further spiraling. To my shock, my touch is tolerated, so I firmly squeeze his soft, small calf. I hold his leg as he slowly climbs down the cliff and finally falls into a quiet slumber.
I try to compose myself for the last 5 minutes of this now silent drive. I continue to think how I constantly feel like I’m on the verge of breaking, and these events, this episode, bend my already worn spirit. I feel helpless and sad for my boy.
I pray for the answers as I pull into the parking lot. After 5 more minutes of quiet, I must now wake this sleeping giant, not knowing my fate for the next hour.
I continue to remind myself that these moments are just that…moments. They don’t define our day or our life. God gives us the strength to move on and pass these difficult speed bumps on this road of Autism.