The official time was 7:17 PM, on September 9th when my red carpet high was extinguished. It occurred at the exact same time that Ryan's official middle school "honeymoon period" was snuffed out too. It wasn't a coincidence. Apparently, middle school honeymoon periods have about the same life expectancy as a local wannabe celebrity. Yes, the changes, the demands and the novelty of middle school had vanished for Ryan, taking my red carpet dreams with it. Boy, sometimes reality sucks...unless of course you are filming a reality television show. Unfortunately, we are not.
The end of the middle school honeymoon period was signaled by several emails from Ryan's teachers just hours after my live debut. "Ryan is not completing his work"...."Ryan seems to be spacing out"...."Ryan is the last student to get started"....and, "This is an accelerated class, and Ryan needs a good bit of direction and re-focusing". Crap. Ryan had been working hard on his own and I kept asking if he needed help and he proudly yelled, "not at all, I'm just fine". So, I thought with his new found independence Ryan was indeed doing "just fine". I tried to loosen that cord a bit, which as a mom, I have a hard time doing, but it seemed I left the cord too loose and my guy was close to hanging himself with it. By the end of the night, I was ready to hang myself too.
I'm pretty sure Ryan sees it coming...this transformation from good mommy to bad mommy. He probably notices the steam coming from my nostrils and with his innately sensitive sensory system he probably feels me trembling from across the room. I try to count to ten, but I barely make it to three before I shout, "I give up! You are on your own!" and stomp out of his bedroom in tears while Ryan sits at his desk drying his own. I hate these moments. My frustration comes out from my inability to reach him, my inability to help him. Sometimes, autism has a hold on Ryan's brain that is so strong, no matter how much love, patience (some days more patience than others), and effort I put forth, I cannot release autism's stubborn grip.
You know those moments when as a mom you watch your child escape a near disastrous injury or accident? A near miss of fingers in the car door, a close call from a car while chasing a stray ball out on the street, or an almost skull fracture along the side of the pool when they slip while running even after you have told them a hundred times not to run by the pool. Many times our first instinct is to scold and yell...."I told you not to run in the street!"...."I told you to walk along the side of the pool!"...."I told you to BE CAREFUL!" even though the fear coursing through our veins is quickly replaced with gratitude that our child is safe. That instinct to yell is out of frustration, out of fear, out of our lack of control. We quickly snatch our perfectly safe kids in our hands and say, "I'm sorry Mommy yelled, I was just so worried about you." And that's it in a nutshell. I am so worried, especially in those moments when I can't "reach" Ryan. I know he is frustrated, I know he is confused, I know he is hurting and I know I feel completely helpless. As a result, sadly, sometimes I yell first, cry second, and apologize third. It's a frustratingly heartbreaking pattern.
As I slammed my bedroom door shut and crawled onto my bed, through my devil possessed, heartbroken soul I wondered, where did that perky, excited mom who looked like she had been hanging out with "Molly" (FYI, "Molly", is the latest ecstasy drug so if your kids tell you about their new friend "Molly" ask to meet her and see her birth certificate) ten minutes before show time go? You know the one who is always filled with excited energy and uses humor to share her son's autism journey so as not to be the Debbie Downer at every neighborhood block party? Well, I will tell you that some days, Linda Blair's head spinning beats the crap out of Cindy Brady's perkiness. I'd like to say it's the work of the devil, but sadly, it's just some days, even the most AWEnest, careful moms, slip off the side of the pool and hit their head while running.