New Year's Resolutions...pfffttt. Every year I come up with at least one or two. Any more than that would destroy my self-esteem because every year I end up blowing the one or two I come up with by mid-January. If I resolved to change anything more, well, that would just make my already hideous Seasonal Affective Disorder a whole lot worse. Every year, without fail, I resolve to eat healthier and freak out less. Eating healthier should be a no brainer, cut out the Oreos and replace them with the occasional apple or carrot. Freak out less, and by this I mean, trying not to over-react, lose my cool, turn into scary mommy, or blow my top. Cutting out Oreos is much, much easier than controlling my freak out...just ask my kids.
Sadly, between the stress of trying to manage three kids' schedules, trying to be the perfect June Cleaver mom (not even close...don't even own an apron and rarely do I have lipstick on when Ward, I mean Dan, comes home from a long day at the office) and the tiniest hint (in the form of horrific mood swings) that my ovaries are starting to slow down, I tend to be more like an unpredictable, active volcano with each passing year. Sometimes, I'm more of a Mt. St. Helens volcano, giving off subtle clues that I could blow and blow big, but, most days, I'm more like Kilauea, always bubbling just below the surface. More often than not, there is a calm, peaceful look about me, but, underneath that façade, I'm a hot, boiling mess way deep down inside.
Like a volcano, the eruption comes fast and furious, with little concern of the damage the eruption may wreak on those surrounding me. I wonder, if a volcano had feelings, would it feel as badly as I do, when the hot magma mess can no longer stay contained and the damage report comes in following the eruption? Poor Ryan has become a bit of a volcanologist (yes, that really is a word), studying the volcano, watching for signs of an impending eruption, that coincidentally, often results right around homework time. Instead of ash raining down over the ruins, it's usually tears, both Ryan's and mine. And, instead of stripped down, burned up trees left in the wake of the volcano's path, it's usually Ryan's confidence and my heartbroken soul that goes up in flames.
It was a group project in Reading that caused the last eruption. A literacy packet where most of the work was suppose to be completed in class within Ryan's small group. Like a good Volcanologist, Ryan slowly came down the steps feeling for trembles in the floorboards with a look of trepidation on his face as he approached the volatile volcano. His eyes darting back and forth for signs of instability. Ok, brief intermission here before I go on. I want you to know that one of the things Ryan takes the most pride in, is his school work and his intelligence. So, before you start planning to level this volcano or have someone you don't like very well jump in the volcano to please The Volcano Gods to prevent more damage, understand that I don't insist on straight A's or Honor Roll status, Ryan puts that on himself. So, now that I have tried to make an excuse for my poor behavior, let's continue. Once Ryan came close enough to the unstable volcano, the tears began to flow as he handed me a near empty literacy packet that was due the following day. I would love to tell you that I kissed him and told him it would all be ok, which eventually, I did, but, not before I went all Mt. St. Helen's on his butt.
"What do you mean you have had this packet for a week and it's empty?"...."Why didn't you complete it in class like you were suppose to?"...."You told me to stop nagging you about homework because it was your responsibility!"....and finally, "Why in heaven's name did you sit in class for a week doing nothing and not tell the teacher you didn't understand?". As Ryan's eyes welled up, he no longer looked like a volcanologist, he looked like an overwhelmed little boy wanting to run from the lava. And as the smoke got in Ryan's eyes causing the tears to spill over and his head sunk lower trying to avoid the volcanic ash fall out, my heart was already sorry for the molten lava that spewed from my overreacting, hot, stupid mouth. The lava and the ash stopped just as quickly as it had begun.
I consoled, I apologized (repeatedly), and I cried along with him. I explained to Ryan that my frustration was not because he didn't understand the assignment, but because he failed to tell his teacher or me that he was confused and he lost an entire week of classwork. When Ryan's sobs finally stopped, and he wiped the ash away from his eyes, through hiccupped tears he said, "It's all my fault, but, sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I just can't find my words." Then he added, "Sometimes people's words just sound like gibberish to me." If a volcano could erupt inward destroying only the lava producer itself, I would have gone up in a heap of flames. My poor boy, who struggles with the need to be right, the need to be perfect, had a hard time admitting he didn't understand and with a social language deficit, he couldn't find the words to say so without fear of recrimination or fear of being scorched by lava.
If only a volcano could count to ten. If only a volcano had a conscience where somewhere deep inside it's crater a New Year's Eve Resolution knocked on it's brain. If only a volcano could shut down as quickly as a mother's guilt ridden heart and lava spewing mouth. If only I could blame the damage I sometimes do on a build up of uncontrollable, gas infused, magma. You see, I did count to ten, I did remind myself about my New Years Freaking Out Resolution, I did remind myself that freaking out gets us nowhere, but even so, I still erupted and I could see that even when the lava had cooled and the ash had settled, plenty of damage had been done. It was time for this unstable volcano to begin to triage.
Although, my hot mouth and boiling hormones are similar to a volcano, unlike a volcano, a short fused mother can summon the same strength to rectify and clean up the damage. I emailed Ryan's teacher who apologized and accepted blame for not checking in with Ryan and went on to explain that he is blending in so well with the other students that sometimes it's easy to forget he may need a little extra support (a blessing and a curse). The next day, Ryan went in to meet with the teacher, on his own, and the assignment was explained with less "gibberish" and extended time was given to complete the assignment. All of that could have happened without volcanic ash fallout. Sigh.
Even though I know some things are harder for Ryan, I still tend to blow my top. As I said before, it's not because I expect perfection, it's not even necessarily because he expects perfection, it's more a result of utter frustration in the moment, when as his mother, I can't reach him...can't help him....can't understand him....can't kiss it and make it better. As Ryan's mom, that is my job, that it what I was born to be....a mother....his mother. So, when Ryan is unable to communicate his needs, his wants, his frustrations because of the hold autism has on his brain, anger and helplessness bubble up inside of me like hot, molten lava until there is nowhere for it to go, but spewing out my stupid mouth. The damage it does, to both Ryan and me, is heartbreaking, but just like the after effects of a volcanic eruption, when everything cools down, and the lava breaks down providing valuable nutrients for the soil, something new begins to emerge and Ryan and I always learn more in the wake of the devastation.
Following this eruption, Ryan learned a new way to communicate with his teacher when he is stuck (a Post It note placed on her desk which is easier than finding his words). Ryan also learned the importance of telling someone when he is confused and how much better it would have been to complete his assignment in class with his group members had he asked for help earlier. As for this unstable volcano, I have always known communicating was difficult for Ryan, but, AWEnestly, when he was able to finally find his words to describe how difficult communicating is for him, well, suffice it to say, I recognized an opportunity to become less Mt. St. Helens and more Mauna Kea (a volcano that has been dormant since 2460 BC).
Regardless of my New Year's Resolutions and my aging perimenopausal ovaries, I will still grab an Oreo over a carrot (like, who wouldn't?) and chances are that when one of the kids leaves an ice filled glass sitting on the table adding yet, one more water ring, I will still freak out, but, hopefully, this volcano will keep in mind the damage that lava and ash can leave in it's wake. So, for the year 2014, I have added one more New Year's resolution. Like Mauna Kea, I resolve to push all my hot magma and lava deep down inside and try and remain dormant as long as possible, at least until my ovaries stop working altogether, then it will be every man for himself.
Keeping it real, raw, and AWEnest while laughing, loving and living in our world
touched by Autism.
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