I’m reorganizing parts of my life. Wait. Didn’t I just do that a month ago? I think I did. I remember sitting at the dining room table with the family calendar, a notebook, stacks of bills, medical paperwork and a headache. I know I said to myself that I needed to get some things straightened out. I know I worked on a plan, a list and an ultimate goal: to be more organized. I needed to do that because life was pretty chaotic a month ago. I had no direction yet needed to be in several places at the same time. I was more flustered than functional. Having those kinds of days aren’t helpful. They make my children’s days worse. The kids feed off my scatterbrained negativity and bounce like little rubber bouncy balls from one room to the next. Rowdy, ridiculously distracted and somewhat annoying replaced my normally helpful, happy and thoughtful children. I knew I needed to get a grip then, and am begging to do that even more so now.
That plan I know I started included going to bed earlier, giving up extra time online research and internet socializing. I wanted to do that because I’m preparing for Ronan’s transition from full-days at school to all-days at home. He’s going to need all of me all day long for the summer months. I was actually getting excited for my typical kids to be done with their first year at a regular school too looking forward to being with them this summer. But, I’m not ready for them. I’m not excited anymore for them to be home 24/7. The kids and their energy will tip over some of the piles I’ve allowed to stack up. They’ll stir up the dust I’ve allowed to settle. They’ll think it’s okay to be droppsies because Mommy is the biggest droppsie in the house leaving shoes in the living room there or my jacket laying over the chair here. I haven’t done anything constructive to that list I started except add to it! In the last week I have come face-to-face with how utterly unorganized my entire household is.
I can’t run away from the unruliness that I have created. I had embraced getting very lazy in my ways, it but now I’m trying to wrestle it to the ground and get rid of it. With distractions all around me I know it’s time for another re-org. The first thing I have to get rid of as I attempt to bring some peace into my home is to reduce the amazing amount of computer/internet time I give myself. When Ronan started to decline, with his multiple diagnoses and with my quest for knowledge, I fed an imaginary internet meter that never turned off. Just one more article. One more peek on a message board thread. One more comment. One more post. One more question. One more thought…distraction…excuse.
Instead of living in the moment, I’ve allowed my thoughts and other’s responses rule my schedule. I spend a lot of time on the computer digging deeper into What Ifs than What’s Happening Right Under My Nose. It’s a lot of time online. A lot. My kids have started to ask me when am I going to be done, why do I have to check my email, and didn’t you just do that? Stuff doesn’t get done with I’m engrossed in an online activity. My kids have gotten used to either seeing my profile or the back of my head when they attempt to ask me a question. They know when it’s a good time to talk to me and when Mommy’s doing some “work” (so they better scatter like flies). They know when I’m “listening for real” or when they need to snap me out of an internet fix to get my attention.
I’ve allowed my “work” activities to help me escape reality. Some “work” is legit like checking on upcoming appointments, getting directions to a new provider or sending updates to family. But it also includes frequent breaks to social network or window shop on a store site knowing I will never buy anything from them. I catch up on who’s doing what with which autism protocol. I lurk on message boards wishing I had the energy other parents have to try the new things they are doing. I ignore my own surroundings wishing I was experiencing another’s. I permit a pity party or two while I frolic deep within the World Wide Web. I click from one webpage to another some days hoping I’ve wasted enough time sitting still to be able to fast forward to the kids’ bedtime routine. Really. Really?!
How generous of me to allow that amount of “me” time. Who wouldn’t want to forget the reality of how hard autism parenting is for just a few minutes here or there? But, those few minutes have added up. So did piles of dishes and heaps of laundry. I added extra chaos to our day instead of relieve it. It’s beyond time I get a grip on that chaos I’ve allowed to settle in.
This sort of change is good. I’m grateful for making the discovery that things need to be changed. It’s a grounding I really need right now. My kids are about to leave a successful school year. They can’t wait to be home to play, swim and run around in the great outdoors. They only wish for long, carefree summer. They even asked me if I’d be able to play with them since we won’t have to run all over the place like. I have two weeks left until their freedom starts. Two weeks to clean up my act, to get a grip and to prepare the house and my attitude for hours and hours of family time. Yes, that sort of change is just what I need.
I really want to live in the present for once. I want to catapult myself into peaceful thoughts of my family’s future--a future knowing I did the right thing at the right time, and not regretting what I didn’t do or what I purposefully ignored. My children need me now. They need me focused. They need my good energy all day long not only when I feel like giving it to them in between the click of the mouse. Sitting at the computer while my legs go numb doesn’t get dinner on the table. It doesn’t vacuum the upstairs nor the downstairs for that matter. It doesn’t foster appropriate play for Ronan since I’m not sitting on the floor playing with him. In order to really live in this house I call my home I need to live. I need to re-embrace my job as wife and mother of five because those people who depend on me are pretty amazing. They make my world turn round and round. And, they love me even when there are times I stoop so low as to ignore their needs and place mine astronomically higher than theirs.
To be with the living instead of bemoaning the would-have-could-have-should-have moments. To feel alive, refreshed and energized. Instead of pretending the world will collapse if I don’t check in online multiple times a day. To explore the real world outside my front door, to appreciate the human beings in my midst and to find other ways to unwind and maybe even to relax a little bit. It’s what I signed up years ago to do when I helped bring that family of mine into existence. I miss that. I used to have it. I veered far, far away from some of that reality.
It’s sort of ironic that Ronan is getting a do-over during this self discovery phase I’m going through. He is again on the cusp of greatness, and I almost missed out on a recent event. Thankfully I had a camera close by and captured a moment of amazement.
Ronan’s writing new words and has transitioned to proper use of lower case letters. He is drinking from a regular cup and swallowing supplements in pill form. Ronan is also sleeping through the night and says “all done” consistently when he’s finished with an activity. I am witnessing a new layer of learning from that child. A new level of understanding. And a renewal of hope for he and I. It’s a great time for me to jump offline to see what’s on the other side of my computer screen—to be among the living within my own four walls. I won’t walk away from my internet connections forever, but I will curb some of the distractions I’ve chosen to make priorities. This thing called life, it’s calling me. It’s time to turn off that online meter and just be. Right now, it’s the right thing to do.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.