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All Puckered Up

Pucker Up
By Cathy Jameson

This week was more tiring than previous ones.  We’ve returned to a more structured routine with the start of Ronan’s new school year.  As busy as I know we’ll be, I couldn’t wait for school to begin.  I didn’t realize how much I needed structure until we didn’t have it over the summer.  Ronan needed it, too and has done well transitioning back with his dedicated team.  Every day, Ronan’s come home happy and with good reports.  He’s been in good shape each afternoon and even surprised me with how alert and active he was as we neared the weekend.  I, on the other hand, have been worn out. 

By the time my kids come home from school I’m ready to for bed.  I haven’t gotten used to setting the alarm each morning, and unfortunately, I wake up cranky wearing the face of a sourpuss.  Mornings and I don’t do well.  Afternoons suddenly don’t agree with me either.  It now takes an extra cup of coffee during the day to feel like I’m able to function among the living.  Midweek I snuck in a nap (alright, two naps) hoping to get a bit of rest to survive the entire week.  I didn’t realize how much energy it was going to take for me to get back into the swing of things.  Ronan has made it look so easy! 

Ronan didn’t slow down at all, and in fact, was keeping up with all of his therapy and school demands.  When Friday came along, even though Ronan looked alert and showed no signs of distress, I knew not to push him too hard.  One too many activities can throw him over the edge.  Not this week though.  And, on Friday afternoon, just as we were wrapping up his last bit of an after-school therapy appointment, I thought Ronan’s full and physically taxing schedule would finally catch up with him.  It didn’t.  Instead, he showed me a new skill.  It was so big and wonderful that it took my breath away. 

Ronan finished his session early and walked over to where I was in the hallway.  He signed, ‘Mom, Wii bowling please yes’ with the goofiest grin.  Ronan had worked incredibly hard all week and deserved some extra time to chill out.  I looked at him and said, “Sure, Buddy! Let’s say goodbye first.” 

Ronan and I sat on the steps near the front door and waited for his therapist to pack up his things.  Tucking his arms in so I could cuddle him, Ronan sat in my lap and snuggled.  We sat quietly together for one minute, two minutes…three.  I loved that he slowed down enough to want to be held.  As we sat, Ronan gazed into my eyes.  Ronan can make eye contact but doesn’t always sustain it.  This stare was different and felt like it was going to last forever.  It also felt like Ronan was about to say something.  Not wanting to lose contact, I said, “What a love you are!  You are so snuggly today.  Mommy is really proud of you.” 

Ronan leaned in closer to me.  He lifted his cheek to my face and waited.  He does that when he’s asking for a kiss, but Ronan has never been able to kiss.  The low tone in his cheeks and lips prevents him from puckering up.  Despite that, he still wants kisses from me, his Daddy and also from his siblings.  Even though Ronan can’t kiss us, we’ve made it feel like Ronan can.  When he leans in toward us, we make the kiss sound for him and it satisfies his attempt.  We do this throughout the day and offer kisses to him just because.  We also give kisses for owies and to say I love you.  Ronan likes to hear that and reciprocates by leaning in for the kiss he cannot give. 
Sitting on the steps that afternoon giving kisses to Ronan was no different than any other time I’ve showered him with love. I planted a big kiss on his cheek and then another and another.  He looked up at me again.  We were face to face when Ronan stared at me once more.  His stare was just as long as the first one and made me melt.  Staying close we met eye to eye.  He leaned in toward me, and we were now nose to nose.  Then lips to lips!  What was he doing?!  Ronan inched forward again and closed his lips.  Then he planted a kiss on me! 

I smiled and laughed.  “Ronan!  You gave Mommy a kiss!” He smiled and then darted his eyes.  He got a little wiggly, so moved us just a tad.  It wasn’t very comfortable sitting on the steps with Ronan that close.  I quickly adjusted how I was sitting to try to get a little more comfortable and so that Ronan could stay sitting in my lap. While I readjusted, I scraped my finger on one of the steps.  I had cut my fingertip earlier in the week and immediately felt the pain from that cut.  I cringed and moved my hand near my face so I could see my finger. 

“Ow!”  I said.  Ronan looked at my finger and then back at me.  I showed him, “Ronan, look.  Mommy cut her finger.  It hurts.”  Ronan signed ‘hurt’ pointed to a scar he has on his leg and signed ‘hurt’ again.  I said, “Yeah, like your owie.  Mommy’s finger has an owie.”  You know what that kid did next?  He looked at me, turned his head toward my hand and gave my finger a kiss!  I laughed with glee and Ronan’s siblings came running.  They gathered around and squealed as they watched Ronan kiss my finger one more time like I do to make owies feel better.  Empathy!  Instantly! Three kisses in one day!  What a way to end our incredibly long and wonderfully successful week.

The little things Ronan that can do make me gush.  Those little things, they add up just enough and carry me through my struggles and worry.  He gives me energy when all I want to do is be done with some of the work we have to do. Those little things help to heal the owies I feel on the inside.  Those are the ones that I don’t ever want Ronan to see.  They were caused by others and harmed my child.  They hurt me so deeply and could easily put a permanent frown on my face.  I won’t let them though.  As I learn to heal and as Ronan grows, I’m reminded to turn some of my pain into passion, a passion to do everything I can for a little boy who makes my face light up brighter than the sun.

Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.


Pam Byrne

What a precious moment! We autism moms take nothing for granted, and this sweet interaction is a well-deserved reward for all you have done for Ronan. Thanks for sharing this story.


That is absolutely wonderful! All kinds of wonderful. I am so happy for you!!!!


Moving and beautifully written!

Lin Wessels

Tears........I love you and your family soooo much! Thank you for sharing them with us!! xo

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