Thanks to my son, Willem, for drawing this image of the Iron Giant for today’s post.
“You are what you choose to be.”
– Iron Giant
One of my daughters stayed home from school earlier this week due to an illness. As hard as it was to see Izzy rundown and not feeling well, I welcomed the extra time that she and I got to spend together. She’s my mini-me--creative, silly, and fiercely independent. This week while not feeling like her usual perky self, I saw a different side of Izzy. She was tired. She was quiet. She was reflective. I enjoy her silliness, but I also loved the thoughts she shared with me this week while she was home.
Without having to compete with the other typical siblings for my time, Izzy and I had some great conversations. The neatest one was when she asked me, “Mom, who’s your favorite super hero?”
“Ohhhh, good question, Iz! Let me think…”
Thinking back to memories of watching Saturday morning cartoons, I immediately thought of the Super Friends from the Hall of Justice and Wonder Woman in particular. I idolized her as a child. With a golden lasso, an invisible jet and that snazzy red, white and blue get up she wore while fighting the bad guys, she was the epitome of super hero. Now, as an adult, I appreciate Wonder Woman, but a different character came to mind the more I thought about Izzy’s question.
“If I had to pick just one, it would be Iron Man,” I told Izzy. “No. Wait. I like the Iron Giant.”
“Mom. The Iron Giant? Really?” Izzy asked.
“Yeah, Iron Giant,” I said. “You know, from the movie??”
Looking at me skeptically while I continued, I said, “He may not be a DC Comic super hero, but remember he sacrificed himself to save the people and the town. I’d say that takes guts. And guts are what a super hero needs, especially when it’s up to them to help people and to protect them from danger.”
“Welllll, yeah, I guess…,” Izzy answered.
I laughed, “Not I guess. He’s it! He’s the one! I pick the Iron Giant as my favorite Super Hero.”
Sighing, Izzy said, “Okay. I guess he’s a hero.”
“Trust me, he is. At least for your silly Mommy he is,” I replied.
Izzy smiled and then asked for a hug.
Some people consider me and countless other autism moms to be super heroes. I am humbled to be thought of in that way, but I don’t always see myself in that role. I’m just a mom. I’m mom to five kids. One of those kids has some serious special needs. Those needs take up a lot of my time and attention, and while I’m focused on them, my other kids get less of me. My typical children understand that, but I struggle with it. I have to choose who gets me first. More often than not, I pick Ronan. It isn’t because of favoritism but because Ronan simply cannot do what my other children can. When they see their brother struggling, they know that I have to help him. To not help would be a grave disservice.
As upbeat as I strive to be, I ache to be available equally to all of my kids. Always hoping for the best, Ronan’s siblings rarely complain that I can’t give them the attention I want to or that they need. It’s not the best situation – especially when issues arise that require my complete, undivided attention, but we work through it.
I worked through several interruptions this week. Torn between catching up and spending time with Izzy as she rested, I had to set time aside to catch up on a long To Do list that kept on growing. That list included reviewing taxes, paying bills, and prepping for 2 upcoming medical appointments for Ronan. Each time I tried to focus on one task though, Ronan came over and asked for help. Having just gotten him settled in an activity I thought he’d like, Ronan would seek me out. Signing “change” “change” “change”, I would begrudgingly get up and leave the files and piles of papers I was desperate to sort through. Ronan needed assistance, and it’s my job to help him, so help him I did.
It wasn’t anything terribly pressing that he needed each time he asked for my help – he wanted to watch a different movie (because the one I picked for him was apparently less than acceptable), and then find a Wii game (because he’d grown bored of the other one in the console within 5 minutes of me starting it), and right after he tired of that, he wanted me to get him another snack (even though he’d already had one). After watching one interruption right after another, Izzy offered to help. Assuring her that I could get Ronan settled again, she confidently walked to where Ronan was. Always grateful to see the siblings accept their brother and his many needs, I took a few steps back and watched. While my responses had become curt that afternoon, her intentions were pure. Ronan knew that and peacefully accepted her assistance. It wasn’t easy for her at first, but eventually, she met his needs tenderly, patiently, and only with love.
If there’s anyone deserving of the title of Super Hero, it’s the siblings. This week, like hundreds of times before, Izzy was quick to accommodate Ronan’s needs. And she did so without needing to be praised.
Our house isn’t always full of peace and harmony, but when it is, I love it. I know that the siblings do, too. They are a big part of the crazy that goes on in our home, but they are so in tune of when their positive energy is needed elsewhere. When I tire, they step in quickly. When I reach frustration with Ronan, they chime in with silly distractions. When I feel sad, they lovingly redirect Ronan to another room so that I can stop, breathe, and pray.
This week, while Izzy wasn’t feeling great, Ronan still got the best of his younger sister. As my children age, they may grow apart, but for now, they are thick as thieves and work together to protect Ronan. They are little Super Heroes fighting the good fight. They are ready, willing and able to help and do so without hesitation. They didn’t chose to be their brother’s hero, but I couldn’t be more proud of how quickly they’ve accepted it.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.