If I could go back in time and tell my early-diagnosis-self a thing or two, I know just what I'd say: don't sweat the small stuff. Of course I'd probably also want to take my shoulders in my more wizened hands and shake good and hard. I could have used that back then. But this business about the small stuff? So important. When I look back over the countless things that occupied me, that took up emotional space that I was borrowing from something more important, well, I see that those things weren't worth the amount of upset that I caused myself, Oliver, and the rest of the family. The list is long and varied: wearing shoes and socks, wearing a coat, eating with utensils, biting fingernails, picking the nose, licking this, that and the other thing. ... um, that poop thing. ... well, you get the idea. Some of you may know that while you are in the midst of these things they feel like such a very big deal. In the midst of it there were times when I felt at war. I felt that I needed to conquer or -- in the terms of ABA -- to extinguish. Now I can only shake my head at myself. This was my child, not my enemy.
I'm reflecting on this lately because Oliver is newly interested in utensils. Yes, you read that right: spoons, forks, knives, ladles, whisks -- you name it. At first I didn't really pay much attention, Oliver just seemed to always have a fork or a spoon in his hand. But we spend a lot of time in the kitchen together. Then I slowly realized that our meals were without drama. They were without the monitoring and reminding. (Oliver, don't forget to use your fork. Your fork, Oliver!) And it only smacked me in the head when I realized that Oliver was now using utensils for everything. And I mean everything. Witness this photo (that I took especially for Keen):
Can you make that out? Yes, that's a carrot he's eating. With a spoon. (I don't know: why am I not worried about this? Isn't this an obsession? Maybe I only find it so utterly delightful because it is a useful obsession in my mind.) But anyway. If I could go back in time I'd tell myself that this is the way of things. In the end it doesn't really matter if he chooses to eat his spaghetti with his fingers and his carrots with a spoon.
So then what does matter? Well, I don't know. I'm still in the process of figuring it out. My eternal process. But if you were to ask me now I might say something so obvious that I'll end up giving myself away. You might realize by my answer that my journey to motherhood was slower even than I first reported. But I'll go ahead and say it anyway because it is something that has been occupying so much of my thinking of late.
If I could go back in time and change one thing it would be this: I would spend far more time making sure that Oliver knows that there is no "right" way of doing things, of thinking, of being. And I wouldn't just tell him that, I would really believe it. You see, for me that is the real key. In fact, not to give myself too much importance here, but sometimes I wonder how much of Oliver's anxiety has to do with the autism and how much of it is due to my reactions to the autism -- and all the sweating I've done of the small stuff.
So, I'm just curious: if you could go back in time and tell yourself one very important thing about this journey you've embarked on -- what would it be?