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On Sunday I went out for what was supposed to be a 17 – 18 mile run. Aside from 2 factors, it ended up being one of the best runs I’ve had in recent memory.
Factor One: I took a wrong turn mid-run that brought me back close to home a mile or two early. As I approached home, I realized that I was only going to have a little over 16 miles done. I thought about continuing on, but honestly, the gravity of a hot cup of coffee was simply too great.
Factor Two: I saw a young mom futzing with her little one’s seat belt on her jogging stroller. She was making funny baby talk along with lines like, “are you going to be a runner just like mommy? maybe even a lawyer too?”
Factor one I am sure many of you can relate to, but factor two? I think that needs a little explanation.
Initially when I ran by Running Lawyer Mom, I smiled as I heard her baby voice and her baby talk. It was full of love and hope. The words came straight from her heart. Her voice, despite being in that annoying tone we parents sometimes use with little ones, was full of warmth, wrapping her baby in a caress of anticipation.
As I went through these thoughts I continued to smile. I could feel the warmth in me.
But just as quickly as I ran by her (I was clipping along at the time at around 7:15/mile) my smile turned upside down and my joy in seeing this young mother turned to sadness.
You see, I remember those moments. I remember saying stuff like that to Brooke. Back before she could walk or talk, I remember planning her life, right down to the job and city she would settle down in; the number of children; everything. I had no idea what was just a year or two away.
We as parents know that nothing ever turns out as planned. For most of us that means our children may choose a different educational path or career path or marriage path, but we know they will get there. But for some of us, that path – that future – is much murkier than the slightly out of focus one we see for our neuro-typical children. For those of us with kids on the autism spectrum, the future is…scary.
I stopped writing this post at this point – in part because I wasn’t sure where I was going with it, in part because it was time to head out for dinner before going to see the July 4th fireworks.
Going out to dinner with a child on the autism spectrum can be, um, difficult. With Brooke there are a gazillion factors that can tweak her just enough to send a meal into a tailspin. Last night, as we sat at our table, Jess and I physically winced every time a baby would cry out or a toddler would cry out for his mama or the waiting line (we were sitting right next to the entrance) got a little too close. We eyed Brooke every time, knowing that each of those factors was pushing her closer to the edge. I could see her face starting to contort. The games on my iPhone provided only a little relief. This evening was looking to potentially go down the crapper in flames.
But then something happened. Katie started playing hangman with Jess and someone took notice. After a moment, Brooke decided she wanted to play too. Thankfully Katie thought that was a great idea and the two of them began to play.
My two little girls were playing hangman together! Laughing at the words Brooke picked (Snelly and Poop and Katie). Laughing TOGETHER!
I know that for some of my friends with neuro-typical kids, this may not seem like much, they are 10 and 8 after all. But this was huge. This was the first time they had played hangman together (in fact, as far as I know, this was the first time Brooke had played hangman…ever!). Brooke then followed it up by working away at the word search in the children’s menu. Despite a few speed bumps between dinner and the fireworks, she then made it through the display in spectacular fashion, laying with Jess on the grass, enjoying the show.
As we drove home, I thought of this post and what I had written. Brooke’s future is still cloudier than most. Jess and I are determined to keep her pointed in the direction of progress, but the path remains unclear. Just like any parents, we worry.
But you know what? My little girl played hangman with her sister last night. And she enjoyed it. And she played it the way it was supposed to be played.
The path may be hard to see, but the light shining on right now just got a little brighter.