I know that I have already blogged about my trip to San Diego and the fact that the kids survived without me, but I want to share my experience learning to appreciate the unspoken words and actions from a child with autism.
I cannot recall a time when my daughter has told me that she loved me or expressed that she misses me if I go away. This trip was no different, but this time her actions were a tell-tale sign of her deepest feelings. Prior to me leaving, I arranged with her father a schedule that would be workable between his work schedule and her definite need for routine and familiarity. The schedule was written and gone over. I could sense that she wasn’t thrilled about me going, but I reminded her that the nagging would be less. When I was saying my good-bye to the kids, the boys hugged/kissed me, told me to have fun, love you, etc etc…..My girl stood back and watched this and in her autistic mind was probably thinking “why do these people go through all this social mumbo jumbo? Of course I love her, but is this really necessary???” Now keep in mind I can probably count on ONE hand how many times in her 14 years that she initiated or accepted a genuine hug from me, but I continue to try. When I turned to her, she had her arms crossed tightly over her chest and I immediately sensed that a hug was way out of the question. I offered a knuckle tap, but was denied!
I called to check in a zillion times and the boys were usually as talkative as teen boys will be; uh-huh, yah, sure, yep, ok…etc…When I got L on the phone, her responses were short(er) than usual and she even hung up on me. When the day came for her to go to Dad’s, she did listen to my harping about the schedule without hanging up. That night at her Dad’s house, she was unable to control her anxiety and had a major meltdown. I spoke with her and called in big brother to go get her and bring her home. For saving her from 12 hours of pure terror (in her mind), I got a pretty decent conversation.
The day of my return I spoke with her and she sounded pretty happy on the phone. When I walked in the door, I was greeted and the remainder of the day I could sense a huge amount of relief in her little soul.
Before bed, she asked me if I thought about her while I was on my trip. I took that as an expression of her feelings and was truly touched…..I still don’t hear, “I love you, Mom”, but seeing her mood lift and to go from complete refusals to that special interaction that I got by bedtime the day I returned, I realized that the words really aren’t important.
Again, she amazes me and I find myself so grateful that she chose me to be her Mom…..