Mistake, I Think

In December, the following happened:

Adrian and Martin and I were at the reception following the church children’s pageant (in which Martin sang!). By now Martin and I have attended our new suburban church for 18 months. He goes to Sunday school and, with the help of a facilitator, participates in a 90-minute “Kids’ Klub” each Tuesday. He is reasonably well known, to both adult and youth parishioners.

At the reception Adrian and I socialized while Martin wandered, playing mostly alone and munching the snacks I’d brought for him. I looked for Martin often, because these days he thinks it is funny to try to sneak non-GAPS-compliant food. (When he finds me milling around the Sunday refreshments, keeping watch, he says, “Mommy, just go talk to your grown-up friends. I’m fine.”) In one such glance I saw Aiden, a seven-year-old, approach Martin with a big, soft, definitely gluten-and-sugar-and-dairy-laden cookie. Aiden broke off a cookie chunk and said, “Hi, Martin. Have some of my cookie!” Martin seemed interested, but he hesitated and looked around for my assurance.

So what did I do?

Here are the relevant factors:

  1. I was thrilled that Aiden had approached Martin, spoken to Martin like he would speak to any kid, and kindly offered to share his cookie. Thrilled.
  1. I wanted, so badly, for Martin to take that cookie. I wanted him to have a typical-kid moment, and a meaningful interaction with Aiden. Maybe they could be friends.
  1. I wasn’t that worried about the cookie. It would be an infraction, to be sure. It would set back our efforts to heal Martin’s gut, and it might cause some crazy behavior. But we would get past it. (See infra.)
  1. What worried me more was that Martin would get the impression that, on a special occasion, it is okay to take a cookie chunk, or whatever else is offered. Martin already has declared that he is allowed to drink apple juice from a box at birthday parties (effin’ birthday parties!), because once, in the throes of his disappointment, I relented and allowed a juice box. Give him an inch…!

So what did I do? What did I do?

I intervened.

I said, “Martin has food allergies! He can’t have the cookie. But thank you, Aiden! Thank you so much for sharing. What a great choice!” Aiden looked surprised. Then he left Martin alone. In a lame attempt to salvage the moment, I told Martin, “I’m so happy that you checked with me. Would you like an orange? I can peel you one.”

Inside, I felt icky. I felt like I made a mistake.

Did I? I think I probably did. I should have let Martin and Aiden share. I could have talked later with Martin about this “exception” and about how to respond when offered food in the future. I could have asked him to track how his tummy and mind felt. I could have created a hands-on lesson or done role-play. I could have ignored, i.e., pretended that I didn’t see Martin looking for my assurance, and allowed him to do what he wanted, and only later “noticed” what had happened, so that at least the cookie-share wasn’t officially mommy-sanctioned.

I could have, should have, blah, blah, blah. Whatever I could or could not have done, what I did do in the moment was deprive Martin of a typical-kid interaction and of maybe (dare I hope?) the path to a new friendship.

The teachable moment, it seems, was mine alone.

P.S. As long as I’m confessing mistakes, and along the theme of “we would have got past it,” I think I’ll subjoin this little divulgence: We have been taking Martin to children’s (“family”) movies. A lot of the time, Adrian takes Martin, and I get a pass, because try as I might, I just don’t enjoy feature-length animation. (Leave me alone. My oldest brother, Rudy, is an animator. He’s asked me all the pertinent questions. No, I didn’t like Aladdin. Nor Toy Story. Nor Cars. Nor even Fantasia, too much, at least not when sober.)

One recent movie I did attend, because it was live-action, was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day. In the theater I purchased a Diet Coke®. I know I should be healthier, and I have done really well curbing my Diet Coke habit, but occasionally, for whatever reason, I still drink a Diet Coke. Attending a matinee showing of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day, on a rainy afternoon, when every kid in our suburb seems to be at the movies, qualifies as such a reason. Halfway through the movie, I went to the restroom. I returned to find Adrian, with an are-you-kidding-me? look on his face, restraining Martin on his lap. Apparently, when I left, Martin picked up my Diet Coke and drank most of it. That’s right. My GAPS-diet son, who has consumed neither processed foods nor refined sugar in four years, went to town on motor oil and aspartame. Just one more endorsement on my application for autism-recovery mother of the year.

Notes on a Wednesday

Wednesdays, of late, are exhausting days for me and Martin. He plays hooky from school. We start the morning by driving more than 50 miles to Wilton, Connecticut to visit Martin’s new homeopath and, if it’s an appointment week, his biomedical doctor.

(Note to careful readers: We switched biomedical doctors five months ago, because Martin’s former practitioner moved to the West Coast.)

From Wilton, when our appointments are through, we get back in the car and drive more than 60 miles, back into New York State, across Westchester County and across the Tappen Zee Bridge and Rockland County, at last dropping into New Jersey at Ringwood, where Martin participates in hippotherapy. We eat lunch in the car: a sandwich for me, and Dr. Cow tree nut cheese with rice crackers for Martin. Then, while Martin spends an hour riding horses, I hike to a tiny farm and buy eggs.

Around 3:15 pm Martin and I get back into the car to drive 45 miles home. (Are you keeping track of all these miles?) Although it is the shortest leg of our journey, this takes the longest, anywhere from 90 to 150 minutes, depending on traffic getting back into and through the City.

Last Wednesday, on the morning drive to Wilton, I spent 20 minutes on the phone—hands-free Bluetooth, of course! I respect all traffic laws—trying to negotiate a good deal on the purchase of an infrared sauna. (More on that in a future post.) Martin was supposed to be practicing “being quiet while Mommy’s on the phone.” Instead, he grew increasingly agitated until he was sobbing while repeating, “You’re going to get off the phone! No more phone! You’re done with the phone.” I apologized to the sauna representative and finally, when I could barely hear him over Martin’s shrieking, aborted the call. Meltdown.

So that sucked. But three very cool things that did not suck at all also happened last Wednesday:

The update for Daddy: At the office of the homeopath—“Miss Lauren,” as Martin calls her—is a pile of toys. I was talking with Lauren when Martin appeared with a toy mobile phone in this hand and said, “Mommy, I’ve got a phone.” I replied, “Oh? Would you please call Daddy and let him know we got here okay?” Without further prompting, Martin nodded, hit a few buttons on the toy phone, held it to his ear and said, “Hello, Adrian? But because we’re at Miss Lauren’s. Okay. ’Bye.” (Martin is in a phase wherein he calls Adrian by his first name instead of Daddy or Papá. “But because” is a verbal tic that Martin has.) Comprehending my request? Pretending? Following a direction? Yes, yes, and yes, thank you.

The hippotherapy superstar: Martin does hippotherapy with a speech-language pathologist. Hippotherapy requires body awareness, multisensory activity, and concentration. Martin’s performance varies widely from week to week. (Martin’s performance on just about anything can vary widely from week to week, day to day, or even hour to hour. That’s the nature of the biomedical beast.) Last Wednesday, when I came to claim Martin after his riding lesson, his speech pathologist said, “He was awesome today. Awesome. Can you bring this version of the kid every week?”

The gesture of support: Do you remember my post from last Tuesday, about the best ways to be supportive of a family wading through autism recovery? It ended with these lines:

That’s all we really want, any of us, right?

A little faith, and a cookie.

When Martin and I arrived home from our three-state extravaganza last Wednesday—one day after I posted about how to be supportive—I found a package waiting for me. Inside was a card quoting those two lines. Under them, handwritten by the friend who sent this card, were the words: “Some of us need a whole box of cookies. Prayers to you and your family. Always.” Enclosed with the card? Yep. A box of cookies.

I’ve been reading the Thinking Moms’ Revolution new book of essays. In one piece, the mother of a boy on the spectrum is asking, “Why did this happen to my baby? What did I do wrong? Is God mad at me?” Her mother, the boy’s grandmother, intervenes and points out that, if things had been different, she would not be asking, “Why did God give me a healthy child?”, so she doesn’t get to ask “Why?” now.

Sage advice, right? What happened to my son—the Pitocin, the C-section, the antibiotics, the vaccines, whatever combination caused this autism—happened. But it doesn’t mean my life doesn’t rock steady.

It doesn’t mean I don’t live in a world of blessings.

The Wanaque Resevoir in Ringwood, New Jersey, where I hike while Martin rides horses. I took this picture with my iPhone a couple weeks ago. Life is good.

The Monksville Resevoir in Ringwood, New Jersey, where I hike while Martin rides horses. I took this picture with my iPhone a couple weeks ago. Life is good.