Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Please, Slow Down

To me, one of the frustrating things about autism is the way people (or at least kids) on the spectrum have such a difficult time just ...slowing...down.

I don't just mean the running issue, while that certainly exists. I remember my parents forgetting to chain the front door one day when Andy was about five or six, and the mad dash he made out of the house and across the parking lot of our apartment complex, in mere seconds. Or the time he got out of the nursery at church and ran, yelling, all the way up the side aisle to the front, where he flicked the lights off, before anyone knew what had happened. From the time Ethan could walk he was always on a dash somewhere. "He's a man with a mission," a friend at church once said jokingly, and it was (and still is) true. His eyes, laser-focused, were on something ahead (probably in this case, getting to the church doors first to open them), and he didn't want anyone slowing him down.

But that's not exactly what I mean here. I'm talking about how hard it is for kids on the spectrum to just slow down and hang out, without an agenda, without having to know what's going to happen next, without direction, redirection, and suggestions.

Sometimes I have to laugh because I've never been the best at just "chilling out." Actually, no one in my family was, growing up. My mom hated us lounging around in pajamas. Sitting around aimlessly and mindlessly watching TV was a no-no. Not having a plan just didn't happen in my family. We were all just a little uptight? Were these signs of autism genes in us at work? I don't know, but I don't remember too many times just sitting around and shooting the breeze, except at big family gatherings. Worse was the fact that most of us seemed like we HAD to have something to look forward to in order to cheer up the day. My dad always was looking forward to restaurants or the meal we were going to have. Nate was into the game he'd get to watch. I too looked forward to food or trips or books. I'm kind of generalizing here but you get the idea. The concept of just "being" was so foggy. I seemed to always be working to get to some kind of reward.

Gee, that sounds familiar.

Autism brings the concept of no downtime to a whole new level, though. I can remember my mom gearing up for the month Andy would be off and home from the residential school in the summer. She had schedules, plans, and all sorts of intents. She basically told us (Nate and I were in our teens, at that point) that we needed to be more independent and take care of things on our own when he was home. Andy required that much focus. By the time she returned from dropping him back off at school, she was completely wiped out.

Ethan has four more days of school, and I have my plans. I know that we will eat breakfast, then do chores; that I have to make him work for his two biggest motivators, the computer or a DVD. I know we're going to do exercises and have a little music time and do crafts and be sure to have trips to the park and playground and who knows where else. There will be picture schedules and the play book and always, always talk about what's coming next, first this, then that, reminders and schedule run-throughs, again and again, to keep things going smoothly.

I look forward to having the kids home this summer. I love times like yesterday, when the three of us ran around the house and played hide and seek. I love cuddling with them, tickling them, hearing their laughter.

But there are days all I can think about was the summer after Dan and I first married, when we each took a stack of books out of the library and spent a week in Maine at our camp, doing almost nothing but swimming, laying in the sun, and reading them all.

All moms of young kids feel this way sometimes, I know. I think what makes it harder for me is in addition to sometimes missing the big moments, like kid-less vacations, I have trouble finding the smaller ones at times. Like waking up on a Saturday and not feeling the stress crowd in because of Ethan struggles on Saturday, the most schedule-free day of the week. Or attending a family party and just hanging out rather than needing to hang over him, because he's playing with someone's doors. I guess this is why I sometimes obsess about getting him to play. There are selfish motives as well. How I'd just love to say go play so I could just lie down on the couch for ten minutes and clear my thoughts, without having to think of how to engage him, entice him, or redirect him from something inappropriate!

I was thinking about all of this the other day, kind of whining to God, and in the middle of it all I heard that verse in my head: Be still and know that I am God.

Yeah, I know, I almost said out loud, sarcastically. I don't know how to do that anymore.

I felt in that moment God quietly reminding me that actually, I've never known how to be still. I've never known how to slow down. This is not a new thing. Autism isn't helping the situation, but it didn't create the situation.

How can I be still when I can't even find quiet time half the time? I demanded. He reminded me that quiet time is meaningless unless I learn to be still in the midst of the craziness, in the middle of the storms and stresses and moments when Anna is whining and Ethan is jumping on to the next thing before I can even catch my breath.

Being still is not lying on the dock reading blissfully. I mean, that's nice and I'd love the chance to do that sometime soon, but if I can learn to be still within, to hear His voice over the din of noise and slow my rushing thoughts, there is a part of me that will find that peace and calm I long for. The innermost part, from which everything else flows.

I'm always wanting Ethan to slow down. And meanwhile, God asking ME to slow down. I'm not even quite sure how to. But I know that I have to.


Anonymous said...

just tonight i thought, 'i really need to spend some time being still with God tonight. i'll pop over to Deb's blog and then have some quiet time.' ha! thanks for the confirmation, my friend. now i'm so looking forward to my time being still.

Deb said...

Awesome! I am realizing that especially during summer the evening may be my quiet time rather than the morning. God kind of reminds me when I claim I have NO time because the kids are up early and are out of school...hmmm, what about the evening when I'm turning on mindless TV or going online? I hope your time with God was refreshing!