The other day, I posted this proud homeschool moment to Facebook and Instagram:
It was a win. Out of our five weeks in school thus far, most of William’s artwork was something born of extreme don’t-give-a-crap. This, though, he loved. How cool is that?! How great of a mom am I? I got my child excited about the Creed! And it was beautiful, and I put it on the wall with our icons!
But I would like to clarify here: I do not know what the heck I’m doing.
This was something I threw together ten minutes before school started. I looked at our lesson plans and went, “oh! I forgot we were supposed to make artwork out of the Creed today. Lemme write that out real quick.” So I did that while Sammy screamed cuz he likes it, and climbed on my lap 13,477 times looking for markers with which to mark up my work.
And later, in completely uncharacteristic fashion, my art-despising William carefully selects his markers and lovingly draws shapes and patterns around our statement of faith. I really thought he would hate this assignment. (Also, I’d like to point out here that I went ahead with my plans, even though I was confident that he’d hate it. Um…#thoughtfulnesswin)
And then, I exclaimed this to myself:
“Oh my gosh, I’m such an idiot! Why didn’t I think of that?”
Guys, if I had a nickel. Seriously. I say this to myself multiple times, daily.
Of course he loves this assignment. He loves things he’s familiar with. And he knows The Creed. He loves church, because he knows what to expect. Thank you, Orthodoxy, for being so old and so same.
So, as big as a win as this one was, it fell into my lap. It did not come from my thoughtfulness, or from my awareness of his loves and strengths, or my ability to channel that into a lesson. In fact, I even completely forgot a whole section of the Creed, which specifically points out the deity of Jesus Christ. Niiiiiiice.
I do not know what the crap I’m doing.
The losses come this way, too.
Last week, a retired science teacher friend was gracious enough to invite us over to his house to show us his rock collection since we were studying the three types of rocks in science class. He had a table full of wonderful samples set up on a card table in his living room, and we sat around the table, picking them up, tracing our fingers along their grain, figuring out if we were handling igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic rocks. Nora had the time of her life.
William didn’t, though. Our goals with him quickly spiraled from “learn the three types of rock” to “stay seated at the table,” because he was so distracted by the fact that the teacher’s wife (who is one of William’s favorite friends) wasn’t playing with him.
How completely preventable. All it would’ve taken was 15 minutes of prep before the trip. Write the three types of rock on the white board, have him repeat them back to me, brief explanation, finito. A few additional minutes of setting his social expectations would’ve helped too (e.g. Will you see Mrs. Combs? No. But if you pay attention to the lesson and participate, maybe you can play with her for five minutes when it’s over). But I didn’t do that. Instead, what he’ll remember is “that time I sat at a table with rocks on it and wasn’t allowed to play with Mrs. Combs.”
See guys? I don’t know what the crap I’m doing.
I tell you this because we special needs parents get a lot of compliments. We hear that we’re saints; we hear that we’re the strongest of the strong and creative and brilliant and calm and patient and all that. And maybe it’s true for some, but I gotta tell you–we mostly feel like a hot mess. I mostly go about my day feeling dumber than the pencil I use to write things down wrong on my calendar.
If I get to the end of my day with any instinct or care for thinking through what William does well and looking for ways to use those things as a channel to pass along our faith, knowledge, and culture on to him, it is simply the grace of God.
And it is good for me to be humbled in this way. Every development William earns is big for us. It’s easy to look at how far he’s come, thumb my suspenders, and feel like he’s very lucky to have us as his parents. It’s true that not every child with autism is as fortunate as William is. Sadly, not all parents care about their children. But it’s not too far of a jump from “at least I care about my son enough to do something for him” to “I am such a gift” or–worse, “that parent doesn’t do nearly as much for her child as I do for mine.” And that’s atrocious.
So, don’t mind me. I’m just gonna post the high points to social media, and then leave my head on the desk for a minute.