I recently read a quote from Plato, “An unexamined life is not worth living”. Ho hoooo …. if this is true then my life is REALLY worth living – says the over-thinker in me. (Pats back). Aaaaaannd if I reel it in I realize like everything (sigh) balance is key. You could have mentioned that as well Plato.
We recently returned from a trip to Hawaii with our family. Again we traveled with Hannah. Something we have always tried to do. In the early years it was difficult – trying to manage the vacation time that would include her, engage her yet not be all about her. But we did it and as the years have gone by it has become easier. Hannah was a great traveler this year. Accepting being chosen for random drug screening in the airport, walking in the airport at a quickened pace, using the bathroom well, hiking and accepting momentary hand holds during ‘dangerous’ peaks in the trail and going with the flow.
One trait that Hannah’s autism has given her is perseveration. Think to “persevere”on steroids. Hannah has two main “perseverations”. Activities that she repetitively does for hours if not stopped. One is building a square and filling it – building it up with duplo blocks. The other is piling up sand with a pail and shovel and starting over again.
So the beach in Hawaii was verrrrrry exciting for Hannah. She talked dreamily and obsessively over and over about “pail and shovel” and “sand” weeks before the trip. In the earlier years I was sad about this weird perseveration and lack of interest in normal beach activities. We always got her to break away from “sand” and either go for a walk, build something different in the sand or anything other than the lonesome sand piling activity. But like many other things in her life that boat has floated and I have succumbed to the fact that this is just how it is. The. end. (By the way the phrase ‘the end’ makes her laugh and laugh!)
The beach time with Hannah was simple. She carried her pail and shovel to the beach, we parked her under the shaded palm trees and we planted our butts on the sand and read/slept as she shook with excitement, ready to start a-pilin’. (It should be noted that the above picture was under GREAT distress for Hannah. She had to stop piling sand for a moment to pose for a picture).
As I lay on the beach blanket staring up at the sky I noted the two palm trees that were in my view. It was glaringly obvious to me that the trees represented Hannah and myself. The smaller tree was Hannah and the larger tree was myself. Having her on a holiday with us means no support in terms of others caring for her and the weight falls on our shoulders. While this is a fun time it is also exhausting (as we age). I could not help but see the resemblance in how these trees related to each other. At first all I could see was the branches reaching out to each other. Even the trunks had solidly oriented to each other. “Hannah” completely reaching up to me and “Mom” reaching down to her. That has been my danger throughout her life. My life too wrapped up in her. No separation. Her wins=my wins, her trials=my trials.
But as I watched the trees blow in the breeze I noted that while many branches reached out towards each other that many branches blew their separate ways. Together and apart.
One day we will be apart. It has been our goal all along to make her as independent as possible. Did I do enough? Should I have done anything different? Will she be safe?
We all want this for our kiddos. Special needs or typical learning. However when you have a child with special needs and know one day someone else will be in charge of them – it can lead to anxiety-ridden thinking. All we can do is trust and prepare the way as best we can to make this happen.
The next day we planted ourselves away from the two trees. My brain needs a break. Hannah did not care where we were as long as she had her “pail and shovel”.