life

Being Present

This past week, everyone in my social circles celebrated World Daughter Day and National Son Day. But in my small part of the world, in separate instances with both of my children, I was freaking out this week.

The Girl

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The Girl is an attitudinal teenager now and is quite an independent little thing. This past week, after I had gotten her ready for school and sat her to eat a couple bites for breakfast (that’s all she has time for with this bus schedule), she went missing and it happened in a matter of minutes.

The morning was just like any other. I dragged myself out of bed to the sound of my alarm on my phone to get my daughter ready for school. I’m a teacher and the morning is the most difficult part of the day for me.

In fact, every morning for the past couple weeks, as if I was the main character in a redo of Adam Sandler’s “Click”, I go through the motions of getting her dressed, doing her hair, brushing her teeth, and washing her face. I usually insert a few grumbles throughout this process about why I have to be up so early, why her school starts so early, why the days run into each other all the time…

Why? Why? Why?

And then we go downstairs.

Nobody really answers these questions. It’s just my morning routine.

That particular morning, as per usual, when we got downstairs, I opened the front door to a locked storm door. It was dark outside and it was a Friday which meant that the garbage trucks were going up and down the street with all the obnoxious, but necessary sounds that accompany that. I don’t usually do this, but that morning, I went downstairs to the basement to take a look at a couple things. I couldn’t have been down there for more than a minute or two. But, when I got back upstairs, she wasn’t in her seat at the table.

I ran to the storm door and though it was dark, I could see there was nobody outside.

I called for her upstairs. She didn’t answer.

There were no other noises being made in the house. She was gone.

It’s a frightening thing to be an #autismmom sometimes. You know that when all of your friends are becoming empty nesters, that will likely never be you. You think about how your child will fair when they no longer have you. And, in times like the one I was experiencing, you feel ill-equipped to handle the responsibility. In that moment, I felt like I was in one of those eerie, spooky movies where everything just got surreal and the main character, beads of sweat over the brow, runs up to the lens and does a wide-eyed pan of the entire scene.

I lost my mind for a few minutes not knowing what to do before my eyes grazed across the seat where her backpack usually is. I looked back and noticed that the backpack wasn’t there.

I called the school’s bus transportation department. They were able to tell me that she was on the bus, en route to school.

I think I must’ve felt a wave of relief, anxiety, frustration, and weariness all at one time. I am sure relief is what I felt most. But I can’t tell you by how much.

I fell in a heap on the couch and quit everything for a moment. EVERYTHING.

I almost didn’t post what happened on my Facebook either. It’s not like it’s a must-do. Sharing what we’re comfortable with is the way we seem to process these days. But, in this case, judgy people lurk everywhere. Still, it shook me so much, I felt like I wanted to share a little bit about what it means to be a mother to a child with autism. Sometimes, being understood is important.

I shouldn’t have feared at all. I have some good friends that do understand. I was so encouraged by their support and to know that we are all taking this motherhood thing one day at a time.

But this past weekend, as I was in the middle of a headshot photoshoot of one of my favorite bloggers, she brought to my attention what the parents of Dulce Maria Alavez must be going through. My 14 year old daughter with special needs was missing to me for maybe 12 minutes. Dulce Alavez, a five-year old, has been missing for over 12 days now. It is suspected to be an abduction. I can’t imagine what weeks of anxiety, frustration, weariness, and loss with no relief would do to the nerves of a parent. Can you?

Seems she did not get the same encouragement from everyone. There is also a suspicion that there may be others from her community who know more about what happened to Dulce Alavez, but won’t come forward for fear of the police and ICE.

My heart goes out to her as I hug my daughter a little tighter. Regardless of the details of her disappearance, I hope she sees her daughter healthy and happy again.

The Boy

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The Boy, on the other hand, is in the midst of figuring out who he is as a young man...He looks like his father. But much of his personality is mine. He so desperately wants to know what it is to be a good man. He wants to know what a healthy relationship is too. Bless his heart.

He started calling me earlier in the week from his school in Georgia. I could tell he was hurting. Not eating well. Not sleeping well. Thinking and feeling, deeply. In Georgia.

It made my heart hurt.

He gives a lot to all of his relationships. But, sometimes, it can leave him on empty. Besides that, many young people have enough to do with trying to figure out themselves. Adding a relationship into it can be a recipe for disaster. Ask me how I know.

This week, I’ve had to remind him of the same thing I’ve told young people for years as a youth advisor: The first step to loving anyone else is to love yourself first.

So, although we've discussed it many times before…this time, we had a long-distance talk about what healthy self-love looks like-which was nearly everything he didn’t see growing up. It’s so difficult to unsee things sometimes. But, I told him that that was why it was important to me to start replacing whatever negative memories he had growing up with happier ones the last two years we were together before he left for school. Now, as a young adult out in the world, it’s up to him to keep putting more into his bag of good memories and starve the negative bag moving forward.

I reminded him about going to the park. While he was playing ball and I was snapping photos of the two of them, I was also taking time-outs, learning how to just be…because the best place to start learning what he wants to know about relationships is taking care of himself and giving himself the love he wants to find someday. Cultivating peace on the inside when he’s just by himself...That way, he’ll know actual love from another when he sees it.

By the end of the week...and about three calls later, he said he felt better. Not being there, I can only take his word for it and be here when he calls.

But I’ll definitely be here.

I tell you...these kids are my world.

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Happy Daughter/Son day...whichever you are celebrating and however you are celebrating it with your babies. ❤️