Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year's Resolution

This past week, as we celebrated the new year, 2013, annual discussions about people’s resolutions arose in the media repeatedly.  Indeed, the beginning of a year seems to be a good time to break old habits and become a better person. My good friend and fellow mom blogger [To read her blog, Real Housewife of the Bluegrass, click here.], K. C. Wells wrote a terrific entry this week on this topic that made me think about my own goals for 2013. Touched by the tragic loss of lives at Sandy Hill Elementary, she writes about worrying less about her to-do list and becoming “more mindful” in how she interacts with her family. One of her comments especially resonated with me, “Someday, my kids aren't going to remember how many things I accomplished in any given day or how clean their rooms were.” She goes on to give examples of the things she hopes her children will remember—the good times spent together and the values she instilled in them.

In raising a child with autism, too many times I get caught up in my to-do list, just as parents of typical children do. However, my list over the years has consisted of researching new treatments, finding various therapists, filling out countless forms to get services, planning homeschool lessons, and comparing notes with other parents. Over the years, I have found myself telling Alex, “Just a minute, Mommy is almost done” as I complete one of these tasks before doing something he has requested of me. Although I’m sure learning to wait has been a good lesson for him to learn, I have often felt guilty that I was preoccupied with other concerns when I should have just focused on spending time with him.

In addition to my duties as an autism mom, I have tried to keep our home neat and organized. While I think that keeping the house free of clutter helps keep my mind uncluttered, I know that my fears of what other people think of me probably motivate my need to clean even more. The prideful side of me would want others to think, “She has a child with autism and still manages to keep a neat house!” In the tumultuous times, when I feared we might need help from the police or paramedics to help calm a hysterical Alex, I kept an especially organized house, never wanting these people to think, “No wonder her kid is out of control; did you see what a mess her house is?” However, probably the biggest motivator for keeping things neat has been my need to find rapidly something Alex decides he wants, knowing that he may become upset if I can’t find it as quickly as he’d like. While all of these reasons are valid, I still put more pressure on myself than anyone else expects of me, and I need to get off my case.

When I was growing up, my mom’s priority was spending time with her three children—reading to us, talking with us, playing games with us, and refereeing our arguments. Although our house was clean, neatness was not as important. Mom would often say, “I can be neat, or I can be nice.” As kids, we were thankful that she chose the latter because we didn’t care about being neat; we preferred her pleasant company to having an immaculate house. Hanging in the kitchen of the house where I was raised, she still has a plaque with the poem “Excuse This House, “ which reads as follows: 

“Some houses try to hide the fact
That children shelter there.
Ours boasts it quite openly,
The signs are everywhere.

For smears are on the windows;
Little smudges are on the doors.
I should apologize, I guess
For toys strewn on the floor.

But I sat down with my child,
And we played and laughed and read
And if the doorbell doesn’t shine,
His eyes will shine instead.

For when at times I’m forced to choose
The one job or the other,
I’d like to cook and clean and scrub,
But first I’ll be a mother.”

With my mother as role model, this year I’m going to remember that my primary role in life is to be Alex’s mother. Instead of worrying about my to-do list, I’m going to start focusing on my to-be list, enjoying the moment at hand, knowing that eventually things will get done. Together, Alex and I will laugh as we watch episodes of his favorite show, The Big Bang Theory, and my favorite show, The Middle. I’ll gladly read aloud his beloved Veggie Tales’ book Time for Tom and exaggerate all the voices in Goldilocks and the Three Bears to make him smile. Whenever he asks me to “tuck you in,” I’ll be pleased that my wrapping him in blankets makes him feel secure. We’ll look up things together on Google, satisfying his curiosity while giving me a glimpse into how his mind works. And we’ll watch over and over again his favorite You Tube videos showing the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square in New York City, counting down as though it were new each time. Perhaps watching that New Year’s Eve tradition will remind me how precious time really is and how grateful I am to be able to spend time with Alex. Now that’s a resolution worth keeping.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

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