Ah, the end of the year. The moment for looking back and remembering the past - the never ending TV specials of “Top 100 Songs of The Year” or “Top 10 most fascinating people of 2010”. It's the time when we’re supposed to think about all that we’ve accomplished in the year and make our New Year’s resolutions to improve our future.
I stink at making those resolutions. Either I break them in the first week (willpower is NOT a part of my vocabulary) or I make them so weak that become meaningless. Last year I resolved “to remember to take the laundry out of the washing machine before it starts to smell”. It was a pathetic goal…and I broke it within three days of the new year.
I decided instead to look back at 2010 and see how it this year has changed me. It has not been an easy one for us. It was the first full year since my son Howie’s autism diagnosis. It’s was the first year of him being in a specialized program at school and the first full year of him receiving behavior therapy and weekly OT for his sensory processing disorder. It was the year we realized that Lewis, our youngest, had a speech delay.
But it was also the year that I found my voice. The year that I took on the role of being my kids’ best advocate. The year that showed me the power of community, both in person and online. The year I started writing.
So I thought I’d break it down into categories of how things have changed in my life this year:
I became a better mom: For the first time in eight years as a mother, I think I finally understand my kids - all of them. Each one of my boys has a very distinct personality. Understanding my middle son’s autism and sensory processing disorder diagnoses has helped me relate better to each of them. I’m more patient with all of my boys, and now that I have a better understanding of the issues that come with autism and SPD, I am better equipped to handle the difficult times that come our way. I am not a perfect mom, nor a great mom. But I am a good mom and getting better at it every day.
I became a better wife and partner: As the stay-at-home mom, I thought it was my “job” to take on the worries of our family and the world. I tried to do it all on my own - evaluation appointments, research, doctor visits, etc. I didn’t want to bother my husband with what I thought were tiny details of our day. But as things with my son got progressively harder, it became too much for me to do alone. I couldn’t manage the day-to-day stuff when I was putting out fires with my son all the time. This was the year that I realized that helping my son had to be a team effort. I can say now that my husband and I are completely on the same page. We use the same language and behavior techniques and are both committed to doing whatever we can to make our family’s days and weeks run more smoothly.
I became a better friend: This year I finally came out of my little bubble. Because I was having such a hard time managing my son’s meltdowns in public places, we just didn’t go anywhere. I was uncomfortable being in situations where the other parents had “typical” kids. It would make me sad and angry. Because I didn’t know how to help my son with his sensory issues, he would become over stimulated quickly and pass the point of no return. So we just didn’t socialize. It was too hard and too painful. Over the past 12 months, I have learned a lot about my son’s triggers and how to prevent the meltdowns. I’ve also become more confident in my parenting skills so we’re able to get back “out there” again. And because of his diagnoses (and not in spite of them), I’ve met some amazing people, in person and online, who have kids JUST LIKE MINE. Because I know what they’re going through on a daily basis, I have an instant connection with these parents. I can share with them what I know and vice versa. I’m no longer the one hiding in the house, and I can now encourage others to come out from behind their closed doors as well.
I became a better “me”: There’s no doubt, the year 2010 was a tough one for me personally. I took a good hard look at our family and how we worked together and made some drastic changes to our lives. I made the mental shift from thinking we were a “go with the flow” kind of family to one that follows routines, schedules and timers. There were family events that we didn’t attend, birthday party invitations that I declined. We couldn’t do it. This was the year I went from being just a “parent” to being a “parent of a child with special needs“. Emotionally, it wasn’t an easy transition to make. But with that brought some amazing things as well. I found an outlet for my thoughts through my blog, and because of that I found the SPD blogger network - other moms and dads writing about the same things I was. I joined this amazing community of special needs parents, all here to help each other get through the day. And by writing and sharing our story, I started to focus more on me. I ran my first 5K back in October. I helped start a support group in our town, and have made those meetings a priority in my life. I’m involved in our school’s special education parent advisory council and am working to make our schools a more inclusive and tolerant place. I have found my calling as an advocate for my kids. I am beginning to find “me” again.
In sports, they call it a “rebuilding year” - a year when the team isn’t expected to do great things because they are regrouping and developing the talent needed to get ready to win it all the next year. For my family, the year 2010 will be remembered as a rebuilding year. And I’m ready to win it all in 2011.
Here’s to a happy and healthy new year for us all. Looking forward to great things here and everywhere.
Happy New Year from Alysia at Try Defying Gravity
“We're not alone, we've got the world you know.
And it won't let us down, just wait and see.
And we'll grow old, but think how wise we'll grow.
There's more you know, it's only New Year's Eve.
It's just another New Year's Eve,
Another night like all the rest.
It's just another New Year's Eve,
Let's make it the best.” - It's Just Another New Year's Eve by Barry Manilow