Sometimes I wonder if being Moe’s mom isn’t quite as hard as I make it out to be. Aren’t all three year olds are challenging creatures? Moe can’t talk, but he can jump and run and laugh and what else does he really need to do right now? But invariably, something will remind me that Moe isn’t just any three year old. He is delayed, difficult, “special.” As he gets older, it becomes more obvious, and, over a year into this, it still feels like a slap across the face every time.
Two weeks ago, we were invited to two parties on the same day. The first was a small birthday party for a three year old girl. It was just a backyard playdate, with a kiddie pool. Most of the parents could sit and chat, while keeping an eye on their little ones to make sure they were safe and playing nicely together. Moe loves water, so the pool was great fun for him. He’d play in the water for a while, but then he would get out and run the perimeter of the yard, including right through the rose bushes or along the side of the house where we couldn’t see him. By the time we left the party, he was scratched up from rose thorns, and we were worn out.
Off we went to party #2, a large going away party for friends. After averting Moe from grabbing a huge chunk of cake from the table, we directed him to the bounce house. He’s only recently figured out how to jump but now that he can, he loves it. He climbed right in and had a great time. Jeff and I could actually talk to some people while we kept one eye on him. It was how we imagined “normal” parents are at parties. That lasted about 15 minutes. Then Moe noticed the slide on the side of the bounce house. He wanted to climb up the slide part, rather than the stairs. But of course other kids wanted to come down, and Moe has no sense of danger or of being in the way. So we were back to having to be on top of him, redirecting him away from the slide over and over again. After we leave a party, I’m always left wondering why we bothered to go.
Even at home, things have gotten challenging. Moe is getting taller and stronger, able to climb and generally get into more trouble. We try to keep the house safe for him but he seems to always find something: splashing in the fish tank, turning on the bathroom sink if the door is left unlocked, or throwing the makeup out of my drawers. Today he took a glass of water off the kitchen table and threw it on the floor. In the back yard, he’s started eating mud – only occasionally but enough that we have to watch him vigilantly. When Moe is awake, there is very little down time and it is exhausting. I’m tired of having to tell him no all the time.
I want to take Moe places, but at the risk of sounding completely selfish, it just isn’t fun going out anymore. We do it so he can have some fun and learn socially acceptable behavior, and so we don’t lose all of our friends. But wherever we are, we are all about him. At home, I know that it is best to keep Moe engaged in safe, appropriate activities. But finding those activities is tough, especially with a 15 month old who does not like to share the spotlight.
Autism affects the whole family in so many ways I never could have predicted. Life is hard right now, and it is taking its toll on all of us.