A few months ago, my five year old son was diagnosed with autism. Which didn’t come as a surprise. He acted differently from other children. And, yeah, I know, I’m not supposed to compare my child to others. Apples and Oranges, that sort of thing. But, Liam’s quarks and behavior went beyond and to extremes. He didn’t have tantrums, he had full on meltdowns. We were calling them meltdowns before I realized that was actually a real thing, not something we made up.
A few years ago, when Liam was small, probably about two maybe three, there was a billboard on a major road outside of town that said something to the effect, “If they wont make eye contact, they may have autism.” Now, I’m paraphrasing because I don’t remember the actual wording. I have a good memory, not a photographic memory, which I’m now hearing isn’t a real thing anyway, but, I digress. The more I thought about the billboard, the more I wondered about Liam. I realized that he really didn’t look at me, not full on, and not at appropriate times. Appropriate times meaning, he didn’t look at me when I spoke to him. And then the behavior reports started coming from his daycare. They started low and then they started to grow…
First it was little things, like Liam hit another student. By the end of the school year, last year, he was in trouble for fist fighting, throwing chairs, and scratching teachers. At one point, they had to evacuate his pre-school room! He was four.
In a moment of weakness, I thought to myself, “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be!” I felt jipped, which is a horrible feeling to have about your son. Then I felt like an awful, terrible person for even having thought these things, because I love that boy so DAMN much! For every odd quirk and every meltdown that he has, there is so much more to him. He is not autism, he has autism. I’ve never thought about him in terms of autism, I’ve always (even after I’ve learned it’s name) thought of him as a little boy, whom I have to learn to help and understand.
It was around this time that I started realizing his daddy shared some of his quarks. Phillip was quick to temper and visibly had trouble coping with it. He lined things up and labeled EVERYTHING. When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. He used a label maker, like the ones that they use to make name tags in retail stores. There are labels on every one of our handheld telephones. Printed on all the units is our last name and the number of hertz that the phone uses/has, I don’t even know. “My phone has 123 hertz!” said no one ever.
Phillip can’t stand clutter, and this is where he diverts from Liam. Liam loves clutter, but Liam’s clutter is organized. Liam creates what we have dubbed nests. He takes every comforter and pillow in the house and organizes to his satisfaction. And woe to the person that has to tear down the nest; Hell hath no fury like Liam when his nests are being disassembled.
Oh, and Phillip doesn’t get a clue, because he’s standing here talking to me, droning on about work, and I’ve been done with this conversation for 20 minutes now. No offense, Phillip, but go to bed!
At any rate, the long and the short of the story is that they have many quarks in common and many of which coincide with autism. Quarks that I never noticed until Liam came along. That being said, Phillip and I have been married for almost nine years now. In having to learn how to be Liam’s mommy, because being Liam’s mommy isn’t always easy. I’ve had to field meltdowns in the middle of the grocery store where we both sat on the floor for 10-20 minutes to decompress while people walked by wondering what the hell is wrong with us. But I forgot at some point, that I’m not just Liam’s mommy, but also Phillip’s wife. I put our marriage on the back burner.
I had to learn to look at Phillip like I look at Liam, rather than being critical of him, I’ve had to learn to understand him, to understand his point of view. I know I’ve not been the most pleasant person these last few years, and to be frankly honest I was probably down right mean to him, and for that I apologize with all my heart. He was patient with me and we are getting there, we’re working toward a common goal, happiness. So, I’ve learned that when he drones on to me about work that I actually need to listen because this is how he communicates. Yes, It’s boring as mud to listen to him talk about cell phone towers, but it’s important to him and I have to realize that our marriage is two sided.