Family reunions are a time for catching up and visiting with family that you haven’t seen in a while. Playing games and pranks on one another is part of the fun. What my mother doesn’t realize that since my son been born, family reunions have been a point of contention. For me they are hell.
Since my grandparents died my uncle has insisted on holding the annual 4th of July festivities at his house which is a solid two hours away from where I live and if that wasn’t enough. For some reason, only known to my mother and God, my mom insists on fixing the lion’s share of the food. *Okay, part of the reason my mom feels responsible is because A.) We have always been responsible for the food and B.) My aunt and uncle do not season ANYTHING.
Aside from the lack of salt, it’s just awkward. I only kinda know the people they are inviting because without going into too much detail, most of the attendees are not really related to me. I don’t know the majority of these “relatives” despite my mom’s insistence that I do. And then there is Liam.
Liam’s first 4th of July was spent hooked onto my boob. Everyone on that side of the family saw my boobs that first Fourth of July. He was only two months old, he was out of his element, possibly colicky, it was hot as hell’s fire, and I breastfed. Although, the saving grace, that year, was when my aunt’s sister came up to me a gave me kudos for breastfeeding and using my boobs for what they were intended. So it wasn’t a complete wash.
Every year since, Liam’s first fourth something has happened, that has been caused by my son. When he was three-four he stole my uncle’s keys and threw them in a hornet’s net. Another year, or the same year, I don’t remember, he got into a fight with my other uncle over the TV and began hitting him. That was the year we had to explain to EVERYONE that he was autistic. Literally something has happened and at least one other “relative” has had an opinion about my son, my parenting skills, etc.
This year was uneventful. Liam had taken all of his ADHD meds. He stayed pretty much with the the other kids. My cousin brought an arsenal of firecrackers and helped keep him and the other kids occupied. When they weren’t playing with fire (supervised). All the kids were on the slip and slide or throwing water balloons. Liam has learned to self regulate to some extent so when he would get frusterated with a situation he would take a lap or two around the house or come and get me. It was great, until my relatives had toput in their two cents.
I was explaining to another uncle that there wasn’t a whole lot that Liam was allowed to get away with and he scoffed in my face. I never got the chance to explain that there is a difference between him getting away with stuff and giving him better options. He thinks differently, an “old fashion spanking” has no effect nor is useful with him. He’s strong willed. What we have learned is giving him alternate options does work. So you may think that I’ve lost control of a situation, but more often than not, believe it or not, I AM IN CONTROL.
Secondly, another cousin asked me if I make him sit down right after school to do his homework. Hell no, I’m a teacher, I don’t even like to sit down right after school and do school work myself, why would I do that to my son? I need to decompress as does he. That is my choice, don’t judge me.
Thirdly and the coup de grâce, on of my other uncles came up to me after the party was over and most everyone had left when mom and I were the last guest because, of course… He came up to me and by way of farewell said, “You couldn’t pay me enough to be that boy’s parent (indicating to my son).” I was hurt, my heart hurt. Liam has come a long way, a long, long, way. Of course if I had my way he wouldn’t have been autistic, but since he is I wouldn’t have him any other way. He loving and altheltic, and smart. He can rattle off the names of construction machine as we roll down the road; he is six for God’s sake, and a boy! Yes, he has meltdowns. He has given me more minor heart attacks than I can count, but I will never, EVER not love him because he is autistic. If anything, I will love him more. You know why, Uncle? Because he needs it more. You wouldn’t want to be my son’s parent? Well, don’t worry, you don’t have to be and I couldn’t be happier.