“For this week’s photo challenge, explore what it means to find your place in the world. Where’s your safe space? Where do you go when you need to feel inspired or cheered up? Do you prefer to feel cozy and comforted in a smaller town or do you thrive on the buzz of a big city?”
One thing my husband, my son and I have in common is we find comfort in sitting on the beach, hearing the waves roll onto the shore. It’s mesmerizing, relaxing, comforting.
At 7 years, my son still cannot verbalize what he feels, but seeing him so calm — not stimming — is enough to make me realize that, just as it is for his parents, this too, is his place in the world.
A few weeks ago, I read an article by a writer reminiscing about his friendship with the late Seamus Heaney, and of course his famous last words, a text message to his wife — Noli timere (“Don’t be afraid”). Unfortunately I can’t find that article anymore as I don’t remember the title nor the author’s name, so I can’t give you the link.
That article led me to read about Heaney’s last words as recalled by his son in his eulogy. And this in turn led me to remember what my mother said to me a week before she passed as I cried in front of her, exhausted from all the seemingly insurmountable problems that had befallen me — her worsening health condition, my son’s autism, not being able to get a visa for my son, among other things. She reached for my hand, as she lay in bed, and said to me in a voice full of confidence, “Don’t worry. Everything will be all right. E. is going to be fine.”
I wonder if it is just the dying’s way of comforting the living, so as not to make them worry about what life would be like for the living without them, or if somehow they have some kind of vision of what the future will be like, or if their faith is strengthened as they near that end.
But my mother’s words really comforted me, and I believed her. And I believed her words even more as indeed, after she passed, we were able to find a special needs school for my son, and the same embassy that made it difficult for us to get a visa for him, gave him a travel document instead.
Even now whenever I have a problem, apart from praying, I would think of my mother and how she would have stormed the gates of heaven to pray for me.
As a mother myself, I keep praying for my son. Some nights I lie awake wondering, fearing, what the future would be like for my son. I read articles like this one about a parent describing what life is like for someone with a 13-year old son with ASD , and I fear dying before my son can learn to live independently.
For now I can protect my son and comfort him when he is hurt or scared, but no parent can or should do this for the rest of our lives. Our children grow, and we pass on. But hopefully, our comforting words will live in their hearts and give them courage to live their lives.
BE NOT AFRAID
The sky may darken
And let fall the rain
That doesn’t seem to end
The winds may howl
Like a crazed person
Banging on the window
The lightning may strike
And give you a glimpse
Of the dark clouds outside
The thunder may roar
And cow you into hiding
Under your soft blanket
But don’t be afraid,
Mommy’s here to keep you safe
And warm as you sleep and dream
Of a beautiful sunrise when you wake.
Last month, my son, E. had a two-week vacation in China with us. Before we enrolled him in a school for special needs in the Philippines, he spent most of the first 5 years of his young life in China and probably considers it his real home. This vacation was going to be different from last year’s because this time he would see his nainai (paternal grandmother) again after two years.
My husband had thought E. would not recognize her anymore, yet when I told E. that his nainai had arrived, he rushed to the door and had the sweetest smile on his face when he saw her. He reached out his little arms to her, and when she didn’t pick him up, he held her hand and led her to sit on the couch and kissed her. He kissed her cheeks several times.
There were no words between them, as what little Shandong dialect he picked up from her a few years ago had all been forgotten, and the less than 5 English words she picked up from him had all been forgotten as well. But this did not stop them from communicating in their own unique way. They came up with a clapping game that kept him entertained for the next 6 days.
When the time came to say goodbye, E. did not realize he would not see his nainai the next day or the day after that. As he likes airports, he was just happy to run around in the airport and get on the plane. But hours later, when he got out of the car and realized he was back in his other home (in another country) without his father and his nainai, he became very quiet and in the late afternoon he said to me, crying, “Let’s go.”
So we went out with my sisters and my nephew (who have been his companions for the last two years.) I was hoping he just wanted to get out of the house for a while, but when he realized we were still going back to the same house, he cried. That’s when it dawned on me that he wanted to go back to China. The second night after we arrived, he was still unhappy and cried again, so I finally asked him, “ Do you want to see daddy?” He didn’t say anything. “Do you want to see nainai?” He wailed and said, “Nainai!”
I right away made a video call to my husband and asked him to give the phone to his mom. When E. heard her voice, he grabbed the phone from me and looked at his grandma and cried and kissed the phone. It was the most touching thing I have ever seen my son do. He didn’t give the phone back to me for a long time. He just wanted to watch them.
On the third day, he probably realized that he could not really be with his nainai, and that a video call is not the same as being with her, that he did not want to look at her anymore. I don’t know if he feels betrayed by his grandma; I hope he doesn’t because she loves him just as much as he misses her.
We have been home in the Philippines for almost two weeks now, and he’s back to his happy self. E. is such a sweet 7-year -old boy that I keep telling him I love him just as often as he tells people, no matter family, friend or stranger, “I love you” right after greeting them “Hi” or “Good morning” or “Goodbye.”
I dread the day, less than a couple of weeks from now, when I have to say goodbye to him again. But I know he has his way of coping — we’ve been through this before and it’s usually I who take a week to recover.
For an autistic 7-year old who is minimally verbal, E. knows how to communicate his love for the people who love him and has an amazing strength to bear the pain of missing them. I am learning so much from my son.
E. spent two weeks with us in China, and he was quite happy. I made sure he wouldn’t get bored when his father was at work and it was just the two of us. I got him to play with the brush and paint and these are his “works.” Not a single stroke is mine — he did everything by himself. As he doesn’t really know how to hold a pencil properly yet, I thought a paintbrush would be easier for him.
To be honest, I don’t really see any meaning in these three, but I certainly love the colors he chose. I will treasure these “paintings” of E. as if they were masterpieces. No matter what people say or think of them, they are beloved by me because my 7-year old son made them. 💕
After a red-eye flight, a 3-hour layover and another hour and a half flight, I was met at the airport by my sisters, nephew and my son. We then headed to the beach because I wanted to walk along the beach with my son. He loves the water, but he is always afraid to try anything at any new place. This was our first time at this resort.
As always, at first he refused to step into the water when I asked him to. So, I did the routine of me stepping into it and showing him it was fun to get the feet wet. After a few minutes, he signaled for me to go back to where he was standing with my sister, and as soon as I reached out my hand, he clutched it and stepped forward.
After that, he didn’t want to leave anymore.
It was cloudy, but it was still a beautiful Saturday morning with the sound of the waves, the cool breeze and the warm sea water. And the love of my life clutching my hand.
Hope you have a lovely weekend, 💕
My son, E. who is 6 and on the spectrum has made some progress in some areas these past few months that have really made us happy. He used to get awfully scared of the sound of a hair dryer or any loud whirring, buzzing sound, but now he has gotten used to it. I think that it helped that before we actually use the hair dyer, we’d show it to him and tell him we’re going to use it. If he’s not too close, he would just stay where he was. If not, he’d move away.
E. also disliked stepping on patterned rugs. He’d jump over one or ask someone close to move it away, but he would never step on it. Just last month though, my sister told me he has not been avoiding the patterned rugs and actually steps on them.
The one incident last month that made me feel so hopeful was his taking the medicine which he had earlier refused to drink. It was a cough syrup which his doctor had prescribed and which my nephew had also taken before. My nephew who is now a teenager had warned me it smelled and tasted awful (I liked the smell though!) The first time I tried to give it to E., he smelled it and cried and ran away. For the second attempt, my sisters and my nephew helped me restrain him while I tried to make him drink from a medicine cup — he was kicking and screaming and ended up spitting out the (not so cheap) medicine. For the third attempt, I used an oral syringe while he was held by my sisters and nephew. The same thing — kicking, screaming and spitting out the medicine.
Finally, and thank God this came to me, I put some medicine into a cup, put it on the table, stood some three feet away from the table, looked at him, pointed at the cup, and in a louder-than-normal and very firm voice that I seldom use with him, said, “Drink!”
My dearest little boy walked up to the table, picked up the medicine cup and drank the whole thing. He was a little stunned when we all jumped up and yelled, “Yay” and “Good boy!” I swear he gave us a look that seemed to say, “What the hell?” Lol. After that, there was never a problem making him take his medicine.
E. has another trait that I hope one day soon will change. He gets extremely nervous about being touched by certain people. He is a very affectionate boy and likes kissing and hugging and being kissed and hugged in return by family and a few friends, but with strangers or people he’s not very familiar with, he would just scream or run away. In a way this is good because nobody wants to be touched by strangers, but this becomes a problem when we go see a doctor. He once kicked a doctor in the stomach while the good doctor was trying to check his throat. The doctor was sitting in a swivel chair with casters, and E. was on his father’s lap. I was so worried the doctor would get angry, but he was very gracious, and remained calm and spoke gently the whole time.
Two months ago, I brought him to his pediatrician. He wouldn’t even let the doctor use the stethoscope on him. I had to hold the chest piece part while the doctor gave me the instructions as to where put it.
Another problem that this nervousness can bring about is going through security screening at the airport and undergoing a pat-down. More than a couple of times at this one airport that E. has been through at least twice a year in the first 5 years of his life, I’ve been yelled at for not being able to control my child even after I calmly told them he’s autistic (自闭症). But there’s no way I can get angry in such a situation. I always have to remain calm or my son will become even more agitated. I just do the best I can to deal with the hurt and anger because apart from not wanting to make my son’s meltdown get even worse, I know there’s no use begging people to understand when you don’t speak their language.
My son loves airports — he knows the three airports we often go to quite well and usually go straight to the ramp even before boarding announcement, but security screening is very tough for him and for me, as well. It was not so bad when he was still a baby and even as a toddler because I could just carry him. But now, when he’s almost 4 feet tall and runs very fast, it’s a big challenge for me.
But I am hopeful. As he learns more words and he comprehends more, he will be able to go see a doctor and go through security screening without a problem. Just as he overcame his fear of the whirring of the hair dryer, his aversion to patterned rugs and certain medicines, he will overcome this nervousness about being touched.
As a mother, I want my son to learn to overcome these things which to most neurotypical people are so ordinary, so common. Yes, we all have our quirks and things we like or dislike but we can’t expect everyone to tolerate our quirkiness, so we have to learn how to control them. I believe in neuroplasticity and that my son still has a chance to be better adjusted to living in society and not growing up expecting that the rest of the world can understand him, because that’s never gonna happen.