Last year, especially in the fall, we were having a terrible time with Aaron’s behaviors. He was generally miserable, and so therefore everyone around him was miserable as well. Poor behaviors, no filters, and an inability to figure out cause and effect, can certainly produce some headaches for everyone. It’s the side of autism as well as the effects of seizures, at least for Aaron and for others that I know, that is most difficult to understand. Difficult, too, to have compassion and empathy for our adult Aaron when he is hurtful with his words and careless with his actions.
Aaron seems so high functioning. He is, in many ways, just that. So it’s very hard to decipher when he is manipulating us and being willfully disobedient, and when he is truly on a track that he just cannot control.
We see a wonderful psychiatrist for Aaron’s autism. Gary and I resisted any drug intervention for a long time, but eventually years ago we decided it was time to see if medicines would help Aaron. Several have been tried over the years. We feel that we have found a beneficial drug now. The change in Aaron has been dramatic, for the better. Perfection? No. But the improvement we’ll take, for sure!
Since we increased Aaron’s dose of this medicine in January, he has done so well at his day group and at home that it’s been like a vacation. Well, not totally – but definitely we have seen positive strides.
But then this week happened. It’s not been over-the-top awful with Aaron, but he hasn’t been his chipper and happy self as much as in the past few months, either. He had been collecting steam for two days, disgruntled in the mornings and just very edgy. Yesterday morning he was fully on track for a bad day, and I didn’t have the ability to derail him, try as I might.
To add to the volatile mix, I am very vulnerable right now. Honestly, I don’t handle holidays very well sometimes. That’s because I miss our two kids who live too far away to come home quickly. My loneliness for them runs deep during holiday time…..any holiday……and I am more emotional. Easter is this Sunday. I love what this time of year is all about. I long to live every moment in the victory that is mine in Christ. Then along comes Aaron…..
God bless him! I picked him up from his day group yesterday. For maybe one minute things were fine. Then he told me that he had given his money away….again….and that he did do this and didn’t do that. And I was just done. I didn’t yell, but I lectured, which is almost always ineffective with Aaron. We can do this and we won’t do that and maybe so-and-so…… And I was cold and distant, which makes Aaron feel abandoned.
We were home, I was in the kitchen, and Aaron kept coming in to say one more word…..to throw one more barb at me. It’s amazing to see how he thinks. How I can be making a profound point, eyeball to eyeball with him, and then to have him open his mouth and still be way back at where he was in the beginning, totally not connecting things the way most of us would.
He finally bent over, hands rubbing furiously together like he does when he’s excited…..but this time he was NOT excited……and his eyes were wide and wild.
“I don’t love you anymore!!” he said through firm lips.
And he waited for my response. I turned my back and it hit me. I am vulnerable. I am tired. I am emotional.
It’s the perfect time for Satan to attack. He is no gentleman. He loves to kick Christians when we are down. I knew that the adversary of my soul would have been thrilled for me to lash out at Aaron with my words……to release all my pent up anger at him……and then to blame my reaction on Aaron and on my emotions and even on the upcoming holiday!
I had asked some friends earlier in the day to pray for Aaron. I know they were praying for me, as well. And there in the kitchen, with my back to angry Aaron, I prayed, too. I asked God for peace, for wisdom, and especially for Satan to be defeated right then and there. I claimed God’s power over our home and over this situation, recognizing that His power was and is all that I need.
I hoped for time with Gary alone when he came home from work, before Aaron bombarded him unexpectedly with all the sordid details of the day. That doesn’t often happen, but God was so good. Aaron was busy in his room when I saw Gary’s truck pull in. I was able to meet him in the garage, where he knew right away that something was wrong. We had alone time to talk before Aaron burst through the door. Gary was ready then, able to be kind and calm, with understanding.
I was amazed at the happy Aaron that came in the house soon after! He ate supper with us and acted as if nothing happened. I was so thankful! And after Gary and I cleaned the table, Gary told me to come with him as he headed out the door for a walk around the yard. That sounded wonderful to me!
But it also sounded wonderful to Aaron, who of course knew what we were doing. My heart sank a little as he followed us outside. He didn’t care that he was wearing his pajamas already…..didn’t care who might see him……didn’t care that he wasn’t wearing shoes. So I told him to take off his socks, and he happily joined us for a stroll outside.
It actually turned into a very sweet time. Gary showed Aaron the sunflower plants that were popping up in the garden from last year’s seeds that had dropped in the soil. Gary pointed out the deer tracks all around, the toad jumping in the water, the clearing he’s been doing out back, and the new grass seed planted. He pointed out an ant hill and how busy the ants were working.
He showed Aaron how the oak tree is budding and how the buds look like baby pineapples.
He showed Aaron the oak tree seed pods that fly like a helicopter when you throw them in the air…..things that Aaron knows but that are fun to see again with fresh eyes. Then Aaron threw one up and watched it land.
Suddenly Aaron remembered something that HE wanted to show Gary. It’s something that I had pointed out to Aaron a couple days earlier.
“DAD!!! Come look at this plant!” Aaron insisted.
We followed Aaron, with me knowing where he was headed, and we found him standing there just staring at the Lilac bush. I love the way he stops and stares at things that interest him, as if he’s absorbing every detail…..which he probably is.
Aaron then leaned over and smelled the sweet lilac scent, and Gary and I followed.
I was filled with more than the smell of lilacs. I was filled with reminders of how important it is to give Aaron time…..time to work through his frustrations and anger without losing mine. Time to hopefully express himself better. Time to join Gary and me in a few moments of simple pleasures. Time for him to see and to know that he is loved. Time to hopefully show him how to live in thankfulness for all that God has given him.
If I’ve learned anything with Aaron and with autism, it’s that taking time is absolutely necessary.
Take time to smell the flowers.
Take time to understand our Aaron.