It’s Teacher Appreciation Week and I have been so excited to take part in spoiling the teachers at my son’s school. The sentiments aren’t necessarily grand and outdone, but they were planned with love and compassion and, above all, immense appreciation for these incredible individuals who move mountains for our kids everyday.
Teaching is such a monumentally rewarding, yet taxing profession. I still carry residual exhaustion from my years in the classroom, but it prepared me so well for the demands of special needs parenting. You learn to look for and work for small wins everyday for both you and your students’ sake. You sometimes yearn for the year to move at lightning’s pace because you’re exhausted beyond belief, but then other times you can’t bare the thought of seeing them grow up and start new chapters in their lives without you.
I think I’m at that stage right now with Nico. I keep looking at him and seeing this grown up kid who has progressed in so many ways. I don’t see his Autism as much on a daily basis like I used to. He’s still my baby, of course, but he is maturing and really becoming such a big kid. Now, I could be feeling this way because I have a two and half year old who is definitely living his “best terrible twos life” and creating quite the juxtaposition, so naturally Nico seems more mature.
But, I’m appreciating the idea that I can lean on Nico for some typical “big brother” tasks and he is able to do them. It’s nothing too big of an ask, but like when I need to wrangle in my little guy because he’s bouncing off the walls and we’re all ready to initiate bedtime routines, I can say to Nico—“Tell Max it’s time for bed. We must relax now.”—Nico will go to Max and work his toddler-wrangling magic. Sometimes Max listens and sometimes he could give a rats, but the fact that I can lean on my son in that way and for him to understand and empathize with my plight is beyond astounding to me.
This is a child that still, for much of his day, likes to do his own thing and doesn’t really engage with me or the rest of the family without us initiating it. However, knowing that when Max has said “Can you help me?” (a few hundred times in his precious then pig squeal little voice) to anyone who will listen, Nico has gone to Max and helped him. Without asking what Max needs or even knowing beforehand, Nico has cultivated this protective instinct as a big brother.
He has helped Max off the bar stool so he didn’t fall. He has gone to the stairs when Max was starting to climb them on his own and grabbed his hand (albeit almost pulling him down the stairs in the process because he knew Max had to “come down”) before I could get there to protect him from taking a spill. And, he gives his baby brother so many passes—more than Max deserves, that’s for sure—when he’s being obnoxious and loud and invading Nico’s space.
I’ve truly become so appreciative of these little moments and milestones. I’m savoring this time with Nico more and more because it feels so fragile, almost fleeting. My boys are coming into a point in their relationship where they are beginning to really see each other. They are enjoying each other and building a bond that I always hoped would come, but didn’t know how it would materialize.
And although Nico still has so much catching up to do academically, socially and emotionally, I love that in our home he is showing such growth as an active part of our family. After all, it’s his family who I want him to be the most responsive to and know that he can be the most comfortable around. I know the rest of it will come eventually over time.
I’m just learning to appreciate the moments I’m sharing with my boys in my home doing little more than nothing, because it’s building their bond.
Our drives in the car with the boys jamming to Nico’s favorite songs are building their bond.
Dancing in the kitchen to Meghan Trainor and Passion Pit because Nico’s music gets him up and moving every single time with Max never far behind.
Max stealthily sneaking Nico’s goldfish crackers and running for the coveted corner of the couch when Nico goes to the bathroom is, surprisingly, growing their bond.
Nico trying to get Max to chase him, which is never hard to do, by running around the house and saying “Bro bro come get me!” This is definitely growing their bond and helping Nico use his words in a functional way.
I’m excited at the prospect of Max getting older and engaging with Nico more because he will have had so much time to learn who his brother is, and be able to hopefully encourage Nico to do more outside of his comfort zone.
And although they may take very different paths in life, which is exactly what I want for them, I know that it’s these little moments that are cementing the connection that will always pull them back to each other long after I’m gone.
Appreciating the little moments has brought me immense happiness. I keep trying to instill this in my boys; it’s so much better to be happy. It’s better for your heart, head, and health. I have to remember this every time I feel the walls closing in on me or the air being sucked out of my lungs because I am having a hard day with Nico and I want to be mad at Autism.
I’m going to instead get the speakers out, put “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire on—another Nico jam—pull the boys into the kitchen and start dancing. That will, for sure, bring on the happiness.
I will also remember to appreciate my Mom’s simple advice: this too shall pass.
And I can’t help but think about her right now as I write this. It’s Mother’s Day weekend and although I miss her deeply, I do truly know she is never far away from me.
How do I know? Because the woman sitting next to me right now…5/7/2022…who just told me I have a lovely smile…her name is Jean.
I’m tellin’ you, its all about the little things….