Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Letting go

Sometimes I think that the hardest thing in life is letting go.

When you are a child you have a favorite toy/doll/blanket and at some point, your parents force you to let it go. When we’re kids we have no idea why, and truthfully our parents can’t even really reason with us why it’s necessary. But the good thing is, that toy/doll/blanket is just tucked away somewhere. We can still peek at it once in awhile, even hold it up to our nose and inhale that deep sweet smell of sweat and tears and grime and love. Sure we have to put it back again, but the security of knowing it’s there is sometimes good enough. So even though we’ve let it go what we’ve REALLY done, is just learn to live without it.

This is why death is so difficult. You are forced, usually unexpectedly, to let go of someone that is very dear to you. And there’s no looking back. You just….. let go. And it’s over.

I’ve been married for 11 years but once upon a time I dated a boy that I loved with every fiber of my being. We spent 3 years of our lives together and one day he decided that he just didn’t see himself having children. I had to let him go. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I loved this man desperately as much the day I left him as the day I met him. I felt like my life would never repair. Little did I know, it was the best thing I would ever do. I let him go and…..started over.

When my now 8 year old son Jared was born he had a congenital heart defect and at 8 days old was taken into open heart surgery. When I look back on that time of my life, what is odd to me is that the hardest moment was NOT when they came and told me, “something’s wrong.” Not even when they told me, “Oh my God this is serious, something is REALLY wrong and here’s what it’s called.” It wasn’t even when they took his fragile little 3 day old body in for the first round of surgery. And even though a sea of tears poured out of my eyes as they wheeled him to open heart surgery, the hardest part for me was the day they put him on the helicopter to take him to the University of Michigan hospital. Why? Because at that moment, I had to let him go. I had to trust someone else and put my faith in him that Jared was going to be ok without me. I was only his mother for 5 days at the time, but one thing I knew for sure is that my child needed me at all times. Letting go is not easy, but sometimes the best thing we can do. Clearly this was the best thing I could do for Jared. I let him go and watched that helicopter fly away with my newborn and fell apart. But I had no choice. It was let him go or let him die. I let him go, and his life began. Again.

Today I took Luke to kindergarten. Why this was such a monumental step compared to preschool I don’t know. But it was. We tried really hard to prepare him, we talked about it for weeks, made him social stories, worked really hard at therapy all summer long to get him ready. But he wasn’t ready. And guess what?

Neither was I.

Luke has made amazing strides, and as I’ve said before ~many people who meet Luke ask me, “Where’s the autism?” “He seems pretty ‘normal’ to me.” But today, standing there in a sea of 200 other kindergartners, I couldn’t help but notice mine was the ONLY one screaming. Not the only one clutching his mother, but the only one clutching his mother with such an intense fear in his eyes it makes you want to scoop him up and shelter him for the rest of his life. Mine was the only child who refused, absolutely refused to get in line with the other children. Mine was also the only child whose mother got to walk him to his classroom, with an entourage of 4 other assistants.

We got to Luke’s classroom (he did walk by himself, by the way) and when we got there, I got down on my knees to get to his level. “Look at me, Bubbah.” No looking. He knows. He knows if he looks at me he’s got to own it. And there was no way Luke was going to own this one. Luke was not about to let go. So how could I?

3 members of the entourage stood there, as if to say, “well, what are you going to do now?” And honestly I had no idea. My son, my precious baby, was having such anxiety, such fear that the terror in his eyes was causing me to falter.

I could almost hear the propellers of the helicopter starting to spin.

But today I had a choice, right? I could have told his entourage to screw off, that I was going in with him today. And damnit I could have held his hand, held him all day long if that’s what it took to make him feel better. Better yet (and this thought crossed my mind) maybe I should just home school him? Maybe I should take him back to his preschool for one more year? Maybe he’s not ready?

The propellers are getting louder, I’m starting to feel the wind kick up.

The moment of truth.

The entourage is waiting for me to make a decision.

And I let him go.

And just like Jared, today Luke started a new life. A life without me. A life of independence from me. When his team literally pried him away from me (and it took two adults to do so) they may as well have ripped my heart right out of my beating chest, because that’s what it felt like.

Letting go is one of the hardest things in life. But most of the time, it ends up being the best thing we can do.

After he left my arms, I ran to the stairwell around the corner and didn’t look back. I just sat there and cried. I cried while I listened to his screams.

Because autism is when you can’t communicate why you are so bloody scared of a classroom.
Autism is when the transition from summer to school is so painful all you can think to do is scream.
Autism is when things that are new cause you so much anxiety, it actually hurts.
Autism is when you don’t want to let go of things that are precious to you, like your routine. Or your mom.

Overcoming autism is learning to let go and being ok with it.

Wait a minute, being a parent is learning to let go and being ok with it.

Let the helicopter come. I’m ready. Luke’s ready. I let him go. He let me go. A new journey begins.

When I picked Luke up, he was smiling. His entourage gave me a good report and were extremely encouraging about his day. His screaming lasted about 30 minutes, as did my tears.

And Luke got not one, but TWO new transformers today!


Myra McEntire said...

Please, please, write a freaking book already. I'm going to start querying agents for you. You have SUCH AMAZING THINGS TO SAY. I have vodka and powdered donuts on standby ... let me know what you need.

Leigh and Andy said...

Tears....for both you and Luke. For having to let him go, and having him be OK at the end of the day. The word AMAZING doesn't even come close to describing you and Luke.

Tara said...

Seriously, your writing is beautiful!!
I hope today is better for Binkers and you. I'll be thinking about you guys.

Jenny said...

You've got to stop writing blogs that make me cry!! This was a good one and I really got it. Parker did that the 1st day of 2nd grade and it was horrible. The school counselor had to come down and pry him off me so I could leave. Thankfully he's never done it since (what a difference a great teacher makes -thank you Mrs. Lareau). Anyways, I'll keep thinking of you guys.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry that I don't keep up with your blog. It is absolutely amazing. You are able to say all the things I am thinking and feeling about my son who is 5 and has autism. He is such a wonderful and beautiful boy and I love him with all my being. Thank you so much for sharing your family with us. I help my son back this year and did not send him to school although he was old enough to go. I dread that first day. You have helped me in so many ways and I thank you for that.

April said...

Thank you for the sweet, kind works, Erin. I promise y'all, I'll have a new post soon. One is bubbling up... =)

C.J. Redwine said...

*big giant hugs* Hugs for both the day you let Luke go (It's so HARD to be the one making the tough choices, isn't it?) and for today.

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