How Can I Help?
I have several close friends who have walked with me, lovingly and faithfully, through this year of crazy. I realize this makes me incredibly blessed. I know not every mom, no matter what their child’s circumstances, has a strong support system.
This makes me sad.
I am not sure I would even be sane at this point without my girls.
Yet, I know they have struggled with knowing how to help, or what to do when seeing their friend go through this day to day that is high functioning autism. As a tribute to them, and in an effort to help anyone who might not know how best to step in and help a mom living with all of this, I would like to share exactly what they do to bless me, relieve me, humor me, and take care of me.
1. Don’t Take It Personally
One of the things that has been the biggest help to me, is feeling the freedom from my friends to just do what I need to do, without any pressure or questions. If I fail to show up for a playdate at the last minute, or bail on a girl’s night that has been planned for weeks, all I have to do is text we are having a bad day, and I am met with sweet, loving “no big deals”. This is HUGE.
The reality is that my son may be having such an intense, violent meltdown that we can’t possibly, safely, even think about getting in a car (future blog post about meltdowns – I promise). Or, maybe my head hurts from having something thrown at it, or my little guy has been fearful all day and just wants me to stay in tonight and snuggle. Or, maybe it’s nothing this dramatic. Maybe I am simply tired, feeling defeated and just want the chance to check out a bit. It doesn’t matter why. The ladies in my life have never asked for an explanation. They trust that I am doing the best that I can, and that it is not personal. What a gift.
2. Sometimes Just Showing Up Is Enough
We have a young couple, without kids, that we love to hang out with. They are fun and kind and cute and fun. They cannot relate to any of this, and we don’t expect them to. What we love is that they just keep showing up, whenever we can make it, even if it’s just for coffee on a Saturday morning while the boys play games or to drop off something, say hi and then leave. They are awesome at just being faithful to show up.
And we love it.
3. Don’t Assume Anything
I know that it can be difficult watching and wondering where it all went wrong. When you see my son lose it at the park, refuse to eat anything that is being served at lunch, or try and punch his brother in the head, I know it is tough to avoid thinking that parenting style/choices may be to blame.
The truth is, I am not sure where the line between my parenting and his sensory issues/rigid thinking/social awkwardness ends. The truth is, it doesn’t matter.
We are all doing the best we can to figure this parenting thing out. When you judge, I know it. I can tell. I can feel it. I can see it in your face. And it is never helpful.
Fortunately, those that are closest to me, have never put me in this position. They don’t assume anything..or if they do, they love me enough to set it aside and just love.
4. Physically Offer Assistance
Oh my goodness, I don’t even know where to start on this one. I think I will just list all the ways we have been physically, actively blessed by our friends.
– picking up one of the boys so that they can have a break from each other
– bringing me groceries or dinner or wine (especially wine sometimes)
– patching and painting a wall in our house that had damage from a meltdown
– giving financial assistance to help as bills pile up from the therapies that are never covered by insurance
– meeting me at the laundromat to help fold and keep me company while I catch up on a mountain of neglected laundry
– joining us on one of our field trips even though you and your children have no interest in the topic that is the fixation of the month
– babysitting, and encouraging us to take as much time as we need
– going to lunch with my husband so he can vent about how hard his life is in all of this too
– praying for us
– sending a text with much needed scripture
I really could go on and on. I am blinking back tears now as I see all of this written out. This is astounding.
This life is so isolating sometimes, yet I look at this list and I realize we are so far from alone. (note to self: no more negative self-talk about how lonely this is…)
5. Love My Kids
I would like to just repeat this last one over and over again. By far, this is the most helpful thing anyone can do.
When your child is “different”, it is easy to focus only on the different when you are with others – especially others that seemingly have perfectly normal, well adjusted, well mannered, clean, cute kids. The sweetest gift is when someone tells me, “I just love your boys…they are wonderful”. Or even better, when you happily interact with my boys, talking with them about their interests, encouraging them, telling them they are funny, that you can’t believe how much they know about cooking/snakes/aquariums/coralreefs/therevolutionarywar/hydroponics.
When you love my boys, you love me in the best possible way.
If you are a friend, thank you for being so much like Jesus in our lives. We will never know how to properly say thank you.
If you are a mom in a similar situation, I pray that you have friends like mine, or that God will bring them to you. I also pray that you will be open to receiving help and love in any form. Sometimes, that’s the hardest part – people want to help us, but we are too ashamed, or prideful to accept it. I am here to encourage you – just say yes. God loves us through others. Let Him!