Monday, June 11, 2012

Hugs

I just put Owen to bed and when I walked towards his bed, his arms were outstretched waiting for my hug. It was the second night in a row and the hugs are getting sweeter. Last night I was nearly giddy because the hug included a squeeze with pats on the back. Tonight as I walked away, his hand snapped out of his blanket to grab my arm and he pulled me back. I leaned down to ask what he wanted and I felt his kiss on my cheek. Then on the other. It's our little dance. After the cheek, the nose, the forehead, the chin, then a last peck, followed by a huge hug.

My Owen can't tell me he loves me. But these moments tell me more than words ever can.



I don't take it for granted. When Owen was an infant, I could hold him. As autism more obviously affected him as he passed his first birthday -though we didn't yet have the word 'autism' to name what was happening to him, Owen was not a toddler who would leap into his mama's arms. He would rather be alone and would rather be lost in his own space with Lego blocks, than cuddled up to Mom or Dad.


It was rejection, pure and simple. And there isn't a worse feeling than to be rejected by your child, especially a toddler. Parents and their children can grow apart with time, as disappointment, betrayal and pain can cause walls to go up between them. While painful, it's understandable that children can create walls to protect themselves, and in so doing, they push back against their parents. But with Owen, there was no reason. He was too young to have lived any experiences to feel nothing but safe with us. It hurt. Pretty bad.

I credit the croup with forcing Owen to let me hold him again. Right around his second birthday, Owen came down with this scary, barking cough and we spent a night in the emergency department. He had to endure a round of steroids administered through a facial mask. There was no chance he was going to allow this without a fight, so I spent several hours pinning him down to my chest, while he fought me like a wildcat, mask upon his face. After an hour or so, I felt his body go slack and he gave up fighting. It was a huge moment for us. As his body relaxed, he seemed to not just give in, but to acknowledge and accept that I was holding him out of love. He rolled from his back to his front and with his chest to mine, I felt his arms go around my neck and his head rest on my shoulder. He never fought my hugs again.



The twins are nine years old now. Owen is a cuddler, but it's on his own terms and in his own time. Will loves his hugs and kisses and likes to count them out loud.. sometimes you need to count them with him in a Sesame Street character voice. Jake has developed a recent affinity for kissing me atop my head and it feels like foreshadowing of what is to come as he grows taller than his mom and leans down for a peck. I am a lucky mom and I know it. My heart bleeds for all of the parents out there to children with autism and/or sensory integration disorder, who aren't as fortunate as I am. My hope is that they are told "I love you" in other ways and they are open enough to hear it. Sending out hugs to all of you..

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