The lifeguard blew his whistle and Debbie let out an ear piercing, high pitched scream that could put a dog whistle to shame. And the screech landed not only in Joey’s ears, but the neighboring toddlers and their fathers as well. Deb knew the whistle was coming. Plus, I took the time to ask the lifeguard to blow softer so that she wouldn’t get upset. It didn’t matter. I forgot to give her the one minute warning and off she went. After about two minutes, I managed to calm her down and get her out of the pool. Threats of taking away Pizza Hut holds a lot of water with Debbie.
When it came time to go back in the pool the lifeguard kindly came over to us and told us we could go back in. He said that he didn’t want to blow the whistle because he didn’t want to upset her. I thanked him for his acceptance and understanding and told his mom that she had raised her son right. We were the only ones at the pool and Debbie was thrilled to have the place to herself. Joey, in the meantime, chose to remain on the sidelines lounging in a chair.
We stayed for another half-hour and then walked home. I noticed that Joe was in a rush to leave and even though he kept denying that something was wrong, I knew there was.
As we were walking home I kept at him to tell me what was bothering him. He finally admitted to me that he was embarrassed.
“Mom,” he said, “sometimes I just wish she was normal!” I explained to him that I understood his embarrassment and that there were times that I wished the same thing. But then I gave him some advice.
“Joe,” I said, “there are always two choices. You can choose to either wallow in self-pity about how difficult your life with a sister who has autism is or you can take a deep breath, suck it up, and move on with your life. I can’t change the fact that she has autism. I can do things for her like ask the lifeguard to blow his whistle softly to help make life easier for her. But I can’t change the fact that she has autism. All I can do is chalk it up to she had a difficult time at the pool today and then move on with life. I refuse to wallow. I choose to accept her as she is and the same choice is yours. You can wallow or accept. What do you choose to do?”
We walked the rest of the way home in silence and I let him ponder what I had said. When he was ready to talk he told me that he chooses to accept her for who she is. We processed through it a bit more and I pointed out to him the positives of our situation at the pool today.
“You know, Joe, it could have been so much worse. There was a time when we would have had to leave right away because she would have had an uncontrollable meltdown. She calmed down really quick, dried her tears, and got back in the pool. She didn’t let the whistle ruin the rest of her day and she is quite willing to go back to the pool tomorrow.”
“That’s true, Mom. Sigh…it’s all good.”
Yes Son, it is. It’s all good. There was a time when a situation like this would have bothered me and consumed me for the rest of the day. Now it barely phases me. The more I look at Debbie and see how far she has come in this journey, the more I realize just how far I have come as well. On the other hand however, I totally get how Joey felt today and he has every right to those feelings. But as I told him before the screaming started, he is amazing with Debbie. He is patient and he understands her. And on most days he jams with life with her. Even though today was hard for him tomorrow will be easier because it is all good! xoxoxo ~ Julie