April 12, 2009

Saint Easter Fairy

I grew up believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I can't tell you exactly when I found out the truth about each one but I don't remember being very traumatized. It just seemed like a fun tradition, so when I had my own kids, I kept that tradition going. Recently, I've been second-guessing the wisdom in keeping those traditions alive. Do I really want to have to explain to my children that I've been lying to them all this time?

Doing without these traditions has benefits though. We've had to leave the Tooth Fairy notes on more than one occasion explaining that there was a tooth left but she probably couldn't find it under all the pillows so could she please come back and try it again? We were as polite as possible even though I knew full well that Tooth Fairy just fell asleep on the job!

The belief of Santa Claus brings with it an endless amount of questions that you have to try and come up with an answer for. Questions such as: How do reindeer fly? How can Santa get in when we don't have a chimney? I haven't been good all year, am I going to get coal? Why didn't Santa get me (fill in the blank) from my list? We provide answers for all of these but it's only more lies. And how do you tie Santa into the birth of Jesus?

The Easter Bunny is even harder to explain. We're supposed to be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus and in order to do that, we put on new, frilly clothes and have a giant bunny come and hide colorful eggs that may or may not be filled with candy and treats. Where was the connection again?

I don't mind giving my kids a quarter or fifty cents when they lose a tooth; it's fun. But why does it have to be the Tooth Fairy that does it? Why can't it be Mom and Dad?

Why couldn't we explain the true story of St. Nicholas and let our kids know that Santa is really the spirit of Christmas? That the point is to look out for others the way that God was looking out for us when He gave us Jesus?

Why can't we have an Easter celebration without a giant rabbit? Couldn't we have an egg hunt and let the kids know that the eggs represent new life, the new life we have with Jesus? Couldn't it be about God instead of bunnies and candy?

The thing about starting my kids on these beliefs is I don't know how to stop them. My kids are 10, 8, and 6 and they all believe 100% in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. I've decided to tell them the truth before but I always sabotage myself. Before we went to Grandma's last night to dye eggs, I had decided that when we were done, I would tell the kids the truth about the Easter Bunny. Well, on the way home, a small brown bunny ran across the road. I stopped the car so all the kids could see it. When it finally ran off in a flash of white fluffy tail, I turned to the kids with uncontrolled enthusiasm and said, "Maybe it's the Easter Bunny!" What is wrong with me?! Of course the kids were excited. They thought it was great that they got to see the real Easter Bunny. Corban decided after we got home that maybe it wasn't actually the Easter Bunny, but he knows the real one is out there. So that meant I had to be the Easter Bunny for another year. They found eggs around the house this morning that you-know-who must have hid. It certainly couldn't have been Mommy and Daddy.

So how do I back track and get out of all this without breaking their hearts? I love to watch them light up whenever they think that one of the Trifecta of Holiday Gift-Givers has been to see them. They're so sweet. But it can't last forever. Sometimes I feel bad that I've let it go on this long, much less started it altogether. Because, really, Santa and the Easter Bunny and Miss Fairy have nothing to do with their respective holidays. They are NOT what my kids should be focused on. The question is, do I tell them now or do I let them find out on their own?

April 10, 2009

To Sassy, From God

God is so good. Last night, Sassy and I were heading to a baby shower. We were driving and listening to the Christian music station when her favorite song came on, "Here I am to Worship." She sang along quite enthusiastically and I soaked up every second of it. When the song was over, she asked if I thought "Our God is an Awesome God" was going to come on. It comes on occasionally but the odds of it coming on before we got to the church building were slim so I just answered a generic, "I don't know." Another song came on and her question was forgotten. But when that song was over, just as we were exiting the freeway, "Our God is an Awesome God" began to play. We were very excited and I told Sassy that God was playing it just for her. But that wasn't all He had in store. We noticed a rainbow in the sky as the song was playing. It's probably been years since we've seen one. But here we were, listening to her song and looking at this beautiful sign from God. As we pulled into the parking lot, the song ended and the rainbow was blocked from sight, but I made sure she knew that she'd just been given a very special gift from God. I'm so thankful that He made Himself known to her in that way. God is so very good.

April 2, 2009

World Autism Day

Today is World Autism Day. In honor of this day and of my Bubba who was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism at the age of 23 months, I wanted to share some stats about Autism. If your life has not been touched directly by Autism, you probably know someone who has. Please take a moment to read over this. Feel free to share it with anyone who may benefit.

Autism is a neurobiological disorder for which there is no known cause, prevention or cure.

1 in 150 people are diagnosed with Autism. It affects more people than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. (*That number is now 1 in 88*)

It occurs 4 times more often in boys than in girls.

Autism impairs the ability to communicate and relate to others.

It typically results in rigid routines and behaviors and can range from mild to quite severe (to the point of a person being "locked" inside themselves without the ability to communicate or even "notice" others).

Some children are this way from birth while others seem to have just "lost" skills and regressed (as was the case with Bubba).

Parents are usually the first ones to detect anything is wrong while many pediatricians take a "let's wait and see" approach. As a result, many of us parents find ourselves having to educate our pediatricians in the latest research and therapies.

Early intervention is absolutely critical.

Intervention and therapy can include physical, occupational, and speech therapy; biomedical intervention; special diets; social training. All of these are expensive (speech therapy is around $200/hr) and most are not covered by insurance.

Every child has different symptoms and responds to different therapies. There is no one way or standard for treating this.

Raising a child with Autism is hard, very hard. It's a lifetime job. It's lonely, frustrating, maddening, sad, surprising, depressing, rewarding, draining.

Autistic children look "normal" and so if they act up in public, people assume that you just have a bratty child and should be disciplining better. Many are even quick to let you know what they think about your parenting.

Many couples with an Autistic child end up divorced.

Many pediatricians don't keep up with the latest information that comes up about Autism because it's all anecdotal. Meaning, there isn't concrete medical research to back it up. How can there be? Every child has different traits and responds to different things. There is no way to do any conclusive studies when that's the case. And the funding is definitely not there. And so moms of Autism are experts on the subject. We've read all the books, studied the research, tried every option. You have a question about Autism? Find a mom of Autism, not a doctor.

I feel especially lucky in that Bubba responded so well, so quickly to intervention but he will always have his "issues" and life wasn't always this easy. He lost speech around 13-14 months and didn't speak again until he was 4. MC and I didn't go out together once in 3 years. For 3 or 4 years, I HATED going to church. It was just a battle of how long we could make it before Bubba was just too unmanageable and we would have to leave.

It's hard to call on even family and friends to help. If you're not even sure how to deal with your own child, how can you ask someone else to? Honestly, sometimes it's even hard to keep loving your own child when he's been biting you, screaming at you for hours, trying to claw your eyes out or even choking you, and all this during a time when you never hear him say mommy or daddy and definitely not I love you. Maybe he never will? How can you ask someone else to give him the same kind of unconditional love? It's not realistic. And so as moms, we are typically isolated and alone. No matter how many fits someone may have witnessed my son throw, they have never seen him at his worst. I'm not even sure if Dad (in my case at least since I'm the stay at home parent) has seen the depths that I have.

If it's possible to have a "typical" case of Autism, Bubba is not it. Most kids deal with more issues than he does. If you know Bubba, he seems like a "normal" kid nowadays. This should not be your picture of Autism. Autism is not just having a quirky kid. If you know someone who has an Autistic child, just stop and give them a hug. It's nice to have physical contact that doesn't come from having to restrain or redirect a speeding freight train of energy and determination.

I know this is long, but if you read this, parents of Autistic children will thank you for taking the time to try to understand it better. God bless your day!