Our Family Habit
For the past 16 years I have hardly ever taken out the trash. It is not because I am a hoarder (Although I still have a way to go before I can be a minimalist…). On multiple occasions, I would be laying in bed and I would hear the sound of the garbage truck and it would suddenly occur to me that I had forgotten to put the trash out. Again.
So one time I asked my then 5 year old son Z to take out the trash. I figured it was time for him to start helping out, and he was so excited to do so; doing it with a big grin on his face. He was so proud of helping out and decided that he would be the trash can putter outer. Every week since then, for 16 years, he has put the trash out every night before trash collection. We’ve gotten so accustomed to it that that once he was gone for a week and the trash didn’t get put out, because he wasn’t around to remember that it was trash day. Now it’s so routine that if for some reason he isn’t going to be around, he reminds me multiple times “Mom don’t forget to put out the trash.”
Anyways, Autism is a disorder rooted firmly in habit, and in many ways it is our family’s habit. Sometimes it has its benefits (like the trash getting out for trash day). Other times, it is really challenging (like having to stay behind a slow moving vehicle because my child will freak out for whatever reason if I switch lanes). But it always just remains part of our family’s routine.
People are always telling me that they don’t know how I “do it”. I suppose they’re referring to the fact that I’m a single mother with four children, three on the spectrum, going to school and working and doing it all on my own with no help from my former co-parent and on very little sleep on top of it. Here’s a little secret: some days I don’t know how I do it, either. I’m always tired and I’m always broke and I very rarely get time to myself. And even I hear a little voice in my head saying “I don’t know how I’m going to make this all work.”
I can tell you, though, why I do it. I do it because it is my life, and my children, and my honor to take care of them. Sure things could be easier and I could freely be able to pass cars on the freeway or have one day without being asked the same question one million times. Things could be easier if I wasn’t constantly wondering about things like paying the bills or trying to plan for my children’s future for life. I could have a life where terms like “IEP” were completely foreign to me, or I didn’t have to worry about whether or not my kid was going to have a meltdown in a public place. I could have all of those and a million other differences that I would not have without autism, but then something tells me that my life wouldn’t be quite as colorful.
(I do wonder how it would be if just one day I wasn’t looking for someone’s shoe in the refrigerator or some other random place).
I do have someone who takes out the trash, though.
I think I’ll be okay.