PUZZLES & CAMO BY SHELLY HUHTANEN
There is nothing a caring neighbor with a delicious muffin can’t mend, or the sense of comfort knowing a sister warrior lives down the street that feels my anxiety and stress.
Over exaggerated. Hostile. Aggressive. Combative. Unstable. Haven’t we heard these terms before when describing parents fighting for their special needs kids? My son is regressing in his school and I’m furious. I’m angry and it is consuming my life. I have another son to care for and I’m not giving him near the love and attention he deserves. At this point, all I can do is feed him, bathe him and make sure he is in bed on time. Folks, that’s all I got left in me. I’m sure I will be subject to many of my son’s therapy sessions when he’s older. My husband told me this morning that I apologize for everything with my typical son. I told him that I’m just practicing because I’m sure I will have a lot of apologizing to do when he’s a grown man. Sometimes I wonder if Broden knows just how much we love him and how hard we fight to ensure he’s educated and cared for each day.
When I’m having a bad day, whatever I do does not seem to be enough. I joke with my husband that there should be a requirement that when your child is diagnosed with autism, there should be training immediately to become a special education lawyer and board certified behavior analyst. If I only had a quarter for every time I yelled, “Man, I wish I was a special education lawyer!” or “Crap, why haven’t I gone to school to become a behavioral analyst yet!?” The answer is because I can’t be everything. I can’t be the expert in everything and I have to rely on others for help in caring and educating Broden. Due to this revelation, I am angry. I’m angry because no one loves Broden like Mark, Hayden and I love him. He deserves the best. He deserves the best all the time and when the best isn’t given, Mark and I have to fight.
Mark is the yin to my yang, the pea to my pod, and the good cop when I’m always the screaming hostile bad cop. He knows when I’m about to lose it in an IEP meeting and is there to hold me tight outside of the school when all I want to do is go back into the school and fight some more. Mark tells me the cup is half full when I’m trying to convince him it’s half empty. He tells me to focus on all the good things that are around us. I look to my neighbor, Nicole, who is an amazing cook. She reminds me there is a reason for everything as I see the cross necklace she wears around her neck everyday. My neighbor knows she can’t take my pain away and she can’t make my son’s school do the right thing, but she’ll run into her house to make me pumpkin and banana muffins. Nicole is making my jeans tighter one muffin at a time. She is the escape I need when I can’t take the stress in my life anymore. She’s the hope that I’m still me, and my family will get through it because there is no other option. We have to endure because we have to truly believe that we’ll be stronger in the end.
When I need a friend who understands, Nikki is just down the street on the corner, a friend who is walking the walk with me. She also is a mom raising a son with autism, who fights only for the best because that is what her son deserves. When she asks me how I’m doing, I don’t have to say much. She knows the deal. I’m tired, I’m weary and I’m holding on to hope that my son is going to be ok. Her soft smile is comforting because she gets it. She’s my sister warrior. She takes time out of her busy day to build up my armor before a fight and calms me afterwards to ensure me that everything will be all right in the end. Nothing can replace that sense of comfort knowing she fights along side me. Nothing.
I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m hostile. I’m emotional. I’m unstable. I’m loved. I’m cared for and I know I’m ready for the fight. Broden deserves the best and there is no denying we’ll fight to get there. It is evident that the end may not be in sight, but I’m reminded that there is nothing a caring neighbor with a delicious muffin can’t mend, or the sense of comfort knowing a sister warrior lives down the street that feels my anxiety and stress. We are not alone. I am not alone.•
There is nothing a caring neighbor with a delicious muffin can’t mend, or the sense of comfort knowing a sister warrior lives down the street that feels my anxiety and stress. Ramblings of a Mother Warrior
FIGHTING MAD: “We have to endure because we have to truly believe that we’ll be stronger in the end.”
PUZZLES & CAMO
Shelley Huhtanen is an Army wife with two children, one with autism, whose husband is currently stationed at Fort Hood, TX. She is an autism advocate and currently the parent liaison for the Academy for Exceptional Learners.