Why I've Been Happy in Quarantine With My Son on the Autism Spectrum
I have been happy lately. Very busy, exhausted by the end of the day, but very content and much at peace. So, in these times of pandemic and lockdown, what is it that’s making me smile more often? It’s the fact that we are not meeting people. While I have had some wonderful experiences and some really unfortunate ones, going out has, in general, been very stressful. Navigating public places, while trying to ignore the curious stares at my son; the judging glances and the constant walking on eggshells to ensure my son stays safe and keeps a reasonable distance from people around him who can sometimes become his object of interest…all of that is no more a concern. I don’t even have to watch my son playing alone while the other kids cluster together, planning their next escapade. I don’t come back from his school disappointed about his limited participation in all the recitals, theatre, sports, and other extracurricular activities. I am no more nervously anticipating that phone call from his school asking me to pick him up because he is having a bad day, nor am I biting my nails every afternoon waiting for my son to come back home from school so that I can read his daily school log that is normally filled with things he was unable to do and a count of how many instances of “behaviors” he had. No more bickering with the school either, trying to make sense of every bit of his school time.
It’s a relief ! I feel free! It’s an antithesis! I am busy the whole day now constantly watching over my son, planning his day to keep him busy and cooking way more than I normally do, but I still feel free! I feel way more in control of things and that is both empowering and calming. Though I wish for the lockdown to be over soon because of the adverse impact it’s having on the lives of many, I am still thankful for it. There have been days of frustration and days when I am filled with new enthusiasm. It’s still been a rollercoaster, but it’s my rollercoaster and I get to choose its speed. When the lockdown started, I was nervous. I had no clue what the days ahead would look like. Having my son home all day, with not much of a structure or routine, was not something I foresaw as a successful plan. The initial few days were a mess, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I was blindsided by our little failures and completely overlooked the small progress we were making. I was disappointed more often at things my son was not able to do. It was all about me and how I was feeling. It was never about what my son had in mind. That was my biggest mistake. Once I turned the tables, it was much easier. To realize that this is a big change for my son and to accept that we are in this together and that I am not the one driving this whole experience made things way smoother. I stopped trying to make our house his school. We found our own rhythm and routine. The fact that we have a big backyard with a swing set helped too. Somedays we started our day with some much needed stimulation on the swing and on some days we dived right into the virtual classrooms. I followed his cues and he did not take advantage of this…well sometimes he did, but I knew. Over the course of the last two months I have discovered things that I never thought he knew. As I am reminded often, he is much smarter than I think he is. There have been occasions where I have been trying to oversimplify a question for him and he looks at me and chooses the correct answers effortlessly without my help, making me look “dumb?” We struggle with several things but then that’s how we learn, right?
Before the lockdown, we spent a few hours together, most of which was used up in his daily routine and therapies. So technically we really didn’t spend a lot of time with each other. Now, we are together all the time. I really thought this would probably bother both of us but it has been surprisingly affable! While previously I would forcibly inject myself in his world, now he invites me in his. We are more than mom and son. We are friends, he is my sous chef( whether he likes it or not), he is my biggest helper and we are each other’s teacher. We have been singing made-up songs, watching the rain together, exercising and doing yoga together, baking cakes, doing laundry, you name it. It has been wonderful having him by my side, learning, and teaching.
I’ve realized that we’ve been communicating more with each other too. I am not just telling him what to do and what not to do, but also so many other things…random things; some that he probably has no clue about and some that he sometimes gets and responds to. But he listens, he is right there with me, not lost somewhere in his thoughts. We have also been laughing more often at and with each other, and that brings us together as nothing else could.
I’m not saying that this is all perfect. It’s not. It’s not supposed to be. But this phase of being together with my son has taught me that I knew him so little and I crave to know him more, to figure how he feels, what he wants, what he knows. I get mad at him sometimes and he comes right back at me as if nothing happened. I want to learn that from him — the power to move on, to not hold a grudge, to smile more often, and to take each day one at a time. This lockdown has brought me closer to my son and I am loving every moment of it.
Have you been happy during the pandemic? Tell us why in the comments.
Photo submitted by contributor.