A few months prior, I had made plans to attend the wedding of my younger sister in Utah. I was in charge of a bridal shower the weekend before the wedding. I was also needed to help with the reception, which was being help at my parent's house so there was a lot of decorating and food prep to take care of. All the wedding stuff sounded fun to me, and I was excited for the upcoming trip.
I was to leaving a week before Chris, Tyler, and Madison, with the three of them arriving two days before the wedding so we could attend together. We had two different caregivers scheduled to take care of Jacob at our home, and one night for him to be with Chris' parents. The five days were covered. Ideally, he'd come along with us to Utah, but realistically, there was no way we could be involved in all the wedding events and be the help my mom and dad needed if Jacob came.
A week before I was to leave, Jacob started having regular, aggressive outbursts. He hit a teacher, was unusually mean to Jenny- a caregiver who has been with us for nearly two years, had taken to barricading himself in his room with all his furniture against the door if he didn't want to go to school or wherever else, and was pretty much a monster of a kid.
I left, relieved to be escaping but worried for my husband, and Chris had to be the lone parent for the week. He and I were on the phone several times a day, going back and forth over our decision to leave Jacob with people who, while good with him and somewhat experienced in his negative behavior, just weren't as capable as us at dealing with the worst 24/7. We knew if things were too bad to leave to someone else, Chris would have to stay home.
I spent all my time praying hard that Chris would be able to come, that Jacob would be ok without us and be a happy kid if only for the time we were gone. Attending the wedding of my sister, and being together without having to keep an eye on Jacob every second was a big deal. The night before we were still unsure. But the day of the flight, and after much prayer from both of us, Chris made the choice to come and leave our son behind.
A miracle occurred. The boy was perfect. He got on the bus in the mornings without a fight. He did well in school each day. He got home and off the bus without hitting any of the other students or the driver. His afternoons were peaceful as he watched movies and created masterpieces out of paper and tape, and his bedtimes were smooth as could be. Every day, no matter whom he was with, he was awesome.
We'd get text messages and phone calls regularly telling us everything was still fine, not to worry, to relax and have fun. And we did! The wedding was beautiful, we saw lots of family and ate tons of yummy food, and enjoyed being able to stop and talk to whomever we wanted to without having to jump up every two minutes. It was a lovely vacation that went by way too quickly.
Skipping ahead to now. This has been one of the hardest months I can remember. There are lots of miserable details, but the gist of it is that, I believe, Jacob is hitting puberty and his hormones are flowing and it whippings our butts. He's not any happier about it than then the rest of us. The roller coaster of moods has to be just as draining for him and it is for me dealing with the resulting behavior.
We went to the doctor again a few days ago, and this time the report I gave wasn't as great. Medications need to be changed, hopefully resulting in reduced aggressive episodes and more consistent sleep. This change will start tomorrow, and time will tell if its a success.
I have heard horror stories about puberty and boys with autism. I knew it was a rough time, possibly the hardest time of all. Aggression at its highest with a surging strength to boot. In most ways he's still so young; needing to be cuddled to sleep, crazy about cartoons and superheroes, and requiring my constant attention. He has baby soft skin and perfect, chubby arms and hands, and his head is so soft to nuzzle. I still feel the physical bond to him that a mother feels with a baby or a toddler.
But he is far from a toddler. He's an almost-ten-year-old boy who's mind is not keeping pace with his body. I am having to consciously separate myself from him at times. Let him have bad moods and say "no" just like any pre-teen would do. Reduce the kissing and child-grooming I do in public to help keep curious glances away. A mother doing these things to her small child is normal and accepted, but Jacob is no small child.
He still has his moments on adorable-ness. The hitting, biting, etc. doesn't happen every second of the day. If I count the minutes, the actual time he spends hurting one of us is small percentage of the day. Its just harder to recover from and forget. A 15 minute tantrum and hard bite on the arm often outweigh the one hour spent peacefully side by side watching Scooby Doo. Its unfortunate that my days are often summed up by how many times I got hurt instead of how many hugs I received. I'm working on that.
I have a feeling times will be increasingly hard for a while. Puberty can last for years. I pray I am up to it, and can earn to manage with patience and understanding. Most of all, I hope that he never loses the need for me to put him to sleep at night. I can't help but think he is the most wonderful boy ever as he wraps his arms around me so tightly and we lay face-to-face with his breath on my cheeks. I need that from him as much as he needs it from me.