It happened on Mother's Day, or what I like to call around here “a sacred 24-hour-period of Mommy-thanking”, which as usual, commenced before dawn. Justin, my nine-year-old with moderate autism, was particularly happy and affectionate that morning. This was a wonderful thing, because I realized the night before that I’d finally succumbed to the virus Zach had just had, one which knocked him out for a week.
While I was a bit disappointed to be out of it on this day of all days, the situation wasn't tragic. My own mother was away, so there was no meal to prepare later in the day. My kids still gave me their beautiful homemade cards and we went to Great Adventure as a family, because even though it’s technically “my day”, Justin still needed to get out of the house. Most importantly, the nasty bug that had claimed my body waited until after I’d concluded my shopping spree the night before with my sister-in-law and niece, permitting me to have my girl-time with them AND acquire the perfect dress for my brother’s wedding.
I still have my priorities straight.
So, the day commenced as most Sundays do, although my husband graciously took over the early morning shift because I couldn't quite stop coughing, and just couldn't seem to leave those warm covers. He made my son breakfast and entertained him for two hours until my second child was conscious, at which point I rallied and got myself downstairs to help him with the controlled chaos.
Those two hours will rank up there as one of the best gifts I got all day.
We didn't attempt a Mother’s Day brunch out, in part because Zach is still on the gluten-free casein-free diet which seriously restricts what he can eat. We also boycotted a restaurant in part because Justin would want to eat and get out of the establishment in about half an hour, which kind of defeats the concept of a meal that’s supposed to be leisurely. We didn't order in either, because I can neither smell nor taste anything at the moment, so meals prepared by someone other than me aren’t really on my agenda. No, except for my annoying cough, Mother's Day proceeded pretty much as any Sunday does around here, lazy, reasonably quiet, and with lots of together time.
That is, except for one glorious, exceptional, “make-my-mother’s-day” moment.
I’ve written many times on this blog how important it is to me and my husband that our boys have a true connection, that each one respects the other, and hopefully finds true joy in their relationship as well. Justin and Zach do have a number of moments together, but I admit that many of them are contrived by me in an effort to foster that bond. There are games of tag around the house, and books from Justin’s early childhood that still bring a huge grin to his face, and a smile to his younger sibling’s too. Zach often tells us what Justin is “saying”, which is generally amusing, as his “communication” is frequently to Zach’s benefit.
Zach is not a kid to willingly miss any opportunity that benefits his own life.
But the key thing here is that while they do connect, almost all of their interaction is initiated by Zach, or by his parents. It’s not that Justin isn’t interested in his younger sibling, or doesn’t love him. Zach has surprised Justin at school several times for various functions, and each time his older brother’s face has absolutely radiated joy, and his excitement at Zach’s presence was palpable. They love each other in their own fashion, but to date, my firstborn has never started the proverbial “brother ball” rolling.
But that Sunday, he did. And Justin even gave up something he loves to do it.
I didn’t get to witness it, will have to live vicariously through my husband’s report of what transpired. I was washing breakfast dishes when in the middle of my task I heard a resounding “That was SO nice Justin, great job!”, and I abandoned my chores to rush upstairs. I took in a typical tableau- Zach sitting in the computer chair, Justin hovering happily next to him with eyes glued to the screen, and my spouse on a bench nearby monitoring the situation.
Jeff turned to me with a huge smile on his face, and said “Without any prompting, our eldest just got out of the chair, grabbed Zach’s hands, plopped him into his seat, and gave him a chance at this game.” I smiled in return and asked him how Zach responded, and he said “he looked at Justin and said, ‘you’re a great big brother’, then sort of pushed him out of the way so he could have a better look at the computer screen.”
That’s my boy.
It sounds like such a little thing, but inwardly I was thrilled, because I hope it won’t be a one-time event, a glitch in their usual brother-to-brother relationship. I know that sometimes Zach longs for more from Justin. My youngest asks lots of questions about what his elder sibling will be like when he grows up (ones I wish I could answer more precisely), and every few months tells me he’s built a machine that will make Justin talk and play with him.
I’d take out several mortgages just to acquire that bit of technology.
I don’t know if a moment of this magnitude will re-occur for them. So often little pieces of “typical” surface on the turbulent waters of our family’s autism, then they recede, never to be seen again. I’m not sure Zach will once more be the recipient of such a generous offer, a true act of generosity on the part of his older brother. I can wish for it though, and I will.
But no matter what, it happened once. It was their moment, but now it’s mine too. It made my day.
And I sincerely hope this past Mother's Day , that all of you moms out there had your amazing maternal moment too.