Life is filled with checks and balances. We encounter them in a variety of ways and often on a daily basis. When you become the caregiver of a neurodivergent child, the checks seem to exceedingly outway the balances. Autism has a way of throwing you off balance at times so keeping yourself in check is imperative.
Once Jonathan was diagnosed I was heavy on the checking-therapies, interventions, bio-medical advances, programs and education to name a few. What to do, when to do it, how to do it, who to turn to for help. It was an extensive checklist that I was constantly adding more to and updating. It was also exhausting, overwhelming and frightening. What I did or didn’t do would be the catalyst for Jonathan’s future. Balance at that time never even entered the equation. But when it did, it came from my family and friends.
My parents were the first to intercede.They had a front row seat to what my life had become as a caregiver, mom and advocate for Jonathan. While they knew they couldn’t stop my crusade, they also knew I was off balance. And so as all parents do, they stepped in because in their eyes, I was long overdue for a check up. With love and persistence they did what they could to help me regain some balance. They started with something simple: going out to dinner.
Jonathan struggled in public, so I had avoided doing some of the things I liked, dining out being one. I remember both of my parents telling me I needed to get out and they were taking us to dinner. I was immediately thrown off balance and began to protest that it would be so stressful I wouldn’t even enjoy it. However, they insisted and persisted—check mate.
We decided on Chili’s and quite frankly, I was a bundle of nerves. The server brought crayons to the table and Jonathan and Cassie immediately began scribbling away. After they took our order, all I could think was “please let the food get here fast”. My dad ordered me a glass of wine and I sat back and looked at Jonathan. He had the biggest smile on his face. I began to relax and before I knew it, we were laughing and conversing. The food came and Jonathan was happily eating his chicken tenders. During dinner, my dad snapped a photo of Jonathan and well, a picture is worth a thousand words. His smile and sheer joy reminded me that balance was just as important, not only for me but for him as well.
Over the years my family and friends have been a consistent source of support and balance. At times they’ve had to push past my checkpoints but in doing so, they have shown me a better way. They’ve given me strength, love and guidance. Reminding me that part of being the best caregiver for Jonathan also means balancing my own needs at times instead of forsaking them. Both go hand and hand and always will.
Life with autism is a balancing act, so it is imperative for me to remember that others are there to check on me, and I need to let them.