Monday, March 26, 2012

Before I knew...

When my son was 18 months old I enrolled him in a Mother's Day Out program.  It was 2 days a week a few hours each day.  At this point in my son's short life, the word autism had not even crossed my mind.  He was my first and only child.  I knew he cried often, I knew he didn't sleep well and had very strange sleep patterns no matter how consistent I was with his schedule.  I knew he didn't really point at things or imitate others, and didn't really say any words.  But, he's just a little behind, he's just a boy, boys are slower, people said, and I believed them.  So, off he went to his first day of Mother’s Day Out.  I found the room he would be in, and met the teacher and aide.  When I was leaving, he was crying, which I knew he would.  Just leave, they all cry, he'll be fine in a few minutes, I told myself.  So, I left him there.  It was summertime.  I am a teacher, so I was off of work.  I felt like a free woman.  I had so many plans of how I would spend my few hours of leisure a week.  Then, an hour later they called.  My heart sank, was he ok?  Yes, he's ok the director of the school told me, but he is very distressed and won't stop crying.  We think you should come and pick him up.              
As I rushed over to the school, I thought about the rough night we had before, hardly any sleep.  But, this was nothing new we hardly ever slept through the night.  When I got there, I went to the classroom that I had dropped him off in. The teacher that had been so nice and grandmotherly, just an hour before looked at me with the utmost disgust and said " Oh no, he's not in here anymore! We had to move him to a different room!  He was SO mean to my babies!" She spat it out with such hatred, that I was taken aback.  I'm sure this woman did not mean to make me feel like the scum of the earth, but she did.  I felt like she kicked me in the stomach, then punched me in the face.  As I walked down the hallway to the directors office, I saw other teachers looking at me giving me the "what a horrible mother, I wonder what happens at her house" kind of look.  
When I walked into the director's office, there he was, red in the face, sobbing, and sitting on the floor with no shoes on.  He had kicked them off in his frustration.  Needless to say I lost it.  The tears fell faster than I could help it.  In that moment, I knew.  I knew that everything I thought about my life and my son’s life would be different than I expected.  I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy and we were going to have to work harder than others in every way.
 The director was actually a nice person.  She assured me that it was alright and maybe it was just because it was his first day.  Between my tears and embarrassing sobs, I told her that he had never stayed with anyone else besides his grandparents and maybe he just wasn’t ready for this. I left thinking I would never go back.  Over the weekend, the director called to check on us.  She said we should try again and said he would be moved to a different room with kids a little older.  I had already paid for the month and damn it that one hour of freedom was just too good.  So, I brought him back the next week.  I wish I could say that it turned out to be this great experience, but it wasn’t.  I never felt the love from his new teachers either.  They barely spoke to me, except to ask me to pick him up early because he was a disturbance to the other children during naptime.  That was fine, I understood so I did it. 
      Why am I writing about this?  Well for one, I still drive by that place and have an anxiety attack and I thought this would be good closure therapy. :)  Secondly, people always ask me how I knew my son had autism.  Well, this was one of those moments.  Not that I knew that day that it was autism, but I knew that something was different.  Thirdly, I like to look back at this and realize how far he has come.  He loves to go to school now, and since the mother’s day out incident, we have been fortunate to work with awesome caregivers and teachers that love him, and are just wonderful people.  Fourthly, I am not an angel, I have judged people when I knew nothing about them, just like we all have.  But, this taught me not to be so judgmental of others and to try to always speak to people with kindness and respect, especially when it comes to their children.  Just food for thought…


  1. De ja vu! This happened to me also at my son's first daycare. He cried when I left him. When I called 2 hours later to check on him he was still crying. I was at work. I walked out of my job ...just in that moment and I haven't been back. We didn't find out until years later that he has Aspergers. But I knew...something was terribly wrong and I would be there 100% to help figure out exactly what.

  2. I used to work as a teacher in a Mom's Day Out in Louisiana. A co-worker's son was in my classroom and was my introduction to the world of Autism. He was diagnosed with ADHD while he was with us and later received his diagnosis of Autism. I still stay in touch with his mom and enjoy updates on how he's doing. Sometimes it was hard having him in my classroom and I had to send him home several times during those two years, but I'm glad I got to be a part of his life. His mom is now one of the main people I go to for advice about my son who has Asperger's. Reading this made me think of all those days I sat in a rocking chair with her little man while he pinched himself and me, trying to soothe him. One day he gave me a bloody nose during our rocking session because he threw his head back and hit me. I learned my lesson quick! My co-teacher was awesome that day. She stayed completely calm and gave me tissues so the other children wouldn't see and get upset or scared. The little man never even knew he hurt me! I'm so fortunate to have known him and his mom, and to have been in such a loving environment. Several of the ladies I worked with there (including the mom) have helped me with my son's diagnosis and getting him the services he needs.

  3. Amazing post. And that picture? ADORABLE! I know a crying baby is sad, but oh my heart goes out to him. We all feel that way, don't we? That no one understands how out of place we feel.

    While I hate that you had (have) to struggle, I am so happy your son has made such progress. He is so very lucky to have you as his mother!

  4. It always boggles my mind how people, specially parents, can be so insensitive. One of the things I want to instill in my kids is basic human compassion. We never know what cards we will be dealt, but how we survive and thrive deserves respect. Melissa, strong is an understatement to describe you and Cal...but what makes you extra special is kindness. Ok now let's go have some cocktails!!!

  5. what an honest, heartfelt post. I'm so sorry that you ever had to feel like you are a bad mother/person because you are really one of the kindest, friendliest, most thoughtful people i have ever met!!! keep blogging, girl! I love to read them!

  6. Thank you all for the wonderful comments!! You made me smile today! You ladies are awesome!
    Blair, I have to confess that is not my picture. It is just a random crying internet baby! But yes, very cute! :)

  7. As I read your post, the song "How Will She Know" from Enchanted kept running through my head This song reminds me of all the things I do for my son, even though he resists, because I love him. Each new "scary experience" is another affirming hug of my unconditional love! Now that he is a big 8 year old, very little scares him because of all of the baby step experiences we have given him. We have also become very good at the "prep" work. It certainly is difficult to walk away from our child knowing that they may not see the experience the same way you do but it certainly is necessary for growth. By the way, my son wasn't a crier... he used to wander away and hide. Can't tell you how many times I would get a call where the person on the other end would say, "We are just checking Mrs K, did you drop James off today?"