I'm waiting for the phone to ring; I fully expect that it will within the next hour. Why? Because Ben is on an overnight (I use that term loosely) Space Camp mission that began an hour-and-a-half ago and is supposed to run all night, and all day tomorrow, while the Space Camp folks rehearse the week-long missions they will run this summer. Ben, who is an avid participant in his school's "Astro Knight" program (i.e. Space Camp), is supposed to be flying this mission with all his classmates so they can work out the bugs.
I started getting texts about half an hour ago: It's too dark. It's too stressful. It's too hard. I can't do it. I'm already crying.
I have offered him every bit of wisdom and counsel I know: Take a little break. Eat a little snack. Say a little prayer. Just have a little fun! Apparently if he does any of these things in small doses, it makes a difference.
It won't work. He will call soon, and he will come home without actually participating in this activity that he insists he loves so much. And I will resist the ever-present urge to compare him to the other kids at the camp who won't be coming home tonight, and who will have the emotional and mental stamina to endure a little discomfort and stimulation.
So, this is where I struggle to separate fact from fiction. The truth is, Ben uses his autism as an excuse to avoid things he doesn't want to do. We have a bit of the "Little Boy Who Cried Wolf" syndrome going on, especially when he is supposed to be in a class he doesn't like, read a book that doesn't interest him, or fulfill a responsibility he'd rather not do. He knows the words that will send me reeling to his rescue (they are akin to "I can't breathe" in mother-speak), and darn if he isn't due an Academy Award for his ability to burst into tears when the words alone are not enough.
The problem is, maybe he isn't faking it. Empirically, his autism does indeed mess with his wiring, and so it's altogether possible that he really can't do it. He's very possibly experiencing something like fireworks exploding inside his head while I encourage him to eat a cracker. What kind of mother does that?
Well, the kind that just desperately wants her child to be like other (neuro-typical) children. That's the bottom line.
The kind of mother who isn't willing yet to throw in the towel.
The kind of mother who believes that her child has infinite potential.
The kind of mother who doesn't want her child to live with regrets.
The kind of mother who believes in enduring to the end.
And, the kind of mother who is struggling to acknowledge that her child does have limits, and...more and more often these days...seems to be reaching them.
I don't believe that Ben's autism should be a stumbling block for him. A challenge? Yes. Of course. Just like any other mental, physical, or emotional disability would present a challenge for any other human being. But I'm not willing to give up, and I'm not willing to let him give up--not without a fight.
He'll come home tonight--I'm certain of that. I'm equally certain that he'll try again, and again, and again until he flies a space mission all night long and into tomorrow. Autism is Ben's final frontier, and Ben's mission is to explore it, chart it, and embrace it for all the challenges and opportunities it offers.
But tonight, right now, he'll come home--and I'll try to be okay with that. Autism is my final frontier, too, and I'm a weary traveler sometimes.