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Tips for a great Mother's Day

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Pssst, hey you.

Yes, you.

The Mama whose brain is a catalogue of shoe sizes, permission slips, meatball recipes, and social stories.

The woman trying to balance marriage/motherhood/autism and the cart in the grocery store.

I see you.

I hear you

I am you.

My name is Carrie.

I have five kids.

My second son, Jack, has autism. He is nearly seventeen.

I wanted to remind you that Mother’s Day is coming up soon.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to holidays in our house, you might say expectations don’t always match up with reality. And Mother’s Day is no exception.

Raising a child with autism doesn’t always help matters.

Maybe you live with an Over-Planner, like my boy Jack here.

The Over-Planner begins obsessing about holidays months in advance. He plans the menu down to the last piggy in a blanket. He creates elaborate playlists. He talks and worries and bites his cuticles. He researches decorations on Amazon and demands the same exact flavor of ice cream as last year. When the day finally arrives, it’s all but ruined.

Or perhaps you have a Non-Flexer on your hands.

The Non-Flexer doesn’t care what day it is. He doesn’t care if it’s a holiday or an anniversary or a birthday. No matter the occasion, the schedule and routine will march forward like every other day of the year. Celebration isn’t all that important here.

Maybe you have the Non-Guest.

The Non-Guest is the child you can’t bring to brunch, or to a barbecue, or a restaurant.

He has been known to start other people’s cars, or rifle through underwear drawers, or screeching when the chicken fingers take too long.

People will pressure you, of course. They will complain when you decline their invitation. They will insist your Non-Guest will be fine, just fine at the pool party with the open fire pit or the fancy restaurant with linen napkins.

In a moment of weakness, you will agree to attend the brunch/barbecue/pool party. And if this happens, there is a good chance you will spend your Mother’s Day chasing/sweating/swearing under your breath.

All my life, I’ve looked for a shortcut.

I took the highway instead of meandering backroads, and read CliffsNotes instead of the whole book.

I wanted to get there—wherever there was—faster, and sooner.

When it comes to autism, there are no shortcuts. I resent this more than you can know.

For me, time has taken on a whole new meaning.

Yes, I still want a crystal ball to see into the future. I want to speed up and know how it all looks in the next ten, twenty, thirty years from now.

My son is almost seventeen.

We are on borrowed time now. I know this.

Mama, we have to got to learn how to say no.

I know, it’s very hard. We want people to like us and think we have it all together and autism isn’t the boss of our lives.

But saying no is a gift unto ourselves. It is the sacred opportunity to protect the space between our heartbeats we call our own.

When I wasn’t looking for shortcuts, I was insisting things weren’t fair.

It wasn’t fair that I got a C+ on an exam. It wasn’t fair that someone got a new computer at work, or the yoga class I wanted to take was full.

Now I know. I know there is no such thing as fair, especially when it comes autism.

When it comes to autism, fair has left the building.

It isn’t fair he has a diagnosis that will hold him back from leading a typical life.

It isn’t fair that I have to explain his behavior and his quirks and his penchant for asking everyone in Target what kind of Oreos they like.

Every year, we hope, don’t we? We hope it will all turn out a little better. I do, at least.

Hope is the bundle of rocks we strap to our backs and carry throughout our day. In some ways, it weighs us down, and takes a little bit of our power away.

I mean, of course we’re supposed to hope and dream and all of that. Ultimately, hope is a very good thing.

Yet we cannot put our future into the bundle we carry. We have to do the work. I hate the work. It’s boring and hard.

But it is the only way. After all, there are no shortcuts, even when it comes to Mother’s Day.

This year, let’s do it our way.

Let’s wear soft clothes, and eat good food.

If we don’t want to go to a barbecue or a dinner party or a fancy brunch, let’s say no.

If we want more sleep, a nice cake, time for yoga, an afternoon nap, let’s ask for it.

Perhaps these precious, ordinary, exquisite people of ours don’t know what we want because we don’t always know what we want.

I mean, I want to live forever and yet I can’t do this for the rest of my life and I feel guilty and ugly and small when I admit that.

I want a day off from all the mothering and yet I want to soak them in and hear them laugh and, for just one moment, stop time.

Dear Mama.

I see you.

I hear you.

I am you.

I love you with my whole heart.

You are very brave.

Happiest Mother’s Day, from me to you.

{ Jack used to be a combination of Over-Planner, Non-Flexer, and Non-Guest. Now he’s mostly an Over-Planner. }

{ Photo circa 2019 }

Related TODAY video featuring Carrie Cariello and her son, Jack:

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