One Sock At A Time – A Letter From A Parent

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So many times I have gotten so terribly overwhelmed by the size of my washing basket and thought of how much I dislike hanging up clothes, especially socks, they are so small and fiddly. 

Since it has to be done, I just tell myself: “One sock at a time, one little piece at a time and don’t look at the rest… until it is done!” Suddenly, magically, my head goes to a hundred and ten places and does many transactions and lists, plus it fixes the world with my great ideas of course and then…I look at the washing basket and it is empty! I am unable to put into words the happiness I feel when I see the bottom of that basket, even though I am fully aware that it is a magic basket, always refilling itself as if there is nothing else to do in life.

Little I knew that that magic basket was training me for a wonderful successful and rewarding future!

I have four wonderful miracles and one of my miracle’s many wonders is Autism. My Autistic son is about to turn 9 years old and he was just under two years old when he was diagnosed and when he started his wonderful journey with the Autism Association. My Oliver went from not having any language and being untouchable and impossible to take in outings, to being the most caring, loving, thoughtful, well mannered little chatterbox he could be. He prefers to describe himself as a: “Chatterbox and very inquisitive”, as he also defends the point of “not talking just for the sake of it but for finding out more about this world and its people through questions.”

The feelings we had when he was diagnosed were full of relief because we finally knew what was going on. We did have those few tears thinking about his future, how to outlive our children and be there to look after them forever, especially when there are special needs involved. It took me about five seconds of self-pity and surrendering myself to tragic thoughts to realize that I had to “suck it up! And get on with it, because I was IT and the only IT who would always look for the best for my son.”

This is when I started to pick up one sock at a time, the whole issue was too big, not dreadful but so full of uncertainty, a new planet I had to see through my son’s eyes. I had to guide him… I didn’t know where to, I had to hear him… he didn’t speak, I had to sooth him… I didn’t understand what hurt?…So, one little goal, I chose one little thing to focus on and give my best to achieve that goal until… 

Some goals took years, some took months, some took weeks, but I pursued them “UNTIL.” 

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Our journey was “our journey” and our whole family was on board, the child you give the most is the one who needs the most when s/he needs it. Oliver has taken and continues to take our family to a level of love we didn’t believe possible, we truly believe the wonders of his being bring the best in us as our journey continues.

Our early journey was also happy, consistent and as we call it ‘remarkable’ because until he was six years old he attended the First Steps for Autism program at the “Little Stars” Centres and with their support and guidance we were able to continue guiding him at home, feeling supported and not so alone.

But one day! Oh horror! Oliver was old enough to go to school, to the real world, with the “other” children. The transition, in hindsight, is a good memory, I think I decided to turn it into a good memory for my sake and to continue to have the energy and the will I need every day to give it my best.

I was really scared, what therapies should I choose to continue after school hours. Oliver’s improvement had been so great that he was able to enter main stream, however my child is still Autistic and very different to most and has almost zero experience dealing with neuro-typical children and surviving in a classroom with twenty five other people.

I decided, he may as well start learning how to live in the big big world, so we took on after school activities (in lieu of therapies); Tuesday Karate, Wednesday Gymnastics, Thursday Ballet and Soccer(Seasonal), Friday Swimming. In every single class I watched him with a notebook and eagle eyes! I made notes, then made more notes, I recorded his behaviour, appropriate and inappropriate, I tried to find triggers, I made notes on the other children’s behaviour and my son’s reactions.

The first Term of all these activities my note taking had given me such a huge number of things to fix that throwing that note book would have crossed most people’s minds. BUT I didn’t, I chose “one sock at a time…until”

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For example; when the children lined up for their turns in Gymnastics, my son wouldn’t keep his personal space neither would he respect the personal space of others or their body boundaries, so that was THE sock, my goal was to address just that little behaviour, explaining this issues to Oliver was now possible with his developed language and evident intelligence, we talked about it, we practiced at home, I gave examples with other members of the family and finally after many many sessions, by the end of the next Term he was able to line up and wait like all the other children with ONE exception: while doing it he would look out for my eyes in the audience and would give me his thumbs up and a wink -our secret successful wink!- “WE DID IT” the pride in his eyes, the joy in my heart. 

Now the next sock! and so it was for every activity…little odd socks, big stretched socks, socks with holes but all socks nonetheless.

Oliver really likes all his extra curricular activities and he seems to cope well with the hectic timetable we have. We started these activities in Year One and now he is in Year Three and still loves to attend them all. This year however has been truly interesting for me as I have felt a new experience, for the first time I have actually “just” watched my son doing his Karate, Gymnastics, Soccer and Swimming (we are not allowed in during Ballet class) 🙁

The feeling of seeing him enjoying himself with all the other children and achieving at different levels in each activity, blending more and more in the world he has to live in. Today’s basket has been emptied.

Magically my basket is filling up again, every day he grows and starts new stages of his life and schooling, he will keep adding socks to my basket, notes to my notebook and goals to reach. Most of all, Oliver keeps adding the most rewarding feelings to my life, to the infinite love I feel as a mother, he makes me feel like a successful parent because I have so many rewards for my little efforts. 

The basket that Oliver, as every one of my children fills every day, is not dreadful like the one with washing. I choose to see it as full of wonders and adventures, I choose to see it this way because just like every day, my life is what I choose it to be. It is and forever will be my choice. Thanks to Oliver I get the most; quirky, colorful, exciting socks there are…

I don’t know what the future may bring, what I do know is that I will choose it to be a future with the best baskets ever and that I will continue to hang one sock at a time with a smile and love in my heart until…  

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