This is a hard one to write.
A few days ago, my friend Jess met me at the sensory gym with her daughter Brooke. It was the last day of our very long holiday break. The exact purpose for the gym unfolded before our eyes as Howie and Brooke played together in the gym space while Jess and I talked.
After about 20 minutes of playing and running around, Howie came over to me and climbed into my lap. Jess took out her phone and snapped a few photos. She sent them to me later that afternoon:
(photo credit: Jess)
I spent the rest of that night thinking about those photos.
True confession time?
When I saw that last picture, my stomach hurt. My heart hurt.
I could only see the sensory seeking in this picture.
His hand in my hair. Crawling all over me.
The constant requests for squishes. Asking to “tunnel” : when he puts his hands on my neck and asks me to press down on his hands with the side of my head. Begging for “snuggles” that aren’t really hugs. The “mom will sit on my feet” demands.
I saw a dysregulated kid who had been out of school and out of a routine for too long.
I sent Tim this text with the last photo: “Jess captured how I spent all of vacation.”
“Yup.” was the reply back.
The following morning, I changed my personal Facebook profile picture to that last photo.
The comments I got from friends and family ranged from “Love is…” to “That is just precious!” to “So sweet!”
And the one that made me cry: “That’s true love. You being a non-hugger and all – this is ALL love. Beautiful!”
Guilt came flooding in.
Everyone else saw love. Affection. Connection.
The emotions I didn’t see.
I get so wrapped up in everything SPD/autism and looking for the meaning and cause of every single action and reaction…
I sometimes miss the beauty and the “normalcy” of these moments.
Of so. many. moments.
Taking him out to shovel the snow is “heavy work”, not just an outside fun activity together.
Swinging high on the swings has a purpose, not play.
A hug isn’t a hug. It’s a need for deep pressure.
Truth is, I’m the only one he will hug and snuggle with like this. He refuses all personal touch from his dad and older brother and relatives. He will squish under blankets and pillows, but skin to skin touch is reserved for me. Has been since he was born.
Because I know too much, I saw it as a sensory issue for him.
But to everyone else, it’s a loving bond between mother and son.
After reading those comments, I clicked on the photo on my phone and looked at it again.
I took a step out of my “autism mom” role and became “Mom”.
In those photos there is the smile. The calm. The love.
I can see that’s what Howie sees when he looks at me.
This is our connection. Our affection.
His safe place. Where he feels the most at peace.
I see it all.
And I feel at peace now too.
“love I get so lost, sometimes
days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
when I want to run away
I drive off in my car
but whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are
all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside
in your eyes
the light the heat
in your eyes
I am complete
in your eyes” – In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel