Many of you with toddler and up-aged autistic kids know that they can be physically challenging – to say the least – to get to cooperate or transition from activity to activity. You also know that when they decide they want to do something, they’re going, and they will use all of their formidable strength to do it. You also also know that when a behavioral problem gets acted out in a some very serious way, you often have to throw your body into the fray to prevent something worse from happening.
This means that injuries are an inevitable part of our parenting life. It’s not like our kids mean to harm us; it just happens. That certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working hard to remedy those behaviors, but that can be a long, hard journey. In the meantime, you’re going to absorb some punishment to your body.
At any given time, I’d be a lock to be on an NFL team’s injury report as “Questionable”, probably in more ways than one. At the moment, I have what looks like a sprained thumb joint, definitely a sore wrist, and what feels like a borderline bone bruise on my shin. The former two are mostly from J-Man flopping or going rigid when he’s supposed to transition to something else, which tends to wrench my wrist. The latter is because he flopped down on my leg last night – knee first – when I was trying to get his diaper on. And at 35, these things don’t up and heal overnight. But It’s just life; you play hurt, and you play hard.
So, to commemorate this latest set of injuries, I’m going to participate in the Autism Ribbon Run 5K in the morning. Our state Autism Society holds this as one of its big fundraisers, and I hear it’s quite the social event too with parents of autistic kids getting a chance to get together and hang out for a while.
This has one weird component for me, though. I used to run road races a lot and was reasonably good at it, but it’s been years since I’ve done this. Trying to get my very sorry, out-of-shape butt fit enough to even go three miles has been no small effort. I used to be able to go out on no training at all and run three miles in about 20-21 minutes; my 5K personal best is around 19 minutes. Not any more. Even 30 minutes would be a big feat at the moment even without the injuries. I realized during all this that I’m feeling my age and some wear and tear on my body. It’s been rather disheartening. The good news is that the non-injured parts of me feel better for the exercise, so that’s something to build on. And for reasons I can’t explain, it felt good to be on the road running again.
But I really wanted to do this and I wanted to do it in a special way – I wanted to do it together with the J-Man. So I decided from the outset that I was going to push him in the stroller for the 3.1 miles. We tried this the other day and I realized that going three miles pushing 60+ pounds of kid and stroller is HARD. But we’re going to do it anyway.
And if he cooperates, he and I are going to leave the stroller with grandma and walk the last handful of feet across the finish line together. This is really important to me, so we’ll get there one way or the other.
Over the past couple of years I’ve also had sprained toes and ankles, back spasms, pulled about every muscle in my neck, mangled something in my rotator cuff, gotten bruises around my eyes (from the flailing head butts), and an assortment of bruises in other places. Our chiropractor loves our business. None of these things were malicious; they just happened on some occasions when a strong, heavy, autistic kid reacted strongly to something. Again, that doesn’t mean we don’t work hard to remedy these behaviors, but unless you have an autistic kid – though not all autistic kids do this, of course – you have no idea what this is like and how much time and patience it takes to make positive steps toward improving behavior.
But tomorrow, I plan to leave all that behind and have some fun. I met someone at a road race once who told me, “If you suck at running, there’s one solution: Dress like an idiot and have fun. No one will hold your time against you.” By the way, that man was wearing pig ears, a snout, a curly tail, and a chef’s hat. (It was a road race that was part of a barbecue festival.) No pig accessories for tomorrow, but I have my one-of-a-kind t-shirt and, well, let’s say an interesting hat. Tomorrow we celebrate!
And if you can’t beat ’em, make ’em laugh.
[Update: See the post “race” report!]