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Until The Wheels Come Off

September 4, 2013

by Sarena JamesTraining Wheels

I have never been the mother of an autistic child who is seven. Seven is not six, or five or even four, and it’s certainly not three, around the age my son was diagnosed. No, seven is different.  Seven is more active. Seven is thirstier and intentionally searching for what makes the world go ‘round.

Seven is noticing more things and more people. Seven has revealed more self-awareness and an understanding of personal responsibilities and consequences.  Seven is molding and sculpting and shaping and forming my son’s life through new experiences, both good and good, because nothing is all bad if you can grow and learn from it.   Seven, is no longer the age of the little boy with pinch-able cheeks, and the deepest dimpled-smile that made everything more tolerable, (although his smile still lights up the room.) Seven is the age that measurable growth has finally come; even though we have much further to go. Where he is now, he wasn’t then. Where he will be, isn’t what is now. Inches really do make miles…

 Who, What, When, Where, Why?  Good questions. Questions my son Grant is now asking out of his own comprehension and curiosity. Perhaps it is a simple concept for some, but to us, it is absolutely amazing; amazing because it shows his ability to assess ever-changing situations and surroundings and then appropriately request to know more. Who is that in the white shirt? What is your name? When are we going downtown to the aquarium?  Where is my book with trains? Why is that baby crying?  He has become an architect of his words, and is building complete sentences with an ever-growing vocabulary and sense of connection to the world in which we live. His detailed asking has created countless conversations that were once silenced by frustration and fear.  Our dialogues are quite lengthy now, and frequent, and oftentimes he initiates our verbal exchange.

Training WheelsTraining Wheels Aren’t Permanent.  Still trying to figure out my honest apprehension behind not wanting my son to ride without those two little wheels that kept him physically balanced; maybe it’s that they kept him emotionally balanced too, and I’d grown quite comfortable with that certainty. Training wheels are made to keep you upright, made to give you confidence, made to make riding easier, more importantly though, they are made to be taken off. Grant cried when his father disassembled those wheels. He cried, and fell. Fell, and cried.  He asked that the training wheels be put back on. His father refused, but insisted that Grant could do it. Grant would climb back onto the bike and try it again only to have the same scene repeat itself. Then came the day, the very next day, when he didn’t ask for the training wheels, because he didn’t need them. Truthfully, without those wheels, he was freer. One successful spin around the cul-de-sac and he looked at his father and said, “All done training wheels.”

A short while later,  we were all out biking and walking as a family when the chain on his bike came off, and we were too far away to run back home and fix it before nightfall. He was beyond frustrated. My husband got off of his mountain bike and placed Grant on the seat. This bike was nearly three times larger than Grant’s bike.  I thought, “Oh, how sweet; he’s going to walk and hold Grant on the big bike.” But that’s not what happened. He let my baby go. He let him wobble, and pedal, and struggle on a bike that was clearly too big for him. And then a most remarkable thing happened. Grant did it. He found the confidence to ride another training-wheel-less bike. He hit his stride and beamed with inner satisfaction.

Grant LegosLegos. There was the piercing sound of his scream followed by 400 colorful pieces of plastic flying in the air much like confetti at a party, except no one was having fun. Grant was trying to build a car with his new Lego set and had become frustrated with the process of properly fitting the little pieces into that recognizable shape. His emotions were a mess and mirrored the mess of Legos scattered on the cemented patio floor. Insisting that he clean them up, no matter how long it took, he finally did. Twenty minutes of welcomed silence later, I realized that the quietness was a little too unusual. Where did he go?  I can count the few times tears have come to my eyes so quickly and overflowed, this was one of those times. He was on the computer typing ‘build a Lego car’ into the search engine. In the swiveling desk chair he sat peacefully, swaying rhythmically to the video instruction of what he was trying to create.  Wow…

I was pruning some of the flowers in my containers. Mistakenly, I cut back an unattractive piece that I thought was a weed. Beginning to do the same thing with the flowers in the second pot that were a little further in the growth process, I realized that what I cut back wasn’t a weed at all, but the necessary part from which a beautiful flower would eventually grow.  I learned a life lesson on that day and that is to be careful what I prematurely cut off because it doesn’t look like growth; doesn’t look like what it will be. Growth has come to Grant and we are in route to greater social and academic breakthroughs for sure. Sometimes it doesn’t look or feel like growth, but it is. Sometimes we go through the ugliest of things but eventually, there comes something that is beautiful. If seven has taught me one lesson, it is to believe that eight is going to bring more newness, more buds, and fewer training wheels…

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Faye permalink
    September 5, 2013 2:05 am

    Once again the fluid pen of Sarena James has scrolled words that paint vivid pictures of true anecdotes. She graciously invites us to peer inside the window of her life, of her mind, and of her emotions as she describes both joy and sorrow. She lets us laugh, she lets us cry. And always … yes, ALWAYS, Sarena leaves us with the upbeat side of the journey. I believe she is has been given the priceless gift of OPTIMISM, and for this we can say, “Thank you, Mrs. James”. May God bless you and your family.

  2. LaDoris James permalink
    September 4, 2013 9:10 pm

    Awesome and inspiring!

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