I have always heard that it takes a village to raise a child with autism. I suppose that is true. I also think it takes a village to raise any child, regardless of ability. Our village has changed over the years. People have come in, people have moved on. The population of our village has been large at times. At other times, it has felt like we are the only ones living in our tiny community.
When Brandon was younger, our village was filled with grandparents, friends, school staff and support workers. Steve’s dad and stepmom would watch Brandon once a week for us so we could do things with our other sons. We would go to the movies or go out to eat. And there were times they would keep all three boys overnight so Steve and I could have some time for ourselves. We are so thankful we had these times with A and J as well as the times by ourselves. Since Steve’s dad’s death, we have all missed that time with grandpa. Our boys loved Grandpa. Brandon adored him. It may have been because Grandpa would give him whatever he wanted (of course, he did that with the other two as well), but they had a special connection and Brandon misses that. Grandma now lives in another state and we miss her, too. Thank heavens for phones and Facebook!!
Honestly, it was easier to get out without Brandon when he was younger. Our friends have kids the same age as ours. It was easy and fun to get together for the 4th of July and other things because the kids would all play together and they would include Brandon. Children do grow up and develop interests independent of their parents. They don’t want to always come over to my house because they have plans with other friends. And that is okay. It is what happens. We rarely get to go to other people’s houses without Brandon. We can take him with us, but he gets anxious and jumpy after an hour or two in environments that don’t have all his stuff.
It also became a bit more challenging to go out with friends. Our friends’ children were at the age where they could stay home alone. Brandon will never be able to stay by himself. If we were asked to go places, we had to say no a lot. We had no one to stay with Brandon. There were times A would stay with his brother, but he also had friends and wanted to do things with them. Steve and I have always said that it is not A and J’s responsibility to stay with Brandon. It is our responsibility to take care of Brandon with their help.
During Brandon’s teen years, I stopped working outside the home. It was harder to find someone to get Brandon off the bus from school. They didn’t have afterschool care once Brandon started 6th grade. He had to come home or go to someone’s house. And having him go to someone else’s house was going to be costly. So, I stayed home. That’s when I realized that I needed my own village. One for me. My niece, Angela, and my friend, Rick, have been mainstays for me. They are my go to people if I need to vent, cry, yell, laugh, or just talk. I have known Angela her whole life and Rick was one of the first people to visit when my son, A, was born. They have been with me since the beginning of this adventure with autism.
I started crafting when I needed to fill all the hours I was home by myself. I always thought I didn’t have a crafty bone in my body, but with Pinterest and a husband who is able to make things, I discovered a whole new outlet. My friend, Jessica likes to craft also. She keeps tabs on when Michael’s is having a good sale and will insist I go with her. Jessica’s fiancé, Caleb, will come hang out with Steve at our house and I go to their house to work on crafts. Our latest endeavor…jewelry making. It is so much harder than I thought. But, it is also nice to just be away and hang out with my friend without having to worry about what Brandon is eating. And Steve and Caleb just sit around talking about computers and how awesome their women are. They would occasionally go ride their motorcycles (Steve sold his) or go fishing while I would stay with Brandon. We weren’t doing things together, but were getting time away with some of our village.
Our boys have their villages, too. Our oldest son has friends he spends time with away from our house. He has a job and has made friends there. Our youngest is still in high school and loves marching band. He has online games he plays with his friends. And now that some of his friends are driving, he goes out a bit more. They need their villages just as much as Steve and I need ours.
Steve and I are starting to work on getting out more together. Tomorrow night, Rick is coming over to hang out with Brandon while Steve and I go to a trivia night. I love a good trivia night and am so excited!! We are all in this together. That point was driven home to me the other day.
J left for New Orleans yesterday with the band. Before leaving, he came into the kitchen, stopped, and looked at the whiteboard calendar on the fridge. He mentioned we were going to a trivia night and seemed a bit surprised we would be doing that while he is on his trip. He then asked who was staying with Brandon. I told him Rick would be. J looked at me and said “well, okay then”. I laughed because I thought I don’t need his permission to do something with friends. And then I smiled because he was looking out for his brother. That is our village. And I love it!