This blog post is by Carrie Cariello. Carrie is the author of the book "What Color Is Monday: How Autism Changed One Family for The Better" which is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. A portion of the sales of her book will be donated towards Autism Speaks to help support the cause! Carrie is the mother of a 9 year on the autism spectrum and writes a blog for her personal website at carriecariello.com. You can learn more about her here on Facebook and Twitter.
“Kaboom!” Nine-year old Jack said to me yesterday in his clipped, Arnold Schwarzenegger-like tone. “For this Mother’s Day, I will buy you Kaboom Foamtastic.”
It was late afternoon, and I was sitting cross-legged on the front lawn, soaking up some sunshine and watching the kids ride their bikes. Jack had momentarily abandoned the Cariello Race with his three brothers and one sister, and marched determinedly over to where I sat.
I looked across the driveway at Joe, who was looking at me with a smirk on his face.
“It is made by OXY Clean,” Jack continued, standing over me with his helmet on. “It cleans toilets the best. You need it. For when you clean the toilets. For when you’re tired of the tough scrubbing.”
“Really!” I said, making a mental note to start putting some limits on how much television he watches. “How interesting.”
But he didn’t stop there. My son with autism—a child more inclined to short outbursts of speech than long narratives—had more to say. “It is sold in the Dollar Store. I told Dad to take me there. To buy it. For your Mother’s Day.” And with that, my sandy-haired boy hopped back on his bike and glided down the driveway, all bony knees and elbows.
By this point, Joe was nearly doubled over giggling.
Now, folks, I certainly don’t want to come across as a snob, but given that I am a mother of five children and I have delivered over 44 pounds of babies and changed more diapers than I can count and cleaned up a lot of spilled milk and said things like I know you love Daddy more than me, I expect to be celebrated a little on Mother’s Day. And a gift of cleaning supplies from the Dollar Store isn’t exactly what I had in mind.
I want fanfare. I want fireworks and great food and sparkly things. More than anything, I want to take a Bikram yoga class and come home for a long nap. I do not want to think about cleaning the toilets.
I shot Joe the meanest look I could muster and leaned back on my elbows, brushing off the hundred or so dandelions Henry and Rose had tossed in my lap. I picked one up, twirled it by its silky stem, and let my thoughts wander.
Jack was born on Mother’s Day. And over the course of nine years, this boy has altered my life in unimaginable ways. Because of him and autism, I am terrified and exhilarated and confused nearly every single day.
Terrified he won’t be able to live independently and exhilarated by the way he sees Tuesday as orange and confused about how to get him through homework without him screaming “I hate this FREAKING math” and kicking the chair for an hour.
I thought back to the early days, when I would lower my enormous pregnant body down to the floor and beg my silent toddler look in my eyes Jack look at me, desperately trying to break him free from his inner world so he would join ours.
And now, years later, these brief moments of magic show me that he’s starting to do just that. It occurred to me, as I relaxed on our front lawn and watched five children swerve and veer and race, that from autism to motherhood to Oxy Clean, the best gifts in life are usually the ones we don’t expect.
So come Mother’s Day this year, I will open my Kaboom Foamtastic and feign surprise, as my heart soars with joy and gladness. Although it may not be the jewelry or chocolates I initially wanted, it’s still a wonderful present; a present in the name of progress.
And the best part is my toilets will shine. Because really, I am tired of all that tough scrubbing.