It’s early in the morning and Paul is sitting at the table with me, sleep still nestled deep in his dark brown eyes. He is studying for his drivers education test and as I look at the almost 6 ft boy sitting in front of me, I ask myself, where did the time go?
When I first saw the boy in the yellow hat, I knew sure as anything else I had ever known, that he was destined to be in our family. In probably the fastest Korean adoption ever, we were on a plane bound for Seoul within 5 months of turning in our paperwork. It was if the universe knew he needed to be settled.
When we saw him at his foster mother’s house he was a chubby thick-boned sturdy 10 month-old already walking faster than the speed of light. The boy was quick and moved like a prize fighter, bobbing and weaving the entire day. Throughout the apartment the drawers were taped shut an indication of the whirlwind that was to enter our lives.
The day we brought him home, he toddled over to his 7-month-older brother, and swiftly knocked him to the floor. Thus a dynamic was put into place in which whatever Andre had, Paul wanted. It’s a pattern that remains to this day.That first day home I told B, “Mark my words there is something different about this kid.” And there was.
We soon noticed that parenting was harder this time around. First came the tantrums the likes of which I had never seen before. They were like HUGE thunderstorms…in your face, with screaming so ragged and loud that I was sure that eventually the police would arrive at our door. Often Paul would rage uncontrollably for an hours at a time. Obsessions with clocks, then water, then spoons developed which lasted for several weeks and then they were gone as if a magician waved his wand only to be replaced by another. Before the age of 2 we were already consulting with behavioral therapists in an attempt to change the path we were on. It wasn’t until Paul was 5-years-old that we got the autism diagnosis, the Tourette’s Syndrome pronouncement came when he was 7-years-old and the Central Auditory Processing Disorder diagnosis a year after that. Then for two years we had ABA therapists in our home 5 days a week working with both Paul and Andre to help alleviate the most pressing challenges that autism wrought between the two of them. Between weekly hippo therapy workouts, psychologist appointments and daily hour-long neuro reorganization exercises, we barely breathed for 4 or 5 years and when we did it was ragged, coming is fitful spasms, like a marathon runner as he crosses the finish line. Sometimes we were broken and worn only making it through the day because we were on autopilot.
But then, miraculously, things started slowly changing. Fewer tantrums occurred. Less resistance. More control. More sense of responsibility. A new willingness to help out and think of others feelings. Slowly all the years of hard work began to slip into place finally resting where they needed to be and Paul began to mature.
Those younger years were often dark. They were sad. They were scary and they were the most difficult of my life but today I have come out on the other side with a newfound appreciation of my two sons, knowing first-hand all the hard work they have had to put into themselves in order to become the wonderful and engaging people that they are.
These days when I see other parents on the on-line bulletin boards struggling with their children; I try to encourage them and assure them that it does get easier as their kids mature. And when I see their pain and fear sometimes it takes me back to mine. When this happens I involuntarily shudder but then marvel at all that our entire family has accomplished together through hard work, fighting the system, and never giving in/up.
This morning I sit at the table watching as Paul studies for his drivers ed test and I wonder…where did the time go?