In The Quiet Hours

As Max has grown older, his ability to know, understand, and discuss autism has grown with him. He’s almost 12 now, and he has known he is autistic for a little more than a year. He recognizes that autism is an underlying reason behind his anger, and he also knows that it has provided him an uncanny ability to memorize some cool stuff and get us home from pretty much anywhere without a map. Every now and then, he lets us in a little deeper into his processing of this life. For sake of this post, let’s call it the quiet hours.

A few nights ago, it was about 80 degrees as the sun was setting. The four of us were relaxing on the back patio talking about life. Max decided it was time to talk about autism. The conversation went something like this.

Max – “Do girls have autism?”

Me and/or Jamie – “Yes they do. It doesn’t happen as much for girls, but yes, girls can have autism.” (Notice the person first identity – we’re letting him steer the ship until he fully has his own voice. See this post)

Max – “But girls have autism?”

Me – “Yes”

Max – “Do I know any girls with autism?”

Jamie – “Uh, yes, you do.”

Max – “Who is it?”

Jamie – “We probably shouldn’t say, bud. Some parents wait a little longer to talk about autism with their kids, and we don’t know if her parents have talked about it with her yet.”

Max – “Oh. OK. Does she have anger a lot?”

Jamie – “Haha! We don’t know, buddy. We’re not sure what it’s like at home for her and her family.”

Max – “OK”

It might not seem like much of a conversation, but considering how our evenings usually go, it was pretty precious. Just a gentle, quiet conversation of an inquisitive nature – no arguing, no elevated voices, no “wrong answers” given by Jamie or me. Just awesome. The fact that he is willing to talk about his situation and ask questions is pretty heart-warming.

The Quiet Hours

This post is called “In The Quiet Hours.” If you’re anything like us, quiet hours are rare. As your child grows, you’ll learn to look for those moments and capitalize on them. It’s in those moments when we parents do backflips inside. On an average day, we yearn for breakthroughs, fight exhaustion, and maintain high alert. When the quiet hours come, it’s like manna from heaven.

The quiet hours may look different for you than they do for us. If your child is non-verbal, it may be that moment when they do communicate with you without the need for words. If your child is extremely active, it might be the moment they choose to sit down and be still. For us, it literally means quiet – no yelling, no complaining, no anger.

The benefits of these moments are hard to put into words. I think it boils down to bonding. One of the things we parents deal with most is a disconnectedness with our autistic children. Without being able to be inside their head, and without them being able to completely explain it to us, we can’t help but feel some roadblocks to bonding. But in that quiet hour, in the peaceful times, the roadblocks seemingly disappear, if only for a moment. The bonding that takes place in that moment can erase months of failure from trying so hard all the other times.

The more I hear from autism parents, the more I understand that it’s likely possible for all of us to experience those moments. They might be extremely rare, but they are possible. Be on the lookout for them.

The quiet hours, the special moment, the abnormally good evening or morning – they breathe so much life into your home. They bring peace and joy, and and an overwhelming sense that “hey, we’re getting somewhere here.” You feel connected to your child in ways you haven’t felt before. All seems right with the world. If I could manufacture them, I would. I can’t, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. You should too.

By recognizing the circumstances around when and why they happen, maybe, just maybe we can duplicate them. Pay close attention during those times. Retrace your steps. What was the environment like? What was happening? Who was there? What did you eat beforehand? I know it seems silly to ask that many questions. But if you’ve had just one intimate moment with your child where they let you in on a level never experienced, you’ll do whatever it takes to get there again.

So pay special attention and take good notes.

Chad Youngquist

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