Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What's Your Favorite F-Word?

No, no.  Not the
F-word you may be thinking! 

Fabulous. Fantastic.  Fun.   

These are the words Matthew likes to use when he wishes his email and texting friends a “Happy Happy Fantabulous and Funny Friday”.  He even has shirts about Friday, his favorite day. 

Matty in one of his favorite Friday shirts!
Matthew’s love of Friday all started when he became interested in garbage trucks back in 
1st grade.  Yes, Fantastic Friday is our garbage day.  He would sing the reasons why Friday was his favorite day and we came up with a long list of more than 20 reasons why Fridays are so fabulous.  We had to write all these reasons down so we wouldn’t forget them.  (Pizza day, garbage day, Mrs. Strickland’s garbage day to name a few).

Has Matthew found the essence of practicing gratitude?   Yes, I believe he has.
He’s been making lists of what he likes about each day of the week for years, which translates into what he is grateful for.  “Mommy, Happy Happy Terrific Tuesday,” he blurted out this morning as he woke me up.  Although it’s an early wake up call each morning, he does begin my days with a smile since he is so positive as he lists all the things he is looking forward to during his upcoming day. 

Now, of course there are times when autism and intellectual disability get in the way of his joyful attitude towards the days of the week and his gratitude lists.  “Mommy, I
want to skip Thankful Thursday and go straight to Fun Friday,”
he tells me most
Wonderful Wednesday evenings when I am putting him to bed.  Waiting that one extra day to get to garbage day is just too long to wait.  Some Thursdays become Thrashing and Thunderous in our house because it’s in the way of getting to Fun Friday.  It’s really hard to live with Matthew when he gets stuck in this cycle of thinking.

As a mom who must practice “extreme parenting” because of Matthew’s special needs (thank you Suzanne B. for coining this phrase), I know I try my hardest to make the world a friendly and tolerable place for Matthew to live.  I want to make it possible to prevent him from getting stuck in his thinking patterns. 

o   Restaurant too loud?  Let’s go outside for a walk. 

o   Line for airport security a mile long?  Put Matthew in a wheelchair to bypass the line.**    
o   School van is supposed to come at 8:11 and now it’s 8:13?  I use my improvisational    
     skills as I spontaneously sing lyrics to him, which include reasons why the van driver is  
     late (like most individuals with autism, Matthew responds quickly and positively to music). 
o   Unfortunately, I do not have the ability to take Thursday off the calendar.    
     Sorry, Matty.  You’ll live.

A friend recommended a great book a few years ago about how to teach gratitude to kids (Raising Happiness).  One of the tips I took away from this book, is to pause throughout the day to let my children know when I have stopped to become mindful in the moment by saying something like, “tonight, when I lie in bed and think about my day, I will remember this moment with you as one of my favorite moments.”  The hope here is to teach kids how to savor moments and practice gratitude.  I love this lesson. 

One of the ways autism presents itself in Matthew, is his need for people to say certain things at specific times (yes, part of the stuck thinking).  After Greg takes a shower, Matthew always asks, “How was your shower, Daddy?”   Greg’s response has to be, “Refreshing.”  Matthew has gained a keen sense for when I am going to talk to him about savoring the moment.  Usually, just as I am about to say it, he will ask, “Mommy, are you going to think about this moment tonight when you go to bed?”  His autism makes him rigid, yet it helps him (and me) to remember to savor moments and practice gratitude. 

Yes, there are many difficult moments when I am just so F^<&ing exhausted of trying to figure it out.  Trying to figure out how he thinks so I can help him.  In these moments, I often do use my true favorite F word (under my breath of course)! 

Recently, in Matthew’s daily emails and texts to his family and friends, he has asked for a list of favorite W words on Wednesday or M words on Monday, and of course, F words on Friday (see example below).    When he requests the list of F words, I think he is trying to expand on his repertoire of alliteration for the days of the week, but I am going to allow his request for F words to remind me to make a mental list of what I am grateful for.  

One of his texting BFF's, Molly D. thank you for allowing me to post this great email you sent! (And thank you to SO MANY family and friends for keeping Matty occupied & happy with your daily emails and texts.)

Happy Happy almost Fun, Fabulous, Freaky Friday – from Matthew and me!

**Regarding my mention of using a wheelchair in the airport.  I will expand on that in a future post.

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