It was a Friday night, and I was all out of hugs.
My son was having a particularly hard day. And the more difficult things are for him, the more hugs I get. Not gentle hugs, mind you. They are the squeeze-you-so-tight-you-can’t-breathe hugs. The kind of hugs that aren’t out of affection, but out of a need for sensory regulation. And for my son, only “hugs from Mom” will do.
By 7pm on a Friday night, I couldn’t do it anymore.
We were upstairs in my son’s room and he was asking for more hugs. Begging, really. He was on the floor with his giant 3 foot long stuffed dog on top of him.
“Mom! Mom!! Mom!!! Can you lay down on your belly on top of the dog with me under it and squish me? Mom! Mom! Mom!!”
I stared down at the giant basket of laundry that I had been trying to put away for three days.
“No, Mom can’t right now.” I said. “I need to put this laundry away.”
“Mom! Mom! Mom!!! Pleeeease!!!”
I started to walk out of the room, which is what I do when I’m about to lose it.
My husband was standing in the doorway.
“What does he want you to do?”
I explained that he wanted me to lie on the big stuffed animal and squish him under there. I said I didn’t want to because I was afraid I’d hurt him. We both knew that was a giant lie.
My husband walked into the room and wrapped his arms around the stuffed animal and our son. And in an instant, the whole room became calm. I watched our son’s body relax and a giant smile came over his face. For the first time in hours, he was completely quiet.
“Well,” I said to my husband, smiling slightly, “I guess you finally have your hug from him.”
“No,” he said. “It’s like Temple Grandin said about her hug machine. Deep pressure input without a human touch. That’s all this is.”
His words floated out there in that calm and quiet room.
In that moment, I knew he got it.
In the year since my son’s autism diagnosis, my husband and I have both tried to connect with our son on different levels. He’s the fun one who makes giant Hot Wheels tracks through the house and creates monster truck stadiums out of blocks. I’m the logistical one who packs his snacks and lunches, helps him get dressed in the morning, and makes his juice just right. I’m also “queen of all things sensory integration”.
Until that Friday night. That night was the first time my husband was able to step in to my role and help our son when I couldn’t.
And it was awesome.
Everyone should have someone they can turn to when they can’t give any more – a spouse, a partner, a relative or a friend. Someone who will be there without hesitation and hug when you cannot.
For me, that is my husband. And like me, he is a Hopeful Parent too. That’s the best gift I could have received this holiday season.
“Parents are people
People with children
When parents were little, they used to be kids
Like all of you, but then they grew
And now parents are grown-ups
Grown-ups with children
Busy with children, and things that they do
There are a lot of things a lot of mommies
And a lot of daddies, and a lot of parents can do” – Parents Are People from Free To Be You and Me
Alysia Butler is a stay at home mom to three boys, one of whom has autism spectrum disorder. She writes about that and other things at Try Defying Gravity and now has 1,654 tweets from @trydefyinggrav.