Monday, June 17, 2013

"This isn't what I thought it was going to be like"

Austin said this to me the other day and while I took a little bit of time to talk with him about it in the moment, I've really been pondering his comment ever since.

He was talking about cat ownership. He was talking about  how much our kitty, Sebastian, has changed in temperament in the 6 months that we have had him.

Sebastian on his 6 month "home-aversary" on June 12th
And he is right. When Sebastian first followed us home, he spent most of his time snuggled up in our laps. He would go from one lap to the next and would purr and snuggle. Over time, he spent less time on our laps but would still hang out next to us or near us. And when he wants some time alone, he will go under one of the beds. Austin tends to follow him around, even under the bed, to be with him - and he is usually met with a typical kitty "leave me alone" reaction.

In April, we went on a trip and left Sebastian here at the house while our neighbor came to take care of him. As soon as we got back, we packed up the entire contents of the house, moved it out to a storage pod, and completely redid the interior of the house from the floors to the furniture to the bedding. Sebastian spent the night of the flooring at a friend's house. That is a lot for a cat, I think. Regardless, it seemed to be a lot for our cat. He started hissing at us anytime we came near him. He spent most of his time under the bed in the girls' room. He also started doing his business on the floor in the bathroom sometimes instead of in the litter box. It has upset all of us, I think, to have him react this way... but I think it's upset Austin the most.

I did a little research on "hissing" in cats and learned that it's not always an aggressive thing. So instead of trying to correct him for it, I have started speaking to him in a calm voice to reassure him that he's OK and that we love him. And when we try to pick him up and he hisses, then we just don't pick him up (unless we're picking him up for a reason where we have no choice). We're trying to help him to feel comfortable, and loved, and respected.

So when Austin said what he did to me last week, I asked him why he was feeling that way. He said that he sees pictures of his friends and their cats and they are snuggling and they don't hiss at their owners and they can pick them up anytime they want to. I said to Austin, "Does it matter?" I asked him if he thought we should love Sebastian any less because he doesn't act like all the other cats. Of course, he said no. I told him that was good. That our job was to love Sebastian and take care of him and help him be the happiest cat that he can be, in whatever way that looks like for  him. Austin agreed and he hasn't mentioned it again, though I wonder if he's thinking it.

Now, if you've been reading carefully, you may have already picked up on the parallel that hit me like a ton of bricks in the hours and days after this short conversation with Austin.

It's just the way I have so often felt since autism and epilepsy have come into our lives.

"This isn't the way I thought it was going to be like." I wasn't expecting to parent two special needs kids. I wasn't expecting to have a child who struggles with learning. I look at my other friends and their kids and I see what they are doing with such ease and it hurts my heart that, if my kids can do it at all, they have to work so hard to manage it and then they have to spend so much time and energy to recover. The things that other people take for granted with their children growing up and moving on, I don't get to do that.

But as I intimated with Austin in our brief interaction, "Does it matter?" It's been a long, hard road to get to the point where I can say with honesty, "No, it doesn't matter." Last week during one of my runs, I really felt like God was telling me, "Look - success is going to be different for Austin. It's NOT going to look like your friends' kids, but it will be success for him. It's not any less of an effort just because it doesn't match what the world views as success. And it's not any less important. But if you're looking for the approval of the world, you're not going to find it. You're only going to find sadness and frustration." The reason I know it's from God is because it's the truth. And it's not something that I'm likely to have understood on my own. Yet, I understood and felt the peace that came with that. ("Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

There isn't much in life that turns out to be what you think it's going to be. And despite all of the platitudes going around on Facebook that tell us we're supposed to "take the lemons and make lemonade", it's not always that easy when you're getting lemons thrown at you from all directions. But sometimes, illumination comes from being able to look at the same situation from the safety of the outside looking in. And then, suddenly, it all makes sense.

It's funny how much having a cat around can teach you...

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Such wisdom, my friend! I think this is one of the best things you've ever written! I am so happy for you to be able to write from the place you are now - with the peace that only God can give!