Good morning, Austen Authors Land!
This morning I wanted to share something special to me on the eve of Halloween, a real treat in my life, and that is my daughter, Catelynn Samantha. This month has been a very major milestone month in our journey as mother and daughter. For one, Catelynn is really beginning to understand what it is that Mommy does when she says she is working. And not only that, she is fascinated and supportive of what I do in a way only a precocious 6-year-old can be. There’s not a day that goes by she is not putting a smile on my face from her observations about the world and my books.
This month, I went to the amazing AGM in Louisville, KY. What you don’t know is that trip is the first time I have left my daughter for multiple days. It astounded me as a mother that truly, in six and a half years, I had not had a single night to myself of NOT being able to be the one who’s there when she has a nightmare. Or be the one to sing our morning song (yes, we sing every morning “Good morning, good morning, it’s such a happy day”). And I was panicked in many ways that she would be angry or upset that I left her for that trip. I explained to her what I was doing, and to my surprise, Catelynn was 110% supportive! The first night I called her she started right off with “Hi, Mommy, how is your writer conference? Do they all love your book?”
My daughter Catelynn is autistic. There were years of her toddlerhood that I struggled with deep feelings of failure as a mother and frustration that my child was just not like everyone else’s and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. We were asked to not come back to library programs because Catelynn couldn’t sit through the story and only wanted to do the craft and it was like no one else was in the room, she was oblivious. We struggled to get her to talk, by age 3, she was still only using one or two words for communication, with maybe about 30 different words she could say. We had moved, so hubby and I chalked up a lot of the strangeness to that. If you spoke to her, she looked right through you, and if you displeased her, she just screamed. But, at three and a half I took her to her pediatrician who said there were things that flag Catelynn and next we worked with the school district and Catelynn completed a full-year of special education pre-K.
It worked wonders! I still have a child that can’t button buttons, or handle changes in schedule well, or modulate her voice, but we now live in a way that Catelynn is blossoming and growing. As a mother, I feel like I am getting some parts of those years BACK because I am learning about all of the thoughts and ideas my daughter has in that mind of hers that thankfully, she can now express in a variety of ways. Oh, she talks just fine now, LOL, but she is also using art and writing to express her ideas. Her new hobby is writing books.
Catelynn will pre-determine how many pages her stories will be. Eight pages, ten pages, etc. And she will sit down and not stop until all of the pages are finished. Then we will staple them together and that’s her book. She makes two or three of these a week, and her teacher says it’s great to encourage her to help increase her stamina for the school day (we still have some challenges there). I am biased because I am her parent, but I am finding her rich details that she puts into these creatively spelled stories just fascinating. Yesterday, she wrote a story about Arthur, DW, and Buster, characters she watched on TV. And they had a sleep over, and Arthur “goed to sleep” but DW is “like a prncss and cud not sleep at all.” Then they had this disagreement over video games and who likes to play which kind and had to play apart. She’s sharing with me these pages and the author in me is thinking: “My goodness, she already is putting conflict in her story and developing characteristics for each character!” (Again, I’m her mother, I’m a bit biased).
While I was gone, Catelynn kept a journal for each day so she could share it with me when I got back. It was so adorable, and I am sharing this with you and hope it reminds you of cute times with your own children or grandchildren. 🙂
Very likely, Catelynn will be joining me during the day and we will be doing home schooling by next year. It’s not the school’s fault, they are trying to accommodate her, but it’s the very environment of a larger classroom that triggers Catelynn’s meltdowns and loss of control. She doesn’t process peer interactions well, she can’t handle stimulation past a specific threshold and she just falls apart. As a mother, I don’t want my daughter taking herself to the bathroom everyday to cry, which is what is happening right now. She is very self-aware of her quirks and actively participates in mitigating the symptoms. Point blank, she WANTS to be normal. If she homeschooled, we can do planned peer activities and give her a good space to stay academically appropriate. Right now, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place because as long as she is able to do some of her school work, the school system will not give her an aide or additional assistance for the sensory and social issues. And I understand, they have 25 kids to worry about in that classroom, I only need to worry about one. 🙂
I know this isn’t related much to Jane Austen, but it was something on my heart that I wanted to share. Catelynn is a bright sun in my life and a big reason why I do what I do. There is no greater motivation than your children telling you “Good job, Mommy, you have so many books!” Our family has many challenges and obstacles, but at the end of the day, we have love, support, and safety and are very blessed.
So this Halloween weekend, the trick is to find your treat, and I would love to hear about it in the comments!
Elizabeth Ann West