Monday, June 14, 2010

After..... Sometimes life is simply a carnival!

The Circle Makeover "After" Picture
(See the segment here: The physical after....)

Following on from a previous post Before and After I've provided the link above for those interested in how things turned out on the TV makeover front.  Against the odds, I agreed to don a dress (on national television) for the first time since my wedding day and allowed the make up people to transform me into someone who resembles a person who has given their appearance a second thought in the last few years.

The makeover was fun but in honesty it did not quite provide the liberty from my self doubt that I craved at the time.  The producers of the show billed me as "the Autism Representative of NSW" who was so embarrassed about my appearance that I am terrified to take the stage for my public speaking engagements...  Hmm... Not quite the way it is as I am happy to speak publicly about families living with Autism and woops, I'm not the "Autism Representative of NSW."  No such title exists.  I was appointed a Carers NSW Representative (See here) which is in addition to acting as the vice president of the Autism and Aspergers Support Group Inc.  It is the Autism and Aspergers Support Group Inc (AASG website) that is sponsoring me to speak at The National Summit of Parents Families and Carers in September and it is THAT speaking engagement I was nervous about attending in my usual uniform of jeans, sandals and a basic black top (none of which fit me very well due to weight gain over the last few years).  Anyway, as I said, it was lots of fun to be primped and preened for a day and to receive some fab new clothes! 

Nope... No emancipation from nagging self esteem and doubt from the makeover BUT the little niggles that I was worrying about a couple of posts ago are fading.  I think the experience of writing about my disappointment that we don't all support each other in this world of awareness and advocacy was somehow cathartic (I said advocacy as EVERY parent with a child of difference is an advocate.  Every single one of us who stands up to speak for our kids of any ability or who attempts to raise awareness for their needs is an advocate regardless of what any title means). 

So instead of providing the specific self esteem boosting purpose I thought the makeover would, it provided me with perspective instead.  That's not so bad.  I came home with my fancy new dress to a chorus of excited squeals from my boys who I had been away from for exactly 28 hours and 37 minutes during my TV sojourn.  There was an exclamation in unison of our usual family greeting, "Muuuuuummmmyyy!!!!! I'm so happy to see you, did you have a nice day?"  (Always always always the same greeting except for the insertion of appropriate name to scream in excitement for anyone who walks in our door... eg: "Daaaaadddddyyyy!!!!! I'm so happy to see you, did you have a nice day? or Naaaaannnnnnyyyyy!!!!! I'm so happy to see you, did you have a nice day?" You get the idea, even our greetings are that of the strictly rehearsed routine variety).

So there I was, in my fancy (and super expensive and completely impractical) new glad rags hearing the music to my ears that is the greeting of my incredible boys, "Muuuummmyyy!!!!! I'm so happy to see you, did you have a nice day?"  To which I responded, "I'm so happy to see you too beautiful boys and yes, thank you I did have a nice day today.  I missed you so much!  Did you have a nice day too?"

My boys have super hyper verbal skills which is not terribly common for children with ASD but they do lack the ability of reciprocity in conversations and often answer in a somewhat interesting way that is not necessarily expected and even sometimes does not make sense and that is very common in children with ASD.  This is why every single time a response of completely crystal clear sense making clarity comes from either of them I whoop with joy in my heart.

In response to my greeting, H responded, "U huh. I love you so much Mummy, a cuddle, a cuddle, a cuddle now please. A cuddle, a cuddle, a cuddle NOW please!" (Whilst nodding furiously that yes indeed he had a lovely day even in my absence).

J nodded and exclaimed, "Yes! I had such a nice day at preschool and Vicki helped me do a painting just for you (thanks Vicki, the world's most beautiful teacher's aide who always makes sure J's day includes a reminder of his Mummy)."

Then....  A thoughtful pause from J who watched me scoop my little H bunny up for that achingly perfect repetitively requested cuddle. 

More thoughtful pausing...... An additional comment from my quirky, little guy who sometimes seems to miss the crux of what we are saying to him and marches to the beat of his very own internal drum more often than not..... "Mummy what a beautiful new dress just like at the carnival! It's a so so so so very good and beautiful carnival dress Mummy just like you."

Ahhh. Just like at the carnival?  As I pondered J's assessment of my impractical and expensive dress gifted to me by Channel 10 which I would never ever have splashed out on of my own accord due to constantly worrying that the money I am spending on myself, even for a cup of coffee could be money that would be better put to my boys and their required therapies..........  Well as I pondered his unique view of my carnival dress (sorry Country Road), I realised that he was casting his mind back to our family day out at the local show where there was a Ferris wheel, rides, animals, colour everywhere, clowns and fun.  This day was described by J in the car on the way home as, "a fun very very very good, beautiful carnival."

For J, my pretty new dress of a deep burgundy teamed with a stunning  necklace of crystals, baubles and beads was his version of beautiful just like his day at the "carnival" and just like me apparently.

I think that is possibly the highest compliment I've ever received in my life.  One child desperately reaching for my arms that he'd missed for the entire 28 hours and 37 minutes I'd been away and squeezing me with gusto and a force I did not know a two year old was capable of and the other child likening my made over look to his mind's eye of the most beautiful thing he could think of, his wonderful day at his "carnival."

I smiled through wet eyes and kissed the top of his own beautiful head, still clutching my little H who was NOT letting go of our cuddle anytime soon it seemed.

So no.....  I did not instantly become a picture of bursting confidence inside and out and I did not forget the imperfect world that my children live in or the political and sometimes ugly world of gossip and pettiness that I was so upset over a mere few weeks ago.  I was searching in the wrong place to forget those things and searching for the wrong cure to remedy my battered drive to continue on in attempting to action change in a climate so difficult to stay afloat in with self doubt.

I've always known where to look deep down and I've said it in the past a million times over.  I have no idea why I forgot where the port in any storm is and I have no idea why I allowed those waves of shattered confidence to crash into me over and over again.  The source to heal any hurt or boost any doubts has always been safely locked in my heart.  It's so obvious that I'm tempted to flagellate myself over being so blind temporarily but will not waste anymore time on this as clearly it's time to move past things I cannot change and step back up to the responsibility I have to my boys who need thier Mum to be as proud of herself as she is of them.

The world my children live in is not beautiful to some and on some days it's not beautiful to me as I look at them from my own adoring eyes knowing that what I see is nothing like what the rest of the world will see without guidance and awareness.  Right now though and in the moment I walked through the door after the makeover that was to provide my self esteem the boost of beauty I needed at the time.... Well in that moment the world was beautiful just like the carnival to my boys.  That is the perspective I gained.

What I saw as the little old local show is a beautiful carnival to my boys and what I saw as an overweight, tired and confidence devoid mum is just as beautiful to them as they are to me.

Does anything else really matter?  I'm sure I no longer think so.


  1. I actually saw that when it was on TV but I didn't realise it was you!
    You looked beautiful - just like a carnival - and you deserved it more than anyone for all the hard work you put in.
    Good for you!

  2. Really? How fabulous and funny that you saw it!!! Thank you as usual Fiona. :-)

  3. What a beautiful story. Just shows your sons love you no matter what you look like! I just loved how your son commented on your carnival dress which was just like you. These kids with Autism don't give out compliments easily so that makes it extra special.