Mountains and Valleys

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Life is lived in mountains and valleys.

Put aside the idea that a valley is flat and smooth and easy to walk. In life, it can be easy to feel trapped in the valley.

In a valley, you can’t see even a hint of your destination. Surrounded by high mountain peaks, you just have to keep walking, keep moving and hope that you’re headed in the right direction.

Despite the difficulty in getting there, being on top of the mountain brings strength and surety. From the top of the mountain, the view extends for miles. The lay of the land is clear, and sometimes even the destination is within sight. A plan can be made to find a way to get there.

On the top of the mountain, there is clarity and optimism.

In the valley, there is insecurity and doubt.

In raising Toby, I find myself often in the valley, while occasionally reaching the summit and getting clear view of the future.

Sometimes I feel confident. I feel assured. I feel certain that he will successfully reach his full potential, and live a happy life that is meaningful to him.

Other times, I feel stuck. Dealing with an obstacle or problem, I have to keep my head down and power through, hoping that we can make it. We walk through the night while a voice in the back of my mind wonders if we really ever stood a chance.

Yet in the valley, there is one thing I can cling to when the worries and doubts cloud my mind and press heavy on my heart.

I know we can get there. I know it can be done. I saw it. So clear, so tangible, so attainable.

I saw it from the mountain.

Bright and hopeful in the distance, I saw it. The road, though littered with obstacles, is passable.

And every day we walk we become stronger.

 

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Mr. Potato Head

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Mr. Potato Head is the toy I hate the most.

Never mind his ugly bulbous face and his stupid smirk. I have much deeper reason for my detestation of Mr. Potato Head.

Mr. Potato Head told me my son was autistic.

The way Toby played with Mr. Potato Head was non-functional. From a very young age, he would stim with the individual pieces. He’d wave them around while humming in monotone, and not put them into the face at all, let alone the right slots. Before his diagnosis, I didn’t know what he was doing. I thought he had some really interesting scenarios going on inside his head. I didn’t know he was getting lost in his own mind.

When we began to be concerned about Toby’s development, one of the doctors we saw asked me, “How does he play with toys?”

I thought of Mr. Potato Head.

The doctor frowned when I told her, and mentioned the word “autism” in relation to my son for the first time. When we finally got in to see a specialist, Mr. Potato Head came up again. Another tally against Toby. The final thing that put us over the cliff where we landed in a big fat pile of autism information packets.

Still, I tried not to hold it against Mr. Potato Head. After all, it wasn’t personal. We kept him. For over a year after Toby’s diagnosis I kept him, trying and hoping that he would learn to play with him appropriately. I wanted victory over his vegetable face. But one day, I snapped.

I gathered up all of those staring eyes, seriously rude stuck-out tongues, oval noses and black bowler hats. And I put them in a plastic bag and sent them to Goodwill.

Why should I keep such a painful reminder in my home when it only breaks my heart all over again, every time I see Toby playing with him the same way he always has? The habit to stim with those toys was a very, very powerful habit. Even though I was trying to help him overcome that pattern, I decided it just wasn’t worth it. There are plenty of small-scale toys in this world that I can use to teach Toby to play with, instead of stim with. I just couldn’t look at those dumb potato parts that told the world my son was different anymore. And you know what?

Nobody misses him. Not at all.

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UPDATE: Toby’s daily notes from school

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Literally, in your face Mr. Potato Head.

I still hate you.