Not long ago, I ordered myself a little bowl of soup.
Small-ish. But huge in my head. I had been thinking about that little bowl of soup for years. The more I thought about it, the bigger my little bowl of soup grew. You've seen my little bowl of soup. Maybe you haven't given it much thought? But if you're even a little familiar with childrens' books, you've probably seen it before.
See it sitting back there. Simple, right? Not the biggest part of the story. Certainly not when we were kids reading this book. When I was a kid, I don't know that I even really loved Where The Wild Things Are. The Wild Things themselves were neat to me. I wasn't impressed with the kid's behavior. I wasn't fooled into thinking he actually traveled somewhere. I was a no-nonsense kid and wasn't buying that he was anywhere but in his bedroom imagining. What I did think was cool was that the kid got to eat his dinner in his bedroom. The little things, right?
As a 30-something mom with a kid with Autism, I see this book in a WHOLE different way now. Actually, my Max was named after the kid in the book. I liked the idea of Max being a kid full of imagination. It's always been my dream for my kids to have big personalities with even bigger imaginations. No other kid has ever been better named. He has morphed into the King of the Wild Things himself.
Max was diagnosed at the age of four. It was a long, slow, and grueling process. The actual diagnosing took a few weeks. It was all the professionals I asked from the time he was 2 years old that turned my hair gray and kept Max from receiving services earlier. I heard things like, "He makes too much eye contact." or "He's too loving." I even heard, "He's way too cute!" The cute statement came from his special needs pre-k teacher. No one would listen. No one would discuss his aggression, lack of speech, his picky eating, the je ne sais quoi I could feel in my gut. It wasn't until I got to the right pediatrician who actually listened that I was on the right track. The aggression though. I have never gotten help with the aggression. The aggressive aspect of his Autism is definitely the hardest on me, our family, and most of all Max.
One day, I read the same Where the Wild Things Are for the one millionth time. Suddenly this childrens' book smacked me square in the face. What the hell is Max-the-character's problem? What if he doesn't just have bad behavior? What if it is something so much more? Something out of control? Something like... Autism? It added a whole new spin to the whole thing. Where is the mom anyway? Tired. She is tired. Too tired to once again pick up the fight and deep pressure hug Max-the-character until he succumbs to the lovin'. She instead takes the easy route that she'll probably regret later - putting him in his room to work it out himself. I could suddenly see through the eyeballs of that mama just trying to keep it together. And I could see that Max-the-character was creating a world for himself when the real world became all too much. That, to me, is one of the most painful parts of Autism.
But as we know, Max-the-character does come "back home". And eventually, so does my Max when the world becomes too much. In Where the Wild Things are, the mother helps Max-the-character in the only way she knows how at the time: she is sure to give him a nice full bowl of soup, and, most importantly, she is sure it is hot. She could have set it out at any point with a to-hell-with-it attitude. But no, she was warm herself and kind. And forgiving. It was only a few weeks ago that I realized there is also a big piece of cake beside the soup. The whole meal says, "not only do I forgive you, but I love you, and I understand you. And I will always be here for you when you get back from your own world."
And so, now I can't read Where the Wild Things Are to my kids without a lot of deep breathing and eye blinking. It just resonates so loudly with me. My Max has come so far. That bowl of soup represents to me a quiet patience that I strive to attain every single day. Some days I succeed. Some days I do not. At all. But regardless, I will always be there when he comes back home.
So... that bowl of soup.
I carry it with me everywhere I go now. I look at it often as I contemplate that quiet patience. It has definitely been a journey. This motherhood gig is by far hardest thing I have ever done. But isn't it the hardest things, the things you bleed and sweat and cry over that often bring the most joy?