I live in a corner of the world where my neighbors compete for prizes such as “yard of the month” or “garden of the week.”
I don’t know if these people landscape these parts of their lives themselves, or they hire it done. I know the people on my street do it themselves and their yards are immaculate.
So are their garages. They vacuum them. They vacuum the driveways, too.
I can’t imagine living the kind of life that allows for the kind of space to vacuum driveways and landscape yards so beautifully that they get their picture in the paper. It’s not that I don’t have a desire to. It’s not that I don’t have a clue as to how beautiful my yard can look. In my mind and on paper I have sketched my yard with many flowers and peaceful trails. Ornate pagodas and inviting benches for repose are nestled in beside the pond where I invite my friends over for tea.
But this reality is as far from me as Buckingham Palace. It’s not that I don’t want these things in my life. It’s not even that I’m lazy.
I’m a mother of children with autism.
Autism doesn’t allow for the luxury of vacuuming the garage. Not only is vacuuming the garage not a reality — it doesn’t even rent space in my mind. My mental focus is consumed with being on alert for the next autistic event. Living life is moment by moment. Plans can’t be made.We are in survival mode the minute my sons open their eyes each morning, and in the middle of the night.
Instead of vacuuming the garage, I’m washing the walls. Instead of planting flowers, I’m rescuing my child from his obsession with the weed eater. Instead of building a pagoda, I’m hanging another door that’s been torn off its hinges.
This is why no flowers grow.
Do not judge those who have no flowers. Who doesn’t love flowers? Who wouldn’t want flowers? It’s not that we don’t want them.
It’s that we can’t tend the kind of flowers that get our picture in the paper.
The kind that we attend grow in such a way that no one shows up at our door with a “garden of the month” sign and a request for our picture in the paper. But that’s okay because we don’t need that. Without the accolades of those who plant award-winning gardens, we continue to tend to these beautiful, fascinating, exhausting seedlings no matter how much the neighbors judge us for our lack of a proper outdoor manicure.
While our neighbor’s seasons of flowers pass, and they get a season of rest from cultivating, mothers of autistic kids are required to relentlessly tend the unforgiving weeds in the garden of autism. It’s a crop whose weeds will not die no matter how much they pull at them. And yet, they work with weary, discouraged, passionately-full-of-love hearts in its unforgiving field.
Knowing full well, they may never be given the return of a rose.