So Zach has just agreed to the stipulations for his release from his safe space: “Quiet hands, quiet voice.” I thought we were well on our way to transitioning back to the mission of “CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS EVE” darn it, but no. When I leaned over to pick Zach up and remove him, I realized he’d voided on the floor, which was essentially the carpet.

Side Note: The next safe space we had built for Zachary had a door (my back was destroyed from the first one which did not have one) AND plastic covering for the carpet. Lessons learned.

Back to Zach. The carpet, Zach’s socks and feet are soaked with urine. If I lift him out, he will track the urine around the rest of our home. If I leave him there to get cleaning supplies he will become further saturated and stomp the urine deeper in the carpet.

I didn’t have this development on my list of things to do before going to Nana’s for Christmas Eve dinner. While she, and other families were setting their tables, wrapping gifts, planning their outfits or lightning candles, I was making a split second decision on what to do next.

I remembered the Behavioral Psychologist. The one who’s fees were not covered by insurance, but several thousand dollars later helped us gain one or two tools of coping with the erratic nature of Zach’s behavior and therefore, our lives. “I’m not cleaning this alone” I thought, as I empowered myself to take a strong stance on trying not to “reinforce his behavior by rewarding him with my attention” even though it would have been in the form of an angry scream.

Instead, I left Zach in place momentarily. I got a bucket, filled it with detergent, warm water and grabbed a scrub brush. I climbed over the side of the safe space (again, highly recommend a door should someone in your environment need a safe space) and stood next to Zach, who was about two and a half feet tall. There was barely enough room for both of us, but I didn’t care.

I poured some of the cleaning liquid on the floor, bent over top of Zach and placed his hand on the scrub brush, mine on top of his. “No problem Zach, we can clean this together.”

Clean it we did. Not sure what I was wearing at the time but whatever it was would have to be changed. Then there was the challenge of getting wet, urine tainted Zachary to the bath tub upstairs, so urine wasn’t tracked around our home. I think my feet were wet by now too.

“What time was it?” Must be we will be late to Nana’s for dinner. In the back of my mind I felt rage. Still focused on the mission I had so many stories going through my mind. But we got (not sure where Zach’s Dad was during this event but certain he was there somewhere) through the ordeal.

Within a couple hours the carpet was now cleansed and covered with baking soda to soak up the remnants of urine and water. We were bathed, dressed in holiday threads and headed to Christmas Eve Dinner. Nothing like the tradition I longed to continue, but Christmas Eve Dinner none-the-less.

Connecting this experience to the spirit of “If I’d known then what I know now” and wanting to share it with other families or individuals trying to fit into a world or culture and tradition, where there is no model for your specially abled loved one, or even you. My advice is this: Stop trying.

With all the physical and emotional stress of that day, was a pounding sense of duty to play the role that I was assigned. Instead, I could have called my family and said: “It can’t work today” or “We are coming in our sweats” or “Bring the food here, we have to be in a place we can keep us all safe.”

There are so many other avenues to working through life, including our traditions, than the one we think we have to be on. “Stop trying” is a worthy mantra, lesson and concept that I wish I’d been empowered with at a much younger age.

Fortunately I now know, that there are choices about how to navigate, not just one or two ways of doing things. Next time you find yourself scrubbing urine out of the carpet, hand over hand with your loved one (or alone) try asking yourself what YOU need in that moment, instead of dwelling in the ways you’re sure you are disappointing everyone else.

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