The laying of hands means something totally different in my house than it does in a religious setting, or perhaps it doesn’t…
In my house, we lay hands on our children quite frequently (but never in a harmful way). We lay hands on shoulders when we’re walking from the front door to the car. We lay hands in hands whenever we get out of the car to go into another place; be it school, work, therapies, or the grocery store.
We lay hands in tight hugs to calm anxiety. We let our children lay hands on our hair to give them something to stim with when they’re happy, upset, anxious, or sad. We let our children lay hands on our arms when they need some heavy work to make it one. more. minute. in the grocery store.
We lay hands on coat sleeves, on shirt tails, on belt loops, on elbows, or ankles, or backpacks. We are all about hands on. We’re so hands on that it affects our lives. We can’t go out of the house without our hands on a child. We can’t get out of the car without our hands on a child. We can’t go in a store without our hands on a child. We can’t go to the movies without our hands on a child. We can’t go out to eat without our hands on a child. We can’t cook dinner without our hands on a child. We can’t shower without one person keeping vigil to watch for bedroom doors to open.
We have locks on doors to keep our kids in. Alarms on windows in case they try to open them. Alarms on doors in case they try to open them, too. We have slide locks, deadbolts, chains, window locks, medic alert bracelets, daily photographs of our kids.
We write names in underwear, on pull-ups, in tee shirts…we also write contact information for us. Just. In. Case.
In our house we lay hands to heal. To heal our children’s anxieties, to heal their sensory needs…and to heal ourselves. To heal our fear that they’ll run in front of traffic, to heal our terror that they’ll wander away and drown in a body of water, to heal the way our hearts race when they’re out of arms’ reach.
It’s not easy to live in high alert at all times, to be that parent with the terrified scream every time our children wander too far away from us. It’s not easy to live life completely hands-on. It’s not easy to live life knowing the danger not just for yourself but having to live it for your children constantly because they can’t understand it themselves.
This week three families lost their children to wandering. This week three families are lost in a sea of pain. It could have been my children. It could have been my precious babies.
Please understand that when you see a parent of an autistic child, we live with this kind of fear every day. It hovers so close to the surface of our beings that our skin can barely contain it. Pray for these families. Pray for all the families and all the autistic people out there today that they are safe. Be a community that cares. Know your neighbors. It takes a village to raise a child and it also takes a village to keep that child safe.
To the families of Mikaela Lynch, Drew Howell, and Owen Black, I pray you find peace in the memories of your children. I’m sending you so much love right now.