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  • Stacy Van Tassel

Don't let me fool you!

It's time to pull back the curtain on some of my "perfect" pictures and posts. Let's get real people!

Ahhh, yes! This is one of my all time favs of our family. You probably know this picture too, because I usually have it set as my profile pic. The smiles, the outfits, everyone pretty much looking in the same general direction. It just doesn't get much better than this, right? I've had so many people comment on this one, and how pristine it is, and how well behaved my kids are, and I can't help but giggle.

Right off the bat, I know something you don't know. My oldest, Mason, the totally innocent looking one (NOT) on the bottom right is smiling, but not his "cheese" smile. That, my friends, is the face Mason makes when he's doing something he knows he's not supposed to be doing. Look down at his right hand, and don't for one second think it's sweet he's holding his sister Elliott's hand. Oh no! Don't fall for it! He's actually squeezing her hand to try to distract her. Right before this picture, Elliott was squealing and shrieking and saying "Mason, ouch, stop it!" When I look at this picture I think about what happened a few seconds AFTER it was snapped. (photo credit: @AngelMurphyPhotography) Let's just say sh-tuff was about to get real life real fast...

Lainey jumped out of my lap and tried to escape. Mason is enjoying the chaos a little too much. Then, Cody, sitting in my husband's lap, tries to escape too and kicked poor Elliott in the back of the head...HARD! She started crying and that was the end of Angel's awesome stairs shot set up.

This is real life people!

Here's another VERY deceiving photo from this past summer. I'm pretty sure I posted this one along with some bull about the kids having very successful visits to the dentist's office. Now, their teeth were actually in great shape, but other than that this visit to the dentist was pretty memorable only for how much of a Mommy fail it was.

What I failed to mention to you in my post that day was that this outing was BONKERS! Without boring you with too many details, let me just give you the high level stuff. Cody tore that office up, tried to run away the whole time, and set off the fire alarm by opening the fire doors MULTIPLE TIMES! While trying to wash Cody's hands in the bathroom, I turned around to see Lainey reaching into the toilet and licking the water off her hands. Sorry, did I forget to mention that in my post that day? Well, it gets better. While getting the kids into the car to leave I tripped over the giant curb I'd parked next to and fell on my ass right in front of the huge waiting room windows where I knew everyone inside, who'd just lived thru Cody's fire drills, could see me. I will never forget that day!

Here's another perfect example...this absolutely adorable shot of little Lainey! She's autistic, and really REALLY doesn't like when we brush her hair so I've been keeping it short so we don't have to mess with it. She usually refuses to wear anything in her hair like bows, barrettes, or headbands, but on this particular day, she decided to steal her sister's headband and try it on. Knowing it wouldn't last long, I bolted to my phone, snapped this picture, and exclaimed "Oh, Lainey you look so beautiful!" I posted this picture to Facebook later, and everyone ooohed and aaahed over how adorable she is! What you don't know is that immediately after I told her how cute she looked, she ripped the headband off her head and threw it at my lip so hard that I bled. So don't let this angelic face fool you. This picture did not end well for Mommy at all!

You've probably seen me use this picture before, because it's one of my favorites of Lainey when she was little. You might not know though that I took this picture at a McDonalds about an hour after the evaluation where Lainey got her Autism diagnosis. This picture, although absolutely adorbs, holds some really mixed emotions and some sad memories for me.

How about this gem of a Facebook post? Cute right? I got tons of likes and hearts on these pics of Cody and Lainey in the tub. Right after I posted these, Cody leaned over and bit Lainey on the shoulder, which left a mark on her for days. I didn't feel like I'd "hit the lottery" for long after this got posted!

So, the next time you're scrolling thru your News Feed thinking about how happy and beautiful and perfect everyone else's lives look, please remind yourself that there's a lot more to the story.

This story isn't a funny one, but it's one I think will help to drive my point home. This picture was taken in the Augusta Mall in December of 2016. Almost all of us are looking, the kids look adorable, and I posted it later without mentioning how horrible this trip to the mall was. After we took this picture we went over to the indoor playground to let the kids burn off some steam. When Mason and Elliott mentioned having to pee, Jay took them into a nearby store leaving me with the two little kids. I picked Lainey up and strapped her into our double stroller, and when I looked back Cody was nowhere to be found. I spun around and my eyes darted desperately from one side of the mall to the other looking for the red plaid shirt I knew Cody was wearing, but all I could see were the hundreds of other people who were shopping at the mall that Saturday morning. Cody was gone!

I'm not sure exactly how long he was gone, but we later guessed it was for about 20 minutes. We had the mall security and the local police helping us search, but I honestly thought we'd lose him that day. He has no concept of safety, is autistic, non-verbal, and I was sure he wouldn't last one minute if he got outside the mall and into the parking lot. I was terrified, and when a police officer finally found him that day he was walking around smiling and laughing inside American Eagle, which is all the way down at the opposite end of the mall. I ran to meet them and when the sea of people parted and I laid eyes on Cody for the first time I dropped to my knees in the middle of the mall and started sobbing uncontrollably. I thanked the officers and security guards profusely for finding him. It was by far the worst 20 minutes of my life, one of the worst days for Jay and I as parents, and that's what I think of when I look back at this picture. Someday, I'll write another post about how hard elopement (running away) is on autism families and about how cruel one of the police officers was to me after Cody was found, but that's a story for another day.

What I really want to share with you is this. Don't fall for it! Don't let me or anyone else on Facebook fool you. We're just as much of a hot mess as you are! I made a decision a long time ago to try to uplift, inspire, and encourage others as I share our family's journey with special needs, and I purposefully try to keep what I share positive. I don't mean to deceive or to sugar coat, but I do tend to pass by the tougher moments and use the humor and the good stuff to make you laugh or to encourage you in your daily life. I noticed recently though that I was getting comments and messages from people saying things like "I don't know how you do it" and "You're a Super Mom" and a sweet friend of mine even called me "Mary Poppins" recently. I'm not sure how much I looked like Mary Poppins while I was laid out on my ass in the middle of the dentist office parking lot or with my bloody lip. I certainly didn't feel like a Super Mom after I lost my autistic toddler in the mall.

I'm absolutely no different than you. No one is! Just because I don't share all of the hard moments doesn't mean they aren't happening. Don't compare yourself to the edited pics and 30 second sweet videos on social media and let yourself think someone else is doing a better job than you are. Give yourself credit for the small victories in your day. Cut yourself some slack if you have a moment of impatience with your kids or if you skipped the laundry or a chore because you just don't have the energy today. Your kids love you! Keep on keeping on! You're doing a great job!

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