Archive for July, 2010
For years I’ve been struggling with when to tell C of his diagnosis. All this time, watching for signs that he’s ready to hear about this thing that makes him so special in so many ways. I’ve waited for the questions about why he struggles making friends, keeping friends, conversing with friends, and basically anything else having to do with friends. I’ve wondered when he would ask why he is pulled out of class for speech, physical, occupational and friendship group therapy.
Those questions have never come.
There are books about autism and asperger’s next to my bed. C has heard mention of the words, I am sure of that. This child, who is curious about everything, reads everything, asks who is calling when the phone rings, and asks if I like the book I’m reading (but not what it’s about), does not seem to have one smidgen of interest in autism.
Perhaps, I think, he already knows. Perhaps he senses that he struggles with things other kids don’t and simply hasn’t said anything or can’t figure out how to ask the question. And then I realize: C doesn’t think he struggles with anything. Thus far, he seems to view himself as the same as everyone else instead of outstandingly different. So I wait.
Perhaps, I think, I need to plant a seed. Maybe if I introduce him to the concept in a more roundabout way, his awareness will grow, bringing with it some level of introspection. So I ask a crucial question.
“C, do you think you are the same as other kids or different?”
“Well,” he says quietly, “since my class this year was mostly boys, I’m mostly the same. But if it had been mostly girls, I would have been different.”
I’m not sure why, but I am fascinated with the show “Intervention.” Truth be told, drugs and alcohol frighten me to a degree such that I’ve never indulged in the former in any way (I might be the only living person over 20 who has never smoked pot), and rarely indulge in the latter. So I’m not really sure why the show speaks to me like it does. It is what it is.
Yet something one of the intervention therapists said on a recent show really struck home for me. He was talking about co-dependency, which is a term I hadn’t heard since college, when a friend bought the book Co-Dependent No More and had us all read it. It was probably my first exposure to self-help books, and to this day I chuckle when I remember how each of us (myself included) in our circle felt the book was written for her, about her.
Basically, what I realized – after hearing the therapist talk about how a co-dependent person’s good days and bad days are based on someone else’s good and bad days – is that I am way too wrapped up in C. My mood is almost completely dependent on his. If he is cranky, I am worried. If he is sick, I am a wreck. If he is happy, I am too.
This is not good.
I work, with the full support and encouragement of Husband, from home. Part time. While C is at school. I drop him off and pick him up every day. It’s not because I desperately want to do this, although I do enjoy it. Seeing C’s little face light up when he sees me and watching him run toward me with gleeful abandon makes my whole day. Still, I’m not one of the Moms who live and breathe their children and have yearned for the parenting job from the time they were mothering their dollies at four years old (you know, the Moms that have personalized license plates that read “SCCRMOM” or “MOMOF4”). It’s more because we feel it’s what C needs from me. It’s what we chose. It’s what I do. I don’t know any other way, and apparently it has consumed me whole.
So where do I go from here? Frankly, I’m not really sure. I have carved out things for myself; I read, I write, and I watch “Intervention,” among other things. Yet it’s not enough. I need some emotional distance, which is something I’m not really sure how to go about securing. All the kids already call me “C’s Mom,” because of course that’s all I am to them. I have a feeling that I’d better figure it out quickly, before that’s all I become to myself as well.
I am working very hard on managing my stress level lately as my adrenal glands seem to be completely tapped out. I suppose I startle too easily; the phone ringing in the middle of the night wakes me up in a panic state, I’m far too jumpy when someone sneaks up behind me, and I generally experience a flood of adrenaline way too often for my body’s good.
So tonight I realized I have something new to add to the list of things I’m going to work on with C this summer. I kept the list short and sweet – my summer plan is to work with C on using toothpaste, wiping his own behind (I can see my brother, who insists this should have been done about 8.5 years ago, rolling his eyes), and finding some new foods to pack in school lunches. But now, something else has moved to the top: I need to teach C how calling me to look at something vs. calling me because the house has just exploded should each sound a little different from the other.
“MOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!” he screamed tonight from the other room. “COME QUICK!!!” The adrenaline flowed as I thought about the blood that was surely all over the floor after the mountain lion that came crashing through the window and attacked C went back outside.
I jumped out of my chair to head toward him, yelling, “WHAT???”
“YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS!” he screamed. “I just heard the ‘h-word’ on Spongebob Squarepants!!!!”
Oh. Dear. Lord. Please. Grant. Me. Calm.
Sometimes not recognizing milestones for what they are until I’m right in the middle of them, I recently realized that I’ve been thinking we’re “halfway there.” Halfway to adulthood. I usually try not to think too far ahead, and my first instinct is to think C will go on in life and do what I’ve always thought my kid would do: go to college, get a job, get married, have a family. From day one, I’ve always gone with the idea that C will be fine, just fine. And he will be.
Although what I’ve always thought of as “fine,” might not actually apply here. I realize I need to redefine my sub-conscious expectations. It’s really not that I think C won’t be fine if he doesn’t do each thing on my list. My ultimate goal for C is that he is happy and healthy – and truly, whatever that means for him is fine with me. He can be a plumber or a doctor or a train engineer. He can marry a woman, be gay or be single. He can have no kids, 20 kids, or a cat. I really don’t care as long as he is happy.
Yet lately, I’ve been concerned about all sorts of upcoming things. Somehow, being nine (and being halfway to 18), is halfway to the point where he needs to be prepared for his life as an adult. It hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday as I was thinking about him driving, living by himself, or just preparing a meal.
Oh, I know, he has years to go before he reaches that point. And any of you out there reading this who know him in real life are likely shaking your heads, thinking I’m being pessimistic. I’m not. I know C is capable of much. But when presented with the very real challenge of C managing to prepare himself a meal, well, it’s just hard to imagine. He’s terrified of the stove, of plugging things in, turning appliances on, knives, touching foods, mixing things together, hot water coming out of the faucet – the list goes on. How, I thought to myself yesterday as I realized this, did he get to be nine years old and he’s never really helped me in the kitchen?
I’ll tell you how he got there. For awhile, we were just working on getting him in the kitchen. Teaching C to cook wasn’t exactly on my radar screen; had I actually thought about it, it would likely have seemed simpler to graduate him from Harvard at age six. I remember when an acquaintance, upon inviting us over for dinner only a couple of years ago, asked if we were working on table manners with C yet. Table manners? Seriously? At that point, just getting him sitting at the table with other people eating was huge. I didn’t really care if he wasn’t using a fork.
Table manners still aren’t high on my list of priorities, because frankly, there just isn’t time. When things need to be broken down into many, many steps with much space between them, big things happen in geologic rather than regular time. But we don’t have eons, we merely have years. No pressure.