“Buh-bye!” I smiled at my step-daughter. “That was so adorable,” she said.
“He said bye-bye! Was that his first?”
“No,” I said. I didn’t add that I’d only heard him say it once before, to a toy garbage truck driver, heading to unknown dumps and mysteries around the bend of kitchen cabinets. She closed the door behind her, and I nuzzled my little boy’s cheek.
“Say ‘buh-bye’ again!” I jiggled him. Waited.
He grinned, pushed my face away, and arched his back to get down. The rest of the afternoon was silent but for the sound of plastic on plastic while the toy garbage truck mocked me as it gathered and dumped toys, over and over again.
“Something isn’t right,” the truck said.
“I know,” I said.
At my son’s two year appointment, I asked the doctor about his lack of language. She was unconcerned. After all, just that week, he’d said “truck fell down,” which was a first, and advanced for age two, according to the big books of milestones and checklists.
I wouldn’t hear a sentence as complete as “truck fell down” for another couple of years. I didn’t hear “buh-bye,” either.
Summer became Fall, and Fall gave way to Winter.
We caught snowflakes on our tongues, played with toy garbage trucks and airplanes for hours, and I confided in friends and family, who reassured me.
“Boys talk later than girls, he’ll catch up soon.”
“Maybe, he’s not talking because he doesn’t have to. After all, he’s home with you all day and you know what he wants.”
As that Winter melted, so did my hopes of having a less silent house. We met with Early Intervention, and with schools. Teachers came to our home for a visit.
“Please try Preschool Autism Class,” they said. And, after a bunch of tears and waving goodbye to my dreams of a co-op Montessori preschool, I said “Okay.”
I waved to my dreams as they boarded a tiny plane in my yard, shut the door, turned on the propellers, and flew away.
I wished them luck.
Today, before going to work, I decided to check in online. It wasn’t long before my hands were shaking and I was holding my breath. Somehow, 1,001 horseflies had entered my mouth and were buzzing around my body.
Biting. Choking. Shaking me.
Over and over again, for almost five years, I’ve thanked God and the stars and the state of Virginia for public education programs. Specifically, for IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and for the gift of Preschool Autism Classrooms, successful IEP meetings, the grace of kindergarten and for kindness and inclusion for my son who, as it turns out, doesn’t even have autism but was taught to speak because of the programs and people who exist for those that do have autism.
There are angels among us, which I know is a cliche, but it’s true.
Some of them taught my husband and I how to help our son best, which wasn’t to be found in any parenting book purchased in mainstream mommy threads. Some of them helped him to get out of diapers, and although he refused underpants for a while there, he now wears (tagless, seamless, expensive soft ones) them.
Some of them are people that I credit for helping him to find his voice, and more words. Some of them helped him to know that it’s not okay to hit, ever, even when it feels like it makes sense to.
They helped me learn similar lessons, about kindness and acceptance.
Public education schools taught me as a girl, and have taught me as an adult. IDEA being in schools has taught me inclusion and made me realize how different our world is today from when I was a kid. Back then, I didn’t see any kids in wheelchairs, or heading to speech or special reading groups.
Back then, those kids were somewhere else.
Today, I read that our president elect has nominated a scary, uneducated woman to be our Education Secretary. She not only has donated money to LGBTQ conversion therapy groups but she doesn’t know that IDEA IS A FEDERAL LAW.
People, I’m so f*cking angry, I can barely type. I mean, Trump is horrible in all of the ways. He’s made it clear that he doesn’t like or respect anybody but rich white men. Without getting into all of that because there will be libraries filled for all of the tomorrows with how this could happen, how is it possible that our public education system may need to rely on some awful billionaire who doesn’t have any agenda but her own?
Plus, she’s a raging idiot who said that states should decide about whether guns are in schools, citing protection from grizzly bears as the reason.
I want to change Trump’s nomination for Education Secretary.
DeVos is NOT okay and shouldn’t decide the future of any child, with or without disabilities.
Not that Saturday’s March on Washington is going to make a difference regarding who Trump nominates, but I’m planning on going to the one in DC. I don’t know what it may change, but if a single person who feels scared or marginalized feels more powerful and seen because there will be hundreds of thousands of us saying “WE SEE YOU,” we did something.
I can’t say I’m not nervous. I am. I’m worried that the angriest among us are also the most armed. I’m worried because although my husband is fabulous, I am the better parent and I don’t want to be shot or bombed or whatever. So I’m pretty sure I’m going. If you’re marching, tell me where? Are you nervous too?
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. Today’s sentence was “If I could only change…”
Long-time readers and friends know that I want to change the world, make it more inclusive and one where we each remember that we’re more alike than different. Tonight, I’d planned to write about that but like life, sometimes, days and writing take us to places unexpected. As part of embracing myself, my reactions, and each and all of ours, I’m going to leave this writing as it is while acknowledging that it’s more angry and more political than I usually prefer.
With that said, I always welcome discussion and thoughts.