I filled his sippy cup with water as he waited. Silent, pudgy baby fingers reaching. I twisted the lid, and it whispered. “Autism.” The leaves on the nearby plant shook but my hands didn’t.
“No,” I said, “that’s not it.”
To prove it, “Can you ask for your water, Buddy?” His lip trembled, his shoulders slumped. I called myself an asshole, scooped him up, kissed his cheek, handed him his water, and downloaded iBook’s top three search results about autism.
I read the first, and thought “no,” the second and thought “probably,” and read the third wondering “maybe not?”
Evaluations, hearing tests, and more maybes followed. His developmental pediatrician stuck with an “I don’t think so but…”
And so we waited, and it was fine. After all, we were blessed.
I’d never have admitted it, but when my son was tiny, part of me felt sorry for parents who had older children, big teeth, stinkiness, sweaty hair and dirty feet.
There was so much magic in littleness.
The joy of learning gender, and of of 3-D ultrasounds. Of seeing his face while he was still on the inside.
Meeting him for the first time, and showing him around the house as a newborn. Showing him outside. Naming leaves, grass, cars, and faces. Protecting his little bald head with your hand as if that would slow wayward trucks and traffic.
When his baby head was barely bigger than an apple and his arms had less-than zero fat.
When he was totally and obviously of me and from me, although he’d already shown himself as himself.
That his coming from you or not matters not at all, as you were adopted. You feel blessed that he’s from you while also knowing who he looks like isn’t what makes him yours.
The bond of breastfeeding a helpless newborn. Him, six months later giggling and holding my thumb while he drifted off to sleep still smiling. His eyelashes? Oh, don’t even get me started on his eyelashes or the curve of his cheek.
Later still, when he was growing teeth, I thought “Oh. He looks so much older, now…” missing his toothless grin.
And then came his giant backpack and the first day of Preschool Autism Class, his teacher assuring me “It doesn’t matter if it’s autism or not. ABA therapy will help.”
That I believed her. That it worked. That he walked away to preschool, while I bawled in the car, knowing it was best.
His transition to the less-restricted special-ed preschool class, and his new teacher pretending to not realize I’m crying over the phone, and saying “He’s going to be okay, I promise. And if he’s not, you’ll know. We’ll know, and we’ll fix it.”
Me, trusting that.
Embracing autism with the 10 things I want you to know, although that didn’t turn out to be it.
Kindergarten. Mainstream kindergarten and the fear of bullying and people not taking time to understand him and somewhere in there, realizing that he no longer says “ah” for “water” and confirmation from a CARS test that it’s not autism, but maybe something a little bit like it.
Finding grace and blessings.
Finding a margarita tribe, losing some of them along the way but finding others who realize we’re all human and flawed and grasping at knowing and thinking way too much in the dark. That sometimes, we forget things when celebrating. Remembering others and ourselves and knowing that we’re all different. But mostly, we’re more alike than anything else.
Finding friends. Keeping those who give us grace. Walking away from the ones who spew venom without remembering or maybe ever knowing who we are.
My not-so-little-little boy, riding his scooter as the sun sets. His sweaty hair beneath his helmet that once looked so huge and suddenly, overnight, became too small.
His nerf sword, tucked into his shirt.
“Tell the folks, mommy!” he says.
I get out my phone, and take video of scootering with commentary. “Folks, Tucker D is rounding the curve and it looks like he’s slowing down. Oh wait! He’s picking up speed, folks! He’s coming around the corner and he’s going so fast!”
Interviewing him afterwards, where he says “folks,” and remembering when water was “ah.” His dirty feet. His sweaty hair.
Remembering buying the scooter, and getting the adaptive kind with two wheels in the front and him thinking it was too hard. Giving up and going back.
Practicing between, both of us sweaty and sad. Until it clicked and now I worry more about cars than I do his confidence even when a neighbor who is younger says “that’s a baby scooter.” That he said “No it isn’t” in reply rather than crying. Asking me later if it’s a baby scooter.
Telling me he wants to sleep alone, and to please leave. Some nights, coming to find me to hold him. Cherishing those snuggles, knowing that one day, I will not have them or be the one to wash his sweaty hair or dirty feet.
Seeing big-boy teeth come in on the bottom, not yet changing his smile to the big-boy grin I felt sorry for years ago knowing that this, too, will be beautiful and him, and that his dirty feet mean that he runs.
That his sweaty hair means he scooters.
“Knock knock,” he says.
“Butt,” he says, and I ask “Butt Who?”
And he laughs. Holding his stomach laughs so of course I do too. We calm down and he says “that’s funny, right?”
“Right,” I say. We come home and he dresses as a magician.
His butt jokes (and fart jokes and penis jokes) mean that he is Boy, and silly, and awesome, and perfect, even if a lot of it comes later than it does for his peers.
These are my blessings, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything else.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. The sentence is “When it comes to blessings…” and it’s an extra-special week because we’re linking up with the Blessings Month with Tuesday Ten and #1000Speaks for Compassion. Write about “When it comes to blessings…” or Ten Ways I can bless people… or Ten Ways I am Blessed…
The linkup is available from August 4th to 11th (one week), and you can link up with any of our hosts:
Yvonne and Vidya and and Michelle (the blessings thinker-upper) for #1000Speaks
Rabia and Lisa for their Tuesday Ten
and me, for Finish the Sentence Friday