The Fly in the Windex
July 19, 2007
So it's been a full week since Noah's appointment, since this relatively minor, unbelievably common little thing swept into our lives and just completely trashed the joint. We're still at least a week away from an evaluation and a plan of action, which makes me feel like we're standing still. Except that we're flies, and we're standing in a puddle of Windex, wondering how the fuck we got into this mess in the first place.
Not that I would know what that looks like, or anything.
Anyway. I've spent the past week analyzing and over-analyzing Noah, feeling incredibly guilty for over-analyzing Noah, and wishing I could just go back a week when it was all just a nagging worry (a nagging worry I was perfectly able to push away with a dollop of denial, as evidenced in this post, where I expertly masked the fear that prompted me to make the appointment in the first place by blaming "them" and the easily-scapegoated "they") instead of a nagging question mark of Is He Okay And Why Is He Doing That Weird Thing?
I've also spent the past week going on sangria-soaked playdates, making Thomas go round his wooden track a bazillion times (no, we don't have the killer lead-paint trains, I am sure of it, thanks), emailing with friends and strangers (if I haven't responded to your email yet, I apologize) and shyly wondering if any of those nice strangers would like to go on a sangria-soaked playdate with me, or if that's a Weird Thing, even if I promise not to rubberband a flyswatter to your toddler, unless you are okay with that.
I was tempted to leave comments open on a couple of last week's posts. (I close comments after I post something new since I've found that's the most effective way to keep the conversation from heading south once the Random Drive-by Googlers arrive or from later discovering that some extremely sensitive spambot also has a few suggestions for helping speech delays, all of which appear to involve ora1 s3x with h0t s1uts.) The stories and experiences described there are invaluable and anybody who is dealing with any sort of developmental delay, major or minor, should read them. We have doctors in this crowd, did you know that? Teachers? Speech pathologists? I should alert my ad people that hot damn, I think some of these people can read after all.
If I may poach and republish some of your brilliance for my own nefarious, run-on-sentence-loving reasons, I wanted to highlight this comment from Helen:
I started off reading this post and thinking just what you said some people would think. I have 2 autistic sons and find myself getting irrationally insulted every time I read of another parent who thinks this is the worst thing that can happen. Then, THEN I stopped and caught myself because hell, I cried BUCKETS for WEEKS and months when we first knew that my silent Isaac, with his obsession for neatness wasn't just the best baby in the world who tidied up after himself a lot but was autistic oh my hell.
Seth, with his aversion to food and don't put more than one kind of food on the same plate or the sky will fall in but hey chameleons should be primate because they have thumbs and why don't all 2 year olds think this way? Wasn't a genius with eccentricities but gasp autistic in his thinking.
Now? Now they are 5 and 6, they ARE just tidy and eccentric and genius and just the way they are.
You should cry if that is how you feel, throw things if it helps, hate the tidy lines of toys, wish he would talk in brilliant sentences...and then let it all sink in that he is glorious Noah, who is just as he is. The day you look at him and imagine how dull life would be if he were just like every other kid...then you'll read posts by other moms worried about these things and feel a bit insulted because who the hell wouldn't want a kid exactly like Noah? Who would want their kid to be 'ordinary'?
My Isaac is so different from other kids, he stands out like a sore thumb but everywhere we go he is adored, his classmates adore him, his teachers weep at the thought of him graduating, he is divine. I shudder at the idea of him being at all any other way. Seth (6) is hysterical in his professor like way of thinking, skinny little nerd boy who couldn't ever be like other 6 year olds. Wouldn't change a thing. Noah is perfect, whether he talks or not, whether he has 'issues' or not. Divine, funny, delicious boy. Lucky you.
(Don't you just want to soak all that mama-love up with a sponge? I just revel in the loveliness.)
New parents are afraid of autism, it's true. And anything remotely autism-like. Probably irrationally so. It's partly because we don't understand it -- I mean, hell, I'd say most of what I used to know about autism came from a Babysitter's Club book I read ages and ages ago, even though I'm not sure the author knew that much more about autism other than what she learned from Rain Man. The stuff I remember scared the crap out of me for years -- the brilliant, adorable baby girl who just shut down, practically overnight, around age 2. Who didn't talk at all, who flapped her hands and never made eye contact and who hated being touched but could play the piano beautifully and do that weird trick with knowing what day of the week any date fell on and never, ever got any better.
In short, autism = one-way ticket to freakhood, a bogeyman who came in the night and locked your baby's brain up in Rapunzel's tower, never to be released.
I obviously know a lot more now. Mostly from blogs. Autism is...well, it is what it is. It's not a death sentence, or some horrible, insurmountable killer of dreams...for many kids it's just a necessary label to get them the help they need, and with that help, a label that may one day fade back to "quirky."
As Karianna said, "a label is just a word. It doesn't need to be a whole sentence unless you make it so."
(By the way, I put this in the comments but I know I'm probably the only person who actually read all those comments [twice!], but our pediatrician actually has an autistic son. His son is grown now, and even attends community college. He [our doctor] is considered an expert in autism and autism-spectrum disorders, so no, I don't believe he's just jumping on the sensory-processing bandwagon because he got sent a brochure about it, and gee, this brochure sure does sound convincing-like. He made it very clear that he is certain Noah is not autistic, but definitely exhibits signs that his delay is neurological in nature.)
(We're totally getting Noah's hearing checked anyway. I mean, I love our doctor and all, but still. We're in charge of things around these parts.)
(Also, I had tubes in my ears when I was five. I was practically deaf before, and my mom loves to tell the story about how she brought me home, turned on Sesame Street only to have me clap my hands over my ears and complain about how LOUD the television was.)
Jesus. What was I saying, before I went all parenthetical?
Right. The fear.
You know why I'm afraid of autism? Of delays and labels and illness and stuff that just ain't right with my kid?
Because I am afraid of myself. Of what I am capable of, of what I can handle, and that it won't be enough. There.
I woke up the other day with a fantastic idea. I could go back to work. At a real job, an office job. I could put Noah in a really good daycare center, where he could spend time with kids who talk and teachers who have a damn clue how to handle his tantrums and I could get dressed up and spend time with adults who talk and do things I have a damn clue about, like proper subject-verb agreement instead of teaching a stubborn-ass toddler the sign for milk.
Would that be bailing? Or just recognizing my limitations? I'm not even sure.
(God, I took a break to make Noah lunch and am already rolling my eyes as I reread this. I certainly have a knack for making every little thing into the end. of. the. freaking. world, don't I?)
I know things will get better. I know things are honestly not that bad now. I know the worry will fade and I'll once again look at Noah as THE AMAZINGLY AWESOME NOAH, WHO ENJOYS ABALLS AND KISSES AND HAS THE BEST LAUGH IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE instead of this little ball of mystery quirks and frustrations and other things that I might be missing.
We all want our children to be perfect and beautiful and happy and brilliant and beloved by everyone they meet. (I'm projecting wildly here, yes, but bear with me, I've officially been an expert at this for a whole seven days now, har.) It hurts when you're told something different, be it a speech delay or ADHD or a heart problem or even just a bunch of mean kids at school who pretend to wash the slide for cooties after your child goes down it.
And it's scary when you're the grown-up, the one who needs to be strong and wise and tell them that everything is going to be okay, even when you don't feel strong or wise or know for sure if everything is going to be okay.
When the mean kids at my school pretended to wash the slide for cooties after I went down it and followed me to the swings with their invisible cans of cootiespray and then to the monkey bars and until I just stood in one spot by a tree for the rest of recess, I went home and I cried on my mom's lap for hours. I snuffled into her shoulder while we rocked in the same chair that I've always rocked Noah to sleep in. And she was strong and wise and told me that everything was going to be okay.
And it was.