I told Noah's preschool that we were dropping his enrollment back down to three days a week. And that no, we would NOT be taking advantage of the whole $50 early-bird re-registration option for next year, thanks. And then I reminded them that my account should have a credit for the cost of the after-school soccer program. You know, the one they kicked him out of.
It felt...ugh. Yeeshh. Uhggzzzaaaaa. I can't seem to spell the sound I'm making right now.
It felt like...colossal failure? Maybe? Not by Noah, of course, but by us, for making such a poor decision about his school in the first place. And by them, for telling me when I registered that they were familiar and capable of handling Noah's needs, and then proceeding to be unable or unwilling to make ANY allowances or adaptations for him. (Seriously. Kicked out of a soccer class for three-year-olds. Because apparently the point of the class is to really learn the rules of soccer and how to dribble and pass properly and Noah...wanted to run around the room? And kick the soccer ball wherever he wanted to kick the soccer ball? Dear Lord, you'd think he was still TWO, or something.) By all of us, since the year started out so promising and I can't figure out who is expecting too much and who is selling him short or if it's just a mess of All Of The Above.
His teacher never fails to tell me that oh, Noah reminds her SO MUCH of her autistic son and you know that thing he's doing right now is classic PDD and not just SPD and he doesn't talk to other kids and still won't sit for circle time and basically consistently paints such a bleak picture of him that lately I can't even deal with it -- I run into the classroom, shove his arms in his coat and hightail it back to the car.
We're doing our best, I tell her. I've taken him for evaluations, I'm on the waiting list for more evaluations. I've read books and websites. We've changed his diet and our discipline techniques and we talk talk talk talk talk to him all the time about what is expected of him at school. No, the school district hasn't called us yet. No, our insurance hasn't given us the green light for speech therapy yet. I'm not trying to hide from scary truths and I'm not trying to seek absolution for parenting shortcomings in the form of a handy-yet-squishy diagnosis. I'm just trying to parent a boy whom I love more than life itself, who day by day becomes more and more of a mystery to me, because I just don't have any answers.
At home, he is wonderful. He is funny and verbal and affectionate and imaginative. He loves music and books and being loud and being tickled and chased and stomping around the house like a dinosaur, or humming the Peanuts theme while dragging a blue blanket behind him "like Linus." He tells us he loves us, asks nicely when prompted and never fails to say thank you. He can tell us when he's sad or scared and remembers that he rode on Daddy's shoulders when we saw the fireworks last summer. We watch him at home and scrunch up our foreheads because doesn't he seem fine? He's fine, right? What the hell?
He is also a little ticking time bomb of meaningless routines that we're constantly trying to avoid disrupting. Don't try to put his coat on anywhere but by the front door. Don't serve that kind of juice in that kind of cup. When one of these routines is ignored, a switch gets flipped.
I tried to take him to the playground after school on a rare warm weather day, and while I told him where we were going and prepped him with some social stories about waiting for a turn on the swings and having to go home when Mommy says so...I forgot to warn him that I would be taking a right turn off our usual drive home. I made the turn and he screamed. And screamed. I pulled up to the playground -- a playground he's been to, a playground I swear we've driven to -- and I pointed at the slides and tried to calm him down and he screamed and screamed and screamed. I tried to get him out of the car and he kicked at me and screamed some more. My face burned as I felt all the heads in the vicinity turn to look at us. Mothers, nannies, some random landscaping guys. I tried to hold him and quiet him and tell him that everything was okay. His eyes darted around in terror and his body was stiff. He screamed even louder, and Ezra's face crumpled in his carseat and suddenly I had two hysterical children and Noah started repeating that he wanted to go home, over and over again.
I gave up. I drove home. I begged him to tell me what was wrong. I begged him to look at me. Are you scared? Are you sad? He wouldn't answer, except to say that he wanted to go home. We are home, I said. Mommy brought you home.
No, he said. I want to go home. I want to go home.
Okay, I said. Go home.
And then I went into the bathroom and shut the door and stared at the mirror with a baffled look on my face, because seriously. What the hell?
As hard as it's been to accept the fact that hoo boy, did we ever fuck up the preschool choice this year, that letting him graduate from the early intervention system was a huge -- YOOOOGE! -- mistake, the hardest thing right now is to accept that oh God, we have so many more choices to make, and what if we screw up again? The clock is ticking and time is critical and preschools need application fees and deposits and would we get those deposits back if he ends up qualifying for public services? If he doesn't qualify does that mean he should really stay mainstreamed? Or should we just pursue a private special needs school, even though I have NO IDEA how we'd ever pay for it? They cost more than my college, and we have Ezra now, and he'll need school too, and who knows what will be best for him and OH MY GOD, who the hell ever put ME in charge of raising TWO human beings?
Every day, I drive by a Montessori school that has offered Noah a space for next year. They need to know our decision in two weeks. I look at it -- a lovely school, with multi-age classrooms and no circle time and lots of one-on-one activities and Noah would be free to fixate on whatever he fixates on and I know a lot of sensory kids do really well with Montessori -- and then my chest tightens and I have trouble breathing because what if it's not right either? What if we're still where we are now next year, with a school that has essentially written our son off as just too special needs, as just not their problem, even as the school district punts us back into the mainstream because Noah doesn't meet their standards either? What if what it what if aeeeeeeiiiiiii.
I haven't had an anxiety attack since before Noah was born, I told Jason the other night. But now I'm getting them practically every day when I pick him up from school.
It's just because we don't know, he told me. At some point we'll know. We'll get an evaluation that actually looks at everything, not just speech or this or that. Then we'll know what we need to do.
And then Noah wandered in with his teddy bear. This is Corduroy, he said. He lost his button. Jason didn't say anything, but swooped them both up and held them tight.
For now, what I think Noah needs is a couple days off from school and circle time and expectations that he just cannot meet right now, for whatever reason. Mornings where he can eat Cheerios in his jammies and not worry about someone trying to put his coat on in the living room instead of the foyer. Yes, he needs socialization (believe me, I'd yank him out of the school completely otherwise) but I also think he needs a chance to relax, to be his little quirky self to his heart's content.
A couple days a week where he can stay where things make sense, with a person who -- despite all her worry and hand-wringing and total lack of qualifications -- looks at his face and still sees nothing but infinite ability and possibility.