A Small Thing
I sent my middle baby Beck off to school this morning. I’m not a mom that gets emotional about such things as preschool. I’m all “Thank God! I’ve got so much crap to do I need one less child in tow.” He was such a big boy about it this morning though, that I felt the slightest teeniest twinge of yearning for his toddlerhood.
I may not have been this person, that sends her kids off on the school bus the first day of a new school year without looking back or shedding a tear, had it not been for Oliver. Oliver is my first born. He is seven years old and profoundly autistic. He is largely non verbal, he only signs ‘’my turn’’. That is the sign that to him connotes everything, a sign he almost never uses. The last time we had him tested, at four, he was at a nine-month level developmentally. I think in three years he has probably progressed three months cognitively. Physically he is tall and extremely agile, he has glowing skin and bright blue eyes. He loves his mom, maybe only me? Nah, he definitely loves Miss Teddy the aide on his school bus. She has long red hair that she lets him stroke endlessly. He is sweet by and large, but basically disinterested in the rest of the world. He does not know his alphabet or what a letter is for that matter. The focus of his education is learning safety and life skills, not preparing him for college or the workforce. Barring a miracle he will never live alone. I type these things not as a pessimist but as a pragmatist. Holding out hope in a hopeless situation can kill you, I know because it nearly has. Every word or unexpected gesture, each hug or independent trip to the potty is a gift and a surprise. That’s how we get through the days, the weeks and the years where almost nothing changes.
Oliver has given me a very unique perspective on parenting my other children. Their words, emotions, unique attitudes, and independence are gifts and on some level surprises to me as well. I am extra grateful for every milestone reached, every first word uttered, I take none of it for granted, as I know painfully it is not. My grief over autism is supplanted by the joy I experience in every strident refusal on the part of my 20 month old, the hundredth rendition of the finger song coming from the back seat, Oliver’s unexpected but sincere embrace and my almost four-year old marching on to the bus without a second glance. Where others lament their babies growing too fast, I thank my lucky stars for every indication of that growth. I do not long for a time when they were more dependent upon me.
Beckett has a unique and little voice. It is quite and gentle but it is no small thing. Oliver has taught me that. He is no small thing.