When I was pregnant with Ben, in order to stay under my parents insurance plan, I had to remain a full-time student. That meant that I could start to take the blow-off classes I’d always wanted to take but been too busy with my Biochemistry Labs. I gleefully (read: hungrily) signed up to take a couple of lit classes and a child psych class. It was a refreshing change of pace for me.
I remember the day. There were 3 pictures of the 3 temperaments: a happy child smiling (easy child), a child who looks somewhat apprehensive about something (slow-to-warm-up), and a child who was pushing away a bowl of food and looks pissed off (the difficult child). I remember saying a prayer to whomever was listening that my unborn child be an easy one.
Well, whomever was doling out personalities had a good laugh at the child that was dispensed to me. As a baby he screamed ALL OF THE TIME, he wouldn’t eat, he was up ALL NIGHT LONG, never wanted to be held or snuggled, so much so that I found myself wondering if my child hated me. My Ben, he just seemed to hate me.
When he got older, he was diagnosed on the autistic spectrum and went through millions of hours of speech and occupational therapy sessions. It was surreal, raising him, and it still is.
I mean I made the kid eat a hot dog just so he’d try it. A HOT DOG! ALL kids love hot dogs! They’re full lips and butt holes, and salt and fat, and in kid-speak, that means extra-specially delicious. What kid DOESN’T love hot dogs?
Mine, and only mine.
(he loves them now, lest you think I’m beastly for it)
I’m constantly regaled with stories from friends, and friends of friends who tell me about their children sleeping through the night, trying different foods, LIKING HUGS and it always kinda chafes my ass. In all of those stories, I always can detect a certain smugness, a sense of superiority, intentional or not, it’s still there.
And it always seems to do the trick on me, I mean, at some point you begin to wonder if all of these people have normal kids, what in the hell am I doing wrong?
There’s a lot of therapy available for kids with special needs. They’ll teach the kids to try different foods and handle textures, noises, and sensations. If the kid is non-verbal like mine, the therapists work with the child to speak, first sounds, then more sounds, and eventually words, sentences and so on.
But what about us? The parents, I mean. Those of us who sit sobbing quietly in the bathroom, wishing for a hug or a simple dinner without a battle over food. Those of us who know how much it hurts to hear about how we’re fucking up our kids and how inferior our children are.
Where’s the therapy for that?
Last night was Parent Night at Ben’s new school. I sat there nervously next to The Daver on the hard pew and looked around into the sea of hippies all 10-15 years older than us, dressed in various shades of browns and greens nodding attentively. I was dressed in an electric red sweatshirt while Dave was wearing a bright purple shirt with blue jeans. The gasp of “there goes the neighborhood” when we walked in was palpable.
It’s not just that we were younger or that we were wearing designer clothes that weren’t from sustainable farms or that we didn’t listen to NPR or eat all organic foods, it’s just that we were different. They knew it, we knew it, and there was never going to be anything we could do about it.
I sat there, trying to pay attention as my ass cheeks feel asleep and noticed that I was the only parent in the room who spent the meeting figuring out how I was going to convince Dave that $450 pants were an investment.
Even Dave looked more enraptured by the speakers than I did. He wasn’t fidgeting, re-reading the handouts for what could be missed gossip about Britney Spears, or trying to count the hairs on HIS legs like I was.
It’s not that I don’t care about my 4 year old. I care very much about his preschool. I care what he eats and when he sleeps and if he potty trains on time and that he’s well adjusted and that he’s getting enough calcium and if he gets to play enough and most of all, if he’s happy. I care a lot about that.
But I can’t live my life for him.
And as we chose “groups” to join after the meeting was done, I introduced myself to the ethnic/cultural group that I had to join (joining a group, I learned, was mandatory) I plastered a smile on my face and was as polite and friendly as I could be as the circle of parents formed around me.
Pretty soon I was standing outside the circle, edged out by all of the unwashed, unshaved hippie women who, were living their lives for their children. So there I stood, on the outside of the circle, unwanted. I saw that, sighed and I walked away.
One of these things is not like the motherfucking other. Thank Jesus.
Several months after that, we pulled Ben out of that horrible school and then we moved out of that town. Our interactions with other parents and staff at the school never improved and it was very, very clear that there was never going to be anything that we could do to fit in.
With friends like that, you wouldn’t need enemies.
Somewhere between the kidnapping that happened on August 20th and the wedding that happened on September 10th, my body began to betray me.
Perhaps it was something that I picked up at the macabre display of carnivalish body parts that we saw at Body Works, perhaps it was something that I got from one of the many wedding vendors that I had to sign over my organs and promises of my second born son. Maybe it was some combination of all of it.
I can’t be certain.
Between the horrible mutant fever bug that made The Benner spew The Exorcist-style chunks all over my living room and, well, anything else in his path while running a fever so high that had me running him to the ER and all the last minute, “I owe you an extra three thousand for what exactly?” Somewhere along those lines a mutant bug so big and so bad began brewing inside of me.
By the time September 10th, the day that I promised to Love, Honor and Repay The Daver, rolled around, I was already so sick that I could hardly stand up. It was a mixture of sheer willpower and adrenaline that got me through the day.
It looks like, though, that my wedding guests got a little something extra besides the candles and amazing tapas and all the sangria they could possibly drink. It looks like I was Person A.
Apparently I infected all of my wedding party, a good portion of the guests, and THEN, in the spirit of all things wedding-y, I got on an airplane. Well, no. Thanks to the good people at Delta, I got onto 5! airplanes. 4 cities.
Then I flew somewhere tropical.