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Daver and Ben are clones. They’ve always been clones.

We’ve joked about it a lot because while Dave is Ben’s step-father and certainly the father in Ben’s life most of the time, he’s not biologically related to Ben. It doesn’t matter a lot to us because that’s the way it’s always been, but it’s so interesting to see someone share so many of the same quirks and eccentricities.

If they shared genetics, it would be one of those “that is OBVIOUSLY YOUR side of the family things,” but since they don’t, we just laugh. Dave’s the cheese to Ben’s macaroni.

The final proof occurred when we ventured out to Pashmina’s condo. Now, upon arrival and close examination, Ben realized Pashmina, not having children of her own, has no *toys* and was directed to play her old Nintendo.

Ben’s first foray into video games was Duck Hunt and was eerily good at it. He actually killed ducks which is something that I’d never mastered, not then and not now. Next Dave gave it a shot. I saw years of painful training behind his perfectly executed shots at the ducks. I sat slack-jawed and drooling as I watched my husband kill them ducks dead.

I was spellbound, enraptured, and utterly unable to remove my eyes from the screen.

Given a couple of more tries, Ben was remarkably better. He even began to shoot at the annoying dog, like generations of kids before him.

Then attention was focused on me. It was my turn. Let me explain that I had not had a Nintendo as a child, I had come from a Sega Genesis household; two vastly different worlds. I had played Duck Hunt maybe 3 times in my life over at my next door neighbors house, and I’d never killed a single duck.

I warned my captive audience of this as I sat brandishing the beautiful orange gun, and I fired. And I fired. And fired again. I sat there, firing impotently while Dave, Pashmina and Ben laughed hysterically. I did not, and probably never will hit one of those damn ducks. Being good at video games is just not in my genes.

Wasn’t then and it isn’t now.

Ben, though, he’s clearly The Daver’s son.

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.

Thank God.

With friends like that, you wouldn’t need enemies.

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