I cried today. I felt the tears well up, drowning my vision in what ifs and what could have beens and a healthy dose of you were not enoughs.
He sat before me, alternately working his pen across the page and looking up at me, the mother. He told a story, an anecdote meant to comfort me, while his eyes darted to my son writhing in my husband's arms, my son in the grips of an unexplained urge to bolt. Our daughter lie on the table, clad in a diaper and a drool-filled grin. Patient. Waiting.
I'm sad. When I looked in his tiny eyes nearly 2 1/2 years ago vivid images of a laughing toddler, a boy curled up with a sleeping puppy, a young man proudly walking across a stage, a father cradling his child took up residence in my mind. My boy. My son. Those images are nothing but hazy reminders that I am not in control. That sometimes life renders you powerless.
The doctor gave us our referral. JR will soon be in therapy for a disorder I'm still trying to wrap my brain around. While I take comfort in a checklist of symptoms, I find I have more questions than I do answers--the questions are tiny voices echoing in my ears--"Is this my fault?" "Has my history inked itself upon your present, your future?" "How will I fix you?"
* * *
This is it. I gorged myself on optimism. This will work! Fresh lies pushed the nagging truths to the shadowy recesses of my brain. I will make this work. My conviction wallowed in fatigue, as did my body. I knew this was going to suck. Hope was nothing but a sucker punch.
He ran around the room. I introduced myself to the other mothers, pulling suckers out of my bag and watching as JR climbed the stairs, peered through the windows of a plastic house, and happily greeted the pretty girl who has become his best friend.
An unstructured art class. For toddlers. This was what JR needed. I just plunked down a small fortune to make it true. I tried preschool. Fail. I tried a gymnastics class. Fail. Playdates. Fail (mostly). This had to work.
He's such an awesome kid. He's charming. Engaging. He's learning new words and phrases nearly every single day. Do you know he can identify every letter of the alphabet? Maybe it's no big deal, but to me it is simply genius. He is so bright. But . . . he never, ever stops. Never. He lives by the credo- "Why walk when you can run?" His energy level is astounding, infectious, exhausting. But only at home, in a world carefully constructed by me, his mother, or in a world where there exist no walls, no hands pulling him back, no voices telling him NO, does he truly thrive.
The unstructured art class was my undoing. I was THAT mother of THAT child. With an infant in one arm, I raced after him as he headed for the door, the big room, the staircase. The other children crowded the easel, the bean table, the train set. Their parents sat with them, taking in the look of gleeful wonder that gilded their toddlers' faces.
Except for mine. He screamed. He writhed. He dropped to the floor. He wanted out. And so did I.
"Do you want me to take her while you handle him," her voice was kind, masking the pity she felt for me. I handed my baby girl to another mother, a stranger, so I could stop my son from running out of the room, up the stairs, and out onto the street.
We sat on the floor in the outside hall. I pulled him to me, willing him to be like the other children. Willing him to just stop.
"If he can't do it, that's OK," the teacher said to me in a hushed, yet supportive tone. I heard only, "Please don't come back, ever." I'm sure that's not what she meant. Actually, I'm not all that sure.
We left early, both of us empty and a little lost. I was too tired to be mortified. Too afraid to be angry. It didn't work and I had no idea how to fix it.
My daughter is six months old and today was her six-month check up. While I wanted so much to immerse myself in her growth, in her amazing development, I was lost in a haze of self-doubt, of worry, and of an undeniable fear for my son. I raced through the questions about my daughter, who gurgled and grinned her way through her exam. My hand rested on her soft belly, her fleshy legs kicking excitedly at my touch. But my focus was on the small piece of paper I had in front of me--a penciled in checklist of all the ways my baby boy was broken stared back at me.
I know every child is different. Evey child has his or her unique challenges. I don't seek platitudes or even heartfelt words of support and encouragement. I simply seek a soft place to land. For now. I want time to inhale and exhale. I want a few more minutes, hours, days to look at my son and not think therapy, disorder, referral, special, delayed . . . broken. I just want to look at him and feel the weight of his perfection one more time.
Truth. I'm broken. Yet I need no salve. No tape. No glue. No bandages. No glaring faces with a notepad and wire rimmed glasses. No labeled bottles filled with pills. No bottles filled with booze (not yet, anyway).
I just need to dry these stupid tears, yank up my mom jeans, and push on. Right? Because that's what we do. That's what I must do.
Because right now . . . he's alive. He's happy. He's healthy. And he's gonna be OK. Broken or not.
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
-Coldplay "Fix You"