Both my boys brought report cards home last week.
I’m not surprised that Sam is more advanced than the other kids in his class with his spelling, reading and even math. Next to Thomas those are his favorite things in the world. I’m also not surprised that even though he is very verbal that the language coming in is hard for him to process. He needs a good amount of time between a directive and being able to follow through. It used to frustrate me before I realized that no, he was not ignoring me, he was just “processing” my words. If I give him enough time, he always answers me appropriately. One lovely thing is that his teacher said that he was the only one in her class who scored positive for empathy, that he often hugs and feels sad for others when they’re sad. And yet — he is still challenged socially. He adores another boy, C, and constantly seeks him out to play, but not always in the best way. Sam’s tendency is to hug, lunge, tackle — with mixed results. If it’s at home and John is his target, he can get his butt bit. Literally. I’m encouraged that he does appear to be learning from C that he does need to back down sometimes.
At the other end of our spectrum, John is not meeting several of his more ambitious IEP goals. His team would like to see them rewritten, to make them more attainable for him. They invited me into class to observe for an hour last week and I’ve been living with a huge lump of sadness and guilt in my chest ever since. All I can say is that part of me, no matter how accepting I am of their diagnoses, no matter how far I’ve come since we first heard the word autism, a part of me dares to hope that John will improve. It’s the hope that as rapidly as Sam learns new words, that is how fast John is absorbing the world he lives in, that even if he is unable to tell me about it, he will someday. Our lives are so busy, so packed with school and activity and therapies that I don’t often have time to see, to really see.
Or perhaps I’m just scared to see some days. Hope is so tenuous, so fine a thread, that a good gust of wind can make it waver.
At home I’ve watched him shrug off Sam, his father — even me at times — with cool indifference. He is still largely nonverbal. I had hoped though, that what? he was a different child at school? Well I did get to see. I saw how John simply will not look at anyone, how he strained to not make eye contact. I saw how he seemed limp, tired, unhappy even. I am mindful that this was a tiny glimpse into his day, a snapshot. I remember other glowing reports about words uttered, smiles offered, eye contact made. I cling to these reports even as I indulge my mommy fears yet again. I am wallowing right now, a terribly self-indulgent activity that’s not doing him any good. I am scared, plain and simple. How can I make things better? Is this the wrong program for him? Will he ever talk to me, to his brother, to a friend? Will he ever have a friend? What if the answers to all of these questions are just, well…no? What if he never has those connections that every parent wishes for their child?
And is the universe just waiting for me to let go?