Update on Update on Questions

Remember last week’s update on questions? Specifically, my update on the fact that Martin doesn’t yet ask questions?

Time for an update on the update on questions. Martin has added to his repertoire three new requests for information.

The first two are rote questions. When we’re on the subway and stop at any station he doesn’t recognize, he says, “What street is this?” Our conversations shuffle along with the train:

Martin: “What street is this?”

Me: “Spring Street.”

Martin: “It’s Spring Street!”

Me: “Sure is.”

Martin, as the train leaves the station: “Bye-bye, Spring Street.”

Me: “That’s it for Spring Street.”

Martin: “What street is this?”

Me: “It’s Canal Street.”

Martin: “It’s Canal Street!”

Me: “Looks that way to me.”

You get the idea.

Also, Martin is routinely asking, “Where is _____?” This morning at breakfast he inquired, “Where is the flute?” Which would have been really great, if I’d had any idea where the &*$@ the toy flute was. As it was, I had only disappointment to offer.

The third type of request is meant to be a question, but Martin doesn’t have the form correct yet. When he wants to know the initial letter of a word, we have an exchange along these lines:

Martin: “Bowl starts with a . . . .” (His voice trails off. He doesn’t get the inflection correct for a question, neither the Spanish inflection nor the English.)

Me: “Oh! Do you mean to ask me, ‘What letter does bowl start with?’?”

Martin: “What letter starts with bowl?”

Me: “‘What letter does bowl start with?’ Bowl starts with a b.”

Martin: “Bowl starts with a b!”

In summary, we have experienced progress since my update on questions. Maybe all I need to do for progress is to post an update? In that case, more updates coming. Soon.

Disturbing Operatic Puppetry

Friday evening Adrian and I went to see Madame Butterfly at the Met Opera. In this particular production, the role of Butterfly’s two-and-a-half-year-old son was performed by a puppet.

Yeah, a puppet. A faceless three-foot figure operated by three puppeteers in black. To my conservative artistic range, kind of an unsettling choice.

Five minutes after the puppet’s stage debut, Adrian whispered, “That puppet is weirding me out.”

I whispered back, “I effing hate that puppet.”

I know—totally gauche, right? Adrian and I are not opera-talkers. (Not even movie-talkers, I promise.) At least not usually. But slogging through autism makes parents do strange things.

During the second intermission we hustled to the Met bar to parse our feelings.

Adrian asked, “Why do you hate the puppet?”

I wanted a sanity check before answering, so I responded, “Why was the puppet weirding you out?”

Adrian said, “Tell me why you hate the puppet.”

An impasse. I took a chance and admitted, “I hate the puppet because the puppet is neurotypical.”

Now, wait. Don’t roll your eyes.

I’m not delusional. The puppet’s handlers had manipulated its eerie non-face in an impossibly neurotypical manner. The puppet checked its mother’s expression eight million times. Before walking across stage. Before approaching any actor. Before sitting down. Before gazing upon the harbor for Pinkerton’s arrival. And though its mannerisms were child-like—even too conscientiously so—the puppet shared adult emotions to a flaw. The puppet comprehended anticipation, resignation, desperation.

To an audience member who doesn’t spend her days striving to achieve “emotion-sharing” and “face reading,” or pondering the organization of movement, the puppet’s actions might not have stood out. I, on the other hand, thought, “What toddler does that? They’ve made that puppet the opposite of autism. Why would they do that?”

Okay. Maybe I’m a little delusional. At least let me point out, however, that although Adrian declined to elaborate on his own feelings, he did not disagree that the puppet was affrontingly neurotypical.

It’s possible that, on occasions like this, my emotions would be more manageable if I accepted that Martin has, and always will have, autism. Then I could tell myself, That’s the way some kids are. Martin is different.

But I don’t accept that Martin always will have autism. I accept my son. I do not accept anything holding him back. And so I tell myself, That’s the way some kids are already. That’s the way Martin will be.

I want it to happen now.

I long.

I get angry at puppets.