I am at a conference, the annual meeting of a church governing body I serve as a volunteer. At lunch I sat next to a minister I’d never met, the pastor of a Brooklyn church. We engaged in the idle chatter of New Yorkers. Is Brooklyn part of Long Island? Will the new Barclays Center arena be large enough for the Islanders to consider playing hockey there? Do Upstaters despise City arrogance?
Soon the pastor asked, “So, what do you do?”
“I’m a full-time mom.”
“How many kids do you have?”
“Just one. He’s three years old.”
“Just one? Time for more kids!”
You can guess how I wished to reply. Something along these lines:
“Actually, my son has autism, and we’re trying to recover him, which means that I need to plan and execute eight million RDI and HANDLE exercises, and he can’t eat food with preservatives, or pesticides, or sugar, or starch, or soy, or gluten, or casein, or pretty much anything, so I need six or seven hours a day just to plan, shop for, and cook his meals, and then there’s juggling doctor appointments and administering supplements and making sure we never run out of those supplements, which barely leaves time for finding a special-needs kindergarten, researching new treatments, converting a modern home to organic and chemical-free, and snuggling my son. Usually I do all that on six hours’ sleep, or less. Also, I have a husband, and I like him, and occasionally I want to spend time with him. So, no. No time for more kids.”
Instead, I replied, “We’re pretty happy with just one. He keeps me busy.”
I felt (imagined?) the pastor’s disapproval with that response. I’ve felt it before, from others who don’t know about Martin’s condition or the journey we’re taking. And I understand. They must wonder: With one child who spends six hours a day in school, what do I do with myself?
I shudder to wonder what the disapprovers would think if they knew, in addition, that I have babysitters to help several afternoons per week.
I joke with Adrian about my schedule, about how I spend my day. When he calls from his office, he usually asks, “What are you doing?”
To which I invariably reply, “I’m eating bon-bons and watching Oprah. Why? What are you doing?”
I think I might have got the bon-bons-and-Oprah shtick from Peggy Bundy on Married . . . with Children. (Peggy probably meant it, though.) Now it’s become my and Adrian’s routine to recognize that I’m much busier than I ever was even as a full-time lawyer.
I suppose I could have employed that routine on the pastor at lunch: “I don’t have time for more kids, because I spend it eating bon-bons and watching Oprah.”
Then again, he might have been suspicious. A few weeks ago, Adrian’s secretary asked me, “You know the Oprah show went off the air, right?”
I’d had no idea about that. Is that true?
In any event, since Adrian’s secretary broke the news, I’ve been eating bon-bons and watching a lot of Ellen.”