I am a parent, obviously. I hope I am a good parent. I have a son, and I adore him. I try to help him. He seems to be doing well. That’s enough of parenting, right?
I was in Manhattan and walked by a playground full of preschoolers and kindergartners, and even some babies and toddlers. The kids were chasing each other and calling out, climbing, jumping. Some adults were interacting with kids. Others sat on benches and chatted. It all looked so normal. So typical.
In a moment I felt the full impact of our decision—Adrian’s decision, and mine—to have only one child. Martin is seven years old now. Every day he’s closer to recovery. Every day he’s more like typical children. Nevertheless, even if he were to shed every last vestige of autism this very day, I will never have the experience of parenting a typical preschooler or kindergartner. I will never know the experience of those playgrounders. My experience of typicality will begin only with an older child.
What are the analogies to this situation? Adopting an older child? Certainly not. I’ve had a child for seven years. I’ve been parenting all this time, just a different type of parenting. Have a child who transitions gender? Maybe sorta like that. First you have one type of kid, and then another, but the child stays the same and you love that child either way.
I will never get to be the mom who Pinterests craft projects with her preschooler. (Not that such an outcome was ever likely. I am who I am.)
I will never put a kindergartner on the bus, first day of school, and wonder whether he is going to make friends or like his teacher. Two years ago, I put my kindergartner on the bus, first day of school, and wondered whether his teachers would understand the importance of restricting foods not on his “acceptable” list.
And what of Martin, who has been deprived of typical preschool, of typical kindergarten, of typical grade school so far? He will never have those experiences, either. Years from now, when his friends ask, “Remember in second grade when we were all into Captain America? Remember peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches?”, what will Martin say?
I am a parent. I hope I am a good parent. I have a son, and I adore him. I try to help him. He seems to be doing well. That’s enough of parenting, right?