Never Gonna

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.

Let’s face it: I will never have a toddler help me make Rice Krispie treats like in Kellogg’s commercials.

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?

In the blue, at the top. That's my kid.

In the blue, at the top. That’s my kid.

3 thoughts on “Never Gonna

    • He is a happy kid. In fact, he’s so happy that I wonder if we let it get in the way of demanding more from him. For example, he attends a self-contained special-education school. I know that, socially, he isn’t being particularly challenged there. There is no bullying, and his classmates range from uninterested in socializing to relatively close to typical. But nothing requires Martin to perform the way he does, say, at Sunday school with typically developing peers. When I think about moving Martin to general ed, I think, well, even if he’s not being challenged now, he’s so happy. What if we move him to a typical environment, and he becomes unhappy, or bullied, or his self-esteem falls? Tricky questions.

      • Everything you just stated is one of the reasons why my son is also in a self contained classroom. Honestly, the teachers are able to spend time with him and teach him what he needs to know. I know that this would not happen in a regular ed classroom. My son is also very happy and has friends in his classroom. I’m a middle school teacher and I often see what happens to some kids when they are placed in a regular classroom. It’s terrible sometimes. We have chosen to keep him in a special ed classroom until we feel that he can handle a regular classroom well.

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