Martin’s school sent home a note to all parents, asking us to make sure our kids keep sneakers in the classroom, to wear to the gymnasium.
I, of course, could not remember whether Martin has sneakers at school.
So I asked him.
And he answered, with a nod.
“You do?” I asked. “Which ones?”
“The blue ones with the yellow swoosh,” he replied.
“Those old ones? Do they still fit?”
“They fit. I tie them myself.”
I used the italics, above, for the benefit of those readers outside the autism community. The others, like parents with a child on the spectrum, know the import of asking my child a question, expecting an answer, and still more, expecting an accurate answer. Once upon a time (for example, last year or any other time in memory), finding out whether Martin had sneakers at school would have required writing a note to his teachers and awaiting their response. Being able to ask him—that’s way more convenient.
Last Saturday, while Adrian was out of town skiing, Martin “took me out” to lunch. We had just settled into our seats when Martin said he had to go to the bathroom. “All right,” I said, “go ahead.” He left the table. He returned five minutes later, his hands still damp from being washed. As far as I can tell, nothing eventful happened between our table and the restroom. Later, I left the table for a minute. I asked Martin to stay put, and gave him my iPhone to amuse himself. He stayed put. When I returned, our waiter said casually, “Your son told me you’re going to the trampoline place this afternoon. Have fun!”, as if my son telling the waiter our plans were an everyday occurrence.
In fact, even though Martin was hyperactive and off balance from his Lyme treatment (again!), the whole weekend that Adrian was away ran smoothly. Friday evening Martin and I went to meet his new trombone teacher. Remember how disappointed Martin was when he didn’t receive a trombone for Christmas? Since then, he’s persistently asked to start trombone lessons. Finally I called music schools—most instructors weren’t willing to work with a child younger than 10—until I found a jazzy older fellow who said something like, sure, we’ll just find an alto trombone so your son’s arms aren’t too short to reach every position on the slide. We ended up buying an alto “pBone,” which is a real instrument whose exterior is plastic instead of brass (with a resulting price decrease!). The teacher-student meeting went well, and since then Martin has started his lessons.
Saturday morning Martin and I attended a student production of Cinderella at a local school, then went out to that lunch, and then met another family for a play date at the trampoline center. For dinner I made a cashew-carrot soup, which Martin ate with a spoon, instead of the stainless-steel straw on which he used to rely. Sunday we went to church—Martin participates in Sunday school with the other kids—and then to his hockey lesson. He chose to spend extra time on the ice after his lesson ended.
Once upon a time I dreaded weekends without Adrian; activities with Martin were a chore, but downtime at home resulted in stimming and meltdowns. Last weekend, the Lyme treatment had Martin at his worst. (Things haven’t improved much; stay tuned.) His worst right now is so much more manageable than his best used to be.
I’m thinking right now about parents of neurotypical kids. For sure, they have their own challenges. That being said—holy cow, parenting a child who can answer questions, complete simple tasks alone, and amuse himself for a few minutes now and again feels almost like doing nothing at all.
Parents of neurotypicals: Is it always like this?
I know that we have travails to come, as Martin continues to recover. At some point, he will transition from special education to general education, and we will have to worry about bullying and self-esteem. As he understands more about what his friends and classmates want, peer pressure will become an issue. And we have travails now. Martin’s continued perseveration, though milder than it used to be, perversely annoys me even more. The uneven temperament that comes with the Lyme treatment is bewildering. Parenting Martin will never be laissez-faire, at least not for me.
But, actually, maybe it kind of will be easy. If raising Martin had been like last weekend all along, I might just have more kids. Lots more.