Richie and Jillian were arguing as they walked in the door from school. Jillian was calmly saying something like, “It’s true, Richie…you should believe me.” And Richie was clearly irritated, talking right over her with, “That can’t be. That can’t be!”
I was thrilled the day my baby daughter, Jillian, climbed onto our slightly-raised fireplace hearth for the first time. Enormous brown eyes shining, she smiled brilliantly at my exclamation of surprise and praise. I knew right then, with the absolute certainty only new mothers possess, that she was
Two years ago today, they tore my kitchen apart. It was a remodel three years in the making, one that started with a broken garbage disposal, precipitated not one but two cross-country moves, and began, at last, on the day my mother suffered a catastrophic heart attack.
Not long ago, Richie and I were in a waiting room together for an hour and a half. He was (semi-)watching the movie Brave on his tablet, and I was reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Or I was trying to. Because when Richie has a long stretch of quiet to think, the thoughts that come into his head are varied and humorous and telling. And luckily for me, he seldom sensors them before sharing.
My Dear Son,
The weeks of summer are flying by, and you continue to change and grow at a staggering pace. In an effort to remember some of your/our finer moments, I started a list…
What I love: That you have finally gathered the bravery to swat flies yourself. I know their buzzing both irritates and terrifies you; you seem to hear it at a volume far beyond what the rest of us do. And yet, you face your fear and attempt to get rid of them under your own power.
What I don’t love: That the glass slider in our kitchen is covered with so many splotches of blood, guts, and broken wings that I’ve begun referring to it as “Death’s Door.” (Note to self: introduce Windex.)
What I love: How much you enjoyed
Question: How do I know when it’s time to replace the coasters in my living room?
Answer: When you can’t find one because The Big Dog has eaten them all.
My son, Richie, starts middle school in the fall. It’s a big transition for any kid, and even bigger for those on the spectrum. An unfamiliar building, an all-new routine, and unknown challenges invoke the anxiety that often goes hand-in-hand with Autism.
To help the kids with their transition, our elementary school takes all the 5th graders on an outing to the middle school. They get to tour the building, check out a locker, and get a little inside scoop from the 8th graders who volunteer to lead the tours. I’m willing to bet that the leader of Richie’s group was a boy because he told them all about detention. Richie has spoken of little else since.
“If I get detention will they yell at me?”
“If I get detention and miss the bus, will you pick me up?”
“If I get detention will that be on my report card?”
This morning at breakfast, he asked if he would get detention for having Autism.
I wanted to say, “Of course not!” but instead I asked, “What do you mean?”
“If I’m not focused and I’m thinking about something else, what if they give me detention?”
“Oh, Honey,” I assured him, “they don’t give detention for not paying attention. Listen, Richie, you are a rule follower. I don’t think you’ll EVER get detention.”
“Really. You get detention for fighting, for being bad, for screaming at someone.”
“Oh, okay. But what about bad table manners in the cafeteria?”