Monday, June 6, 2011

And so it goes

I thought it would all get easier as Jacob got older and matured, grew into himself; as his language developed, engagement with the world expanded.

Time to think again.

Right now it is getting harder and harder to go out with Jacob. Along with expanding interest he is becoming less easygoing. He now wants what he wants when he wants it. And also? He will not be easily denied, distracted, redirected.

And Jacob? Loves babies. If I am anywhere near a baby or young toddler  (= pretty much anywhere out of our house) I can't take my eyes off him for a minute, so great is his love of and desire to interact with babies.

With babies we know personally? Usually a tolerable situation will emerge (with close supervision) and can actually be a great source of delight for all concerned. Because Jacob will talk to a baby for hours, asking him questions, shaking a rattle in front of her, taking a just walking toddler for a cruise around the room.

And the babies? They love Jake. Because he talks to them like they are people, equals, doesn't talk down to them in baby-talk; will pay them endless attention. And what baby doesn't want endless attention from a big kid?

Jake with baby friend at Greta's Bat Mitzvah this May
With complete strangers, however, who see this giant, 80-pound, 10-year-old-looking, yet 3-year-old-acting boy about to pounce upon their tiny baby? A frightening situation at best.

I look away for a minute, like to check on my other son, make sure he is still in sight. When I look up there is Jake making a bee-line for a stranger and her... oh, no, sleeping baby. So I have to drop everything and run an interception move, shouting at the top of my lungs: "Jacob, no! Come back, we don't know that baby!"


Today was Ethan's 3rd grade end-of-year picnic. I had no sitter, my husband was both working this evening and so jet lagged (having just returned from his week working his ass off teaching in Milan) as to be a useless zombie this afternoon... in other words, I was (once again) alone with both kids.

So I had to bring Jacob along. It won't be so bad, I thought, even though Jake goes to a different, specialized school, he has been coming to his brothers events for years, no biggie.

Jake used to be easy at these things, happy to sit near me and play with toys I'd brought along.  But now, runs off to the far reaches, often in search of babies. Fortunately, relatively scarce at this big kid gathering.

But the other thing he does? Try to talk to and interact with the other big kids? It doesn't go well.

Because he's strange.

He's either talking about movies, reciting when they will open and what they are rated, or he's asking strange questions. The kind that might get him beaten up, like: "Are you a baby?"

Or? He's walking right through the middle of heated ballgames, not noticing there's a game going on. Or even worse, noticing and grabbing the ball and running with it, because he thinks that's playing with the big boys.

Great. Something else that will be getting him in trouble. (That happened, badly, yesterday. I started to write about it, just couldn't finish that post "And so it begins" yet, even though it should have preceded this one. It's still too raw, will be coming soon.)

Today? He'd brought a large toy train with him, and proceeded to find the one patch of dirt in the entire lush green lawn to sit in and roll his train around. He basically swam in the dirt.

Some younger kids came along to help him dig a hole with a stick and bury his train. I am sure their parents did not appreciate the lure of the dirt, but frankly as long as he was staying out of trouble I was happy.

Until he started throwing some dirt. And a little girl didn't appreciate that; retaliated by shoving his face into it, before I had completed my charge up to him to stop him.  

And these days? Jacob, once upset, gets stuck. Really stuck. And so I have a hysterical, crying, screaming autistic kid on my hands now, too covered (head to toe) in dusty dirt to make a fast escape.

So there I sit, surrounded by the other families trying not to stare at the spectacle on my blanket as I clean Jake off, pack up all our stuff. I make arrangements with our next door neighbors to bring Ethan back with them so he doesn't have to cut short his thrilling dodge-ball game to slink home with his autistic brother.

And I thank my stars that Ethan is in a wonderful (NYC public) school, that this is not a much judgmental crowd. My friend Sandra's daughter, kind and sympathetic, is offering Jake her treats to try to cheer him up.

Another mother whose children have issues, who is on the PA's Support for Special Needs Committee with me, comes by as we are nearly ready to go and marvels at my patience. I can't really take credit for it; it's the patience of the weary, of the worn down to a nubbin Mom that I am these days.

The tears are winding down, finally, as we board the bus up Riverside, only a few stops but far too far to walk my exhausted son. I am grateful for a nearly empty bus, as he sits down in the front "elderly & disabled" priority seats.

And you know, he IS disabled, even if it's invisible. We can rightfully claim those seats, but still, I'm glad that we're not making some old lady walk to the back, not engendering the stink-eye from the other passengers.

Because I just couldn't take that today.

Soon we will be home; he will be bathed, pajamaed and happy again.  Soon he will have moved on into ready-for-bed mode. But me?

I have left a part of me on that lawn where the other parents are playing ball with their kids or chatting with their friends. Where I am wiping the dirt from my sobbing, screaming son's limbs and wondering what is next.

What, my God, is next?

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