Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What He Needs

Today was the last official day of public school here in NYC. Ridiculously late by any standards.

Ethan was already gone, his camp having started yesterday. I gave him a free pass to miss the final day and a half of what is essentially babysitting, because, as he put it: "Everybody makes friends the first day at camp, Mom, I don't want to miss that." Socially astute, this son of mine.

So today I was at his school even though he wasn't. I dropped Ethan off at camp then u-turned and headed back down, passed my street and kept going. Rebounding many blocks in the opposite direction to take care of some final paperwork and say some goodbye-for-summers.

New York City is a landscape of micro-neighborhoods, and so I was also saying goodbye to this comfortable one around Ethan's school. It's close enough to home and filled with useful stores and services, so that we will probably be by there at times this summer; but it will no longer be part of my daily mind-space.

I therefore have my summer & school-year routines, each different, each looked forward to and/or missed when in the opposite mode.

Ethan's camp is in the same uptown neighborhood as his preschool had been, so there is a lovely quality of familiarity and return each summer. I catch nostalgic glimpses of 3 and 4 year old Ethan around every bend.

Sweet memories wafting up, helping to ease the pain of Ethan's new-found "Just leave me at the entrance and don't let the gate hit your ass too hard on the way out, Mom." attitude he has suddenly adopted at drop-off this summer.

Where once there was clinging & kisses, there is now quick dismissal. I knew this was coming, was even looking forward to it in some ways, but it's hard to reconcile with the boy who still climbs into my lap each evening at bedtime, fiercely demanding his talk & cuddle time.

Outside Ethan's school this morning, I ran into my friend Sandra. She is all excited about (and exhausted preparing for) a big European vacation she has coming up.

Alone with her husband.

Unfathomable to me.

Though we have kids the same age, she is more than ten years younger than me. Her daughters will be having a blast at their Grandparents home, her parents being more than 20 years younger than mine, making all this possible.

But I also realize that it's not all of the unfathom. Even were we all so much younger, even had we the financial resources to pull such a trip off, it would not be on the table for us, just not in the cards.

Jacob needs me just too damn much.

He could not tolerate that large a block of separation. And frankly, truth be told, neither could I.

It feels like another life, the one in which I traveled for work and pleasure, hopped on and off of planes, packed with precision and ease for days, weeks, or months, and just set off.

It WAS another life, and I was another me.

A not-mother me. A not-yet-autism-mom me, for certain.
This summer we are looking into the possibility of sending Jacob to a special needs sleepaway camp for one week. It will be in a town near where my in-laws have their vacation home. A place comfortable & familiar to Jake.

I / we could really use the break. And yet I'm filled with trepidation.

We have never been separated for this long before. One night twice, two nights once. That's pretty much all.

I am his ambassador to the world, his interpreter. I know his thoughts, needs, moods like none other. I am what he wants, needs; always.

And yet... and yet... he is nearly 9. He does go to school every day and they seem to have figured him out just fine. He is getting older, and he needs to grow more independent, not just stranger.

Jacob is awesome these days. He is expanding his repertoire, telling stories, constantly, that begin with "Once upon a time..."

And even though they are all variations on a few basic themes? They are VARIATIONS, not rote repetitions. Yes, he is making things up, combining elements in novel ways, inventing characters. AWESOME!

But the talking all the time is getting exhausting. His week off school (that comes to an end TOMORROW, YES!) has been quite a challenge for me.

(Yes, I've seen every kids movie out now. Cars 2? Twice.)

And his full month off, after summer school ends, will likely be likewise challenging. This camp could really be a godsend. For all of us.

We are probably going to try it, if they'll have him (application is in and we are awaiting) and if we can scrounge up the cash to cover it.

But still, I am afraid. I fear he will be too sad, too lonely, too alone without anyone who understands what he is thinking/feeling/needing.

And I know, even though I desperately need the break, I will spend much of our time apart thinking about him, worrying about him, wondering how he is doing.

The camp number on speed-dial, my fingers hovering, constantly, inches from the phone.

He needs me.

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