I picked up right away that my first born son had to touch and taste everything to see how it worked. Looking at a book was not enough. He had to put it in his mouth. He cried to drown out noise, his own loneliness. He cried upon waking, in reacting to stimuli—the big bad world of Winnie the Pooh wallpaper, a rising sun in the window, his grumbling stomach, a loaded diaper. His cry was our alarm clock until he was six years old.
This morning, my husband opened the kitchen window as I was frying bacon. An open feeling that reminds me as a child, a day of no school, breezes in, during a September Saturday. Rob called for Tarzan, one of three lab mix puppies. I asked him to leave it open. Two minutes before as I washed my hands and looked out, my view is an expanse of a forlorn swing set bordered by railroad ties, an empty birdfeeder, overgrown azalea bushes, a recent teenage fire pit, an edging of woods, suggesting a world of deciduous wildlife. A pot of fuchsia petunias set on the slide platform has finally peaked with pin wheeled flowery. I’d planted it in June. I observed the usual squirrel and also a chipmunk that probably scurries through the area frequently but I notice him today, because I have time.
Pervasive is my longing to hold my babies, to hear their cherubic voices, to smell their downy heads. I force myself to remember the mundane. In my memory is the distinct reasoning to abandon the idea of pre-school for our kids. We tried it with Paul, our first born. We experimented as a one-car family, me the stay at home Mom, trying to save money. (We endured this for a year.) I drove Rob to work three days a week, to have our mini-van to transport Paul from nine to noon. We were encouraged by others that it would serve our son well to be social, to learn and grow. It lasted three months. The teacher was a bubbly brunette who said Paul was her favorite. She was only positive in describing him as ‘painfully shy.’ I couldn’t disagree more. That wasn’t it. He was quiet, yes—sometimes passive. But, complexity masked the root issue. We saw later that Autism expresses itself in vague inconsistency, not ever clearly seen, but opaque, like a double screened porch, a filter that keeps the necessary out as well as the unnecessary.
The chipmunk reminded me that with a large family, time goes by quick. When the kids start kindergarten at five and end their school days in twelfth grade, when will I see them, read stories, hear first words, greet them after a nap, a bit taller, more aware of the world around? I mentioned this once to an older friend of mine, that once in a while, after a long nap, I noticed a progressive difference in my toddler. She was more astute in a subtle way, like the sleep nourished her maturity. Her eyes were keener, she uttered a new word, handled a toy with more sophistication. My friend paused, looked at me askance as if I were peculiar. She said, “That’s interesting. You know, that is when the growth hormone is secreted, during sleep.”
I decided that if I were juggling work with mothering, I’d miss a lot. Why would I shuffle them off to pre-school and forego finger paints at the kitchen table, or sound effects zinging forth from my sons while playing with action figures? School would begin soon enough and take them away from me.
Sure enough, young Moms need a break. I think that’s the appeal of pre-school, or nursery school, is what it was called when I was little. Kids get into stuff, and the thought of Mommy being able to go to the bathroom alone, is almost fantasy when babies are underfoot.
The involvement that rearing an Autistic child required, coupled with a blurring speed of development in the rest of our brood motivated me to pinch their cheeks a little longer. As the two older boys went off to elementary school, it gave me time to bond with the younger ones in the morning.
In no way is this judgment projected on Moms who choose to start school early. This issue is just one, of which we toil and struggle, and personally—come by honestly.
For Rob and me, seeing our gentlemen off to college triggers flashbacks that we’d rather have linger and stay for a while, not streak in and out of our memory banks.
It’s true. The days are long, but the years are short.