Today I walked in to the office of Dar’s school. The admin had a sign that read “45 days until summer vacation.” We laughed a little bit about how that didn’t include weekends. The larger point is that the end of the school year is in sight, the end of Dar’s first year in kindergarten. (Next year, as planned, will be his second year in kindergarten.) For the first time ever, I can relate to those moms who have been telling us to savor these years because the time flies right by. This year with Dar in a neuro-typical environment really has shot by like a bullet.
I can’t know how Dar feels about it, because he won’t tell me. I wonder if he feels set apart. I suppose alienation is the default mode for literature, so you know the story: a person like Harry Potter or Bella (from Twilight) walks through the halls like everyone else knows something they don’t, like everyone else is part of some shimmering glimmering ideal called “normal life” that our hero feels like s/he can never quite be part of.
The funny thing is that even if Dar doesn’t feel it, I feel it about myself. Now, I realize that I bring this on myself. I see parents chatting while we’re all waiting outside the classroom for the bell to ring, and they’re talking about so-and-so saying this-and-that and such-and-such, and I have no idea how to even begin a dialogue with them. Certainly, they’re not choosing to exclude me. I just feel odd, like a stranger in a strange land. I feel like any minute, someone is going to pull the rug out from under me/us and say “oh, sorry, you and your son can’t be in the normal world anymore.” And yes, I realize it may be US that transfers Dar to a more special-needs-focused program, not them. But the weird sensation of having a different skin color in a different country doesn’t quite go away. I realize this sounds like whining, and of course I’m writing this on waaaaaaambulance Wednesday, but I don’t mean to whine, only to say, like Alice, that things feel “curiouser and curiouser.”
I wonder what the parents think of me. I wonder if they’ve googled me and found this blog. (I haven’t googled them, but you can’t go by me; of all the people I’ve ever met in real life, I think I’ve googled about 15 of them.) Do they wonder if I or my wife dropped Dar on his head when he was an infant? (Note: we didn’t.) Do they think there but for the grace of God go I? Do they wonder why I don’t spend more time at school? (I realize you don’t need a special-needs kid to ask this question; ever notice that some kindergarten parents are at school a LOT?) Do they get annoyed by Dar’s screaming, the way that Dar’s teacher does? Do they want to reach out to me, but they’re not sure how? Do I look prickly and defensive? I hope not.
I can be reached; let me provide an example. The other day, one mom said to me that Dar “has improved so much since the beginning of the school year. He’s making so much eye contact now, and he really seems engaged.” I said, thank you, that means a lot to me. (I learned to say this a long time ago from a brilliant actress with whom I went to school. Considering how talented she was, I can’t even be sure that after I said “you were amazing!” that she really meant that what I said really meant a lot to her…but I think she did mean it at the moment she said it. It’s funny how the mind works; sometimes you fake it til you make it, and at a certain point, making it is no longer faking it.) What I was thinking was: well, of course he had difficulty at the beginning of the year, this being a completely new environment, him regularly being in a room with 20 neuro-typical 5-year-olds – before this he hadn’t been in a room with even 2! Obviously I didn’t say this.
The mom goes on that her daughter likes my son. I say that I appreciate it, and mean it. I think to say that her daughter is beautiful, then I think, no – don’t reduce girls to their appearance! I say that I feel bad because Dar’s backpack is always crowding her daughter’s cubby. The mom says that’s no problem and that her daughter has two mommies, so she appreciates that there’s not one single way that everything has to be done. And you know, that’s fine. That really is. I do appreciate people trying to connect to me and this autism situation any way they can, including simply reading this blog. The attempt at connection is sincerely appreciated – that’s not fake.
Like Sarah Silverman says, we’re all just molecules flying through space. Flying the years fly by, literally and figuratively. And if we can connect, if we can help each other feels less like strangers, that’s amazing.