Hi everyone and welcome back! First, I never retired. After more than five years of (almost) weekly posts, I announced that I would be taking a little break in order to focus on the election. Sure enough, over the last few months, I’ve been spending my free time phone-banking, text-banking, and writing postcards. Of course, when you’re Dar’s dad, “free time” is a weird concept. On the one hand, I have more time than a lot of dads…on the other hand, when he’s so inclined, Dar can suck up time and energy in such a way that keeps me from wanting to do anything but rest.

So, how has Dar been?! How’s the pandemic treating him?! What’s up?!?!?!

Dar is the only 11-year-old I know who never even thought about this week’s presidential election, so that’s a point in his favor.

There are a lot of stories to tell, but I think I’ll save most of them for future entries and instead give you the 30,000-foot view.

Dar celebrated his 11th birthday in October. Don’t worry, you weren’t uninvited. I use the term “celebrated” loosely. We organized neither an in-person party nor a zoom party. As with the election, Dar doesn’t show that he knows or cares, and in fact all the attention sometimes bothers him. For his brother’s sake, mostly, we bought some nice cupcakes from Lavender Café (Solano and Colusa), and sang and made a short video for posterity. Dar did seem to enjoy his day’s worth of free access to cupcakes, nibbling here and there like a mouse in the house.

I probably shouldn’t jinx us by typing this here, but Dar is sleeping much better than the last time I posted here. Or perhaps I should say we’re sleeping better? I really feel that Dar learns things at his own glacial pace, but then he learns them. I want to very cautiously suggest that maybe, after years of him sometimes waking at 3am and screaming until I calm him down (and thus lose all my day productivity), he now seems to wake, maybe scream once, but then find his iPad fully charged next to him, and get immersed in videos while permitting Mom and Dad to sleep. Usually. I think. Knock on wood. Now that I’ve written this out…watch out.

No in-person school for Dar and nothing anticipated at any time that can be predicted. Special-needs kids have been prioritized in many school districts across the country…but not here. Dar is at an NPS in Berkeley but technically sub-contracted by the Berkeley Unified School District, and the BUSD has shown absolutely no sign of offering any in-person classes before September 2021 (if then). The BUSD and its teachers were already on tenuous terms before the pandemic, and now those teachers aren’t coming back to physical school without certain conditions being met.

I told you this months ago, but it’s still true that Dar can’t learn remotely; he may not know that his teacher is talking to him through the screen. So that’s all me, which is tough on me and him. I’d say he’s treading water; new skills are a challenge. Also, 24/7 of Dar at home is a bit of a strain on all of us. Dar gets upset for seemingly no reason. Self-injurious behaviors do happen.

I’m trying to devote more time into researching other resources for Dar, places where he might spend a little bit of time outside this house, even just for an hour, although we’d love it to be longer. As you may have guessed, most of them aren’t open during the pandemic. I’m seeing what I can do in the meantime but…not a lot of relief on the horizon, for Dar or for us.

One thing they don’t tell you in the new-baby parenting books: by the time the kids are 11 and 8, most parents aren’t really keen to spend every waking minute with said kids. Most kids take care of this by being somewhat self-sufficient, often finding ways to amuse themselves. Now, to be fair, Dar sometimes does this. There are hours when he can be more or less left alone in the living room where he will happily “tee-tee-tee” to Sesame Street episodes. But…when he’s not like that, it’s tough. And he is known for resisting having his mother in the room – he’ll push her out – so the responsibility falls to me. While sitting there calmly waiting for him to calm down, I try to get routine-type work done on my laptop, and that sometimes happens. On the better days, my presence calms him down and I get work done. On the not-better days, don’t ask.

A real bright light in this pandemic has been the woman who comes to our house for about 3 hours every weekday to provide ABA services to Dar. She is somewhat immunocompromised and comes every time she can, anyway. And she is so amazing and patient with Dar. Wow, do we ever appreciate her.

Next week, I want to write a bit about our insurance struggles. None of that is easy or fun. Sounds like a great entry, eh? I’ll try to John Oliver it by inserting copious amounts of “it would be like if [celebrity] suddenly decided to…”

See you then!