I didn't get to talk with many of you at the birthday party today. You may remember me as the one who was sort of hovering around my kid, following him from room to room with a nervous look on my face while everyone enjoyed the food, activities and conversation.
If you wondered why my son wasn’t interacting much with the other fifteen kids or doing the art projects or playing the games it’s not because he doesn’t like people or that he’s a bad kid. He’s actually pretty charming and funny if you can get to know him in a more intimate, lower-decibel environment.
To those of you who were in the room any of the three times when Ben threw a screaming tantrum and tore apart the train tracks I’m sorry if it was unnerving. He’s really a very easygoing kid at home… as long as no one touches his trains.
And to those of you who recognized us from the Montessori School and you asked why you don’t see us at school much anymore: I know that when I started talking about special education services and early intervention programs and autism you may have thought “too much information.”
Thanks for being so nice and humoring me. It’s hard to explain our situation in three sentences or less.
And if you saw me come out of the bathroom and my eyes were a little red, it’s just because I had to unleash a little of the emotion and anxiety hiding behind what I hope otherwise came off as a polite smile.
You see, I have this paranoid feeling that there’s this club that you all belong to: The Parents of Normal Kids Club. And I’m not a member. While we all have a lot in common as parents, I don’t know how to hang out at these parties and look all relaxed and “whatever” and drink coffee and chat with you because I am afraid that at any moment my son might really freak out.
I know all the reasons why this is ridiculous and whiny. That it’s a complete, utter illusion that I project on all of you, and for all I know, many of you might have been feeling similarly ill-at-ease for lots of other reasons.
But today I was reminded what a huge gulf lies between the safe, supportive, predictable environment we’ve created for Ben among our immediate family, and the unpredictable and chaotic world out there. And I wonder how we’ll help him cope.
And I’ll admit one more thing.
When Ben told me, nearing the end of his patience for waiting for the birthday cupcakes, “I want it to be over,” I said quietly, so only he could hear, “I do too, buddy. I do too.”