Why couldn't he just be a normal person? It was a question I had never anticipated, yet it did not at all surprise me. It was not something I had anticipated talking about on Valentine's Day but out it came, spawned from a family dinner and innocent gift of love. What an evolving holiday depending on your moment in time or decisions in life. Our reality is the six of us right now, three children who are excited for celebrating and a younger brother that likes any thing his siblings deem fun.
This year we had a lively family dinner and as a special surprise, they each had a treat, books chosen from Barnes and Noble on my recent trip to the big city. There was a Minecraft Bible for Russell, Peppa Pig for Blair, Auggie & Me for Thomas and Llama Llama Red Pajama for Amos. I had put Amos' book in a new backpack and shared casually that the backpack would be perfect for him next year when he would be going to school. Blair squealed with delight, Russell laughed, Daddy smiled and Thomas....a too long pause. His questions were fired with rapid precision and I began to back peddle realizing the can of worms I had inadvertently opened and tried my hardest to close it, but to no avail. They went something like this, "What? Why? Where? Who else will be there? Who's the teacher? What classroom? Where is it? I thought he would be at preschool? Why?" and they continued. I did my best to placate him as I tried to say all the right things. Things grounded in kind truth but not the hard truth he was feeling. I had not thought of what Amos' brothers and sister would think about what we had planned on for his intervention next year. Silly me, I should have known.
It was not official yet but both of us, Amos' parents, agreed that the three and four year old special needs classroom at our elementary school was a good fit for Amos next year. It was also our only option so best to embrace it with a good attitude and indeed the teacher I had met was amazing and had only received the highest praise from people I trusted. We were working hard to get a communication system in place for him so she could help build on that and give him a chance for traditional preschool and elementary school. That was our plan but guess we had not thought about discussing it with our other children.
It had been a hard pill for me to swallow and I know for my husband too. This was not what we wished for Amos. I guess we had slowly gotten adjusted to the idea over the last six months, tried to grin and bare it, and along the way had forgotten about how the other little people in our house would react, particularly our oldest son. At 10, he was wise to the world and his maturity surprised me. As he asked the questions, I read a familiar look in his eyes. Familiar because it was the same feeling I felt in my heart, encompassing angst, worry, sorrow, and even defiance. I was interrupted by Russell's milk spilling over the table and as I gathered paper towels, Thomas had slipped out of the kitchen. I know him, so I finished my dinner and gave him some needed time.
I found him ten minutes later in his Dad's study, sitting in the middle of the couch and staring intently at the iPad. Too intently, I could tell immediately. I asked if everything was ok and he said noncommittally, "yeah". I asked how he felt about Amos coming to school next year. I could already see the tears glistening as he answered, quietly and dejected, "Why couldn't he just be a normal person?". Oh, I know Thomas. I know.
Truthfully though I had not allowed my mind wander this way. I had thought of what Amos would be like if he had developed like his three older siblings. He would be talking in complete sentences by now or at least able to repeat most any word and able to put two to three words together. He would be running and jumping by now, intent on dinosaurs, toy cars, baby dolls, or trains. He was not normal in the way Thomas meant and that made me sad. I told him I didn't know why he wasn't like a regular two year old and I told him I knew it had been and still is hard. A lot of time and attention and thinking goes to Amos, whether it be for the abundance of doctor appointments or the hundreds of hours of therapy visits. My absence had not gone unnoticed.
In our family tradition of honesty, I asked Thomas, "Would you want to trade Amos in, if you could?". His simple reply was "No, maybe if I hadn't gotten so used to him". Ahhh, truth spoken like a child and true for me too. It would be "easier" to have a typically developing two year old but he was ours and we loved him. Much like anyone else, I felt and I think Thomas does too, a fierce ownership and protectiveness towards Amos. I've gotten used to him too and there is a not another person out there I would trade for him, even if it would be easier. We were a team, our family, and every member was important and no one was perfect, not one of us. If anything, Amos may have been the one we would all like to emulate, eager to greet each day with radiant joy. No, he was not normal but who wants to be normal anyways? I'd rather be us. Thank you, Amos.