The photo was accompanied by my innocent caption of, "I know, Amos. I know. It's only Tuesday."I shared it on my personal page this morning and hoped it would bring a smile to my friends. How was I know the image would dominate my day?
How many of us wake up fighting with ourselves to get up, fix coffee, make lunches, pour out dry cereal, brush hair, nag about teeth, verbalize plans for the day? Certain days are harder than others, a lurking field trip, doctor's appointment or soccer practice, or in my experience, all of the above plus five. It comes down to mind over matter, each and every time. We decide how we feel and how we greet the day. Though I prefer to say hello after 8am, after drinking a half cup of coffee and the Today show, that is not my lot in life. We all do things we don't want to do when we don't want to do them and so, I shall suck it up and be excited for Wednesday.
I wrote this before the casual words, a casual observation that floated to me as light as a feather, were spoken and then knocked me down hard and fast. I dropped Amos off at our nanny share, went home and climbed into bed. The words were far from harsh and replayed over and over in my own mind and I tried unsuccessfully to identify my own culpability in the situation. After all, I am a mother especially sensitive, parenting a child with special needs will do that to you. My vulnerability is magnified for all the world to see, though my aching heart was clearly still hidden under my sleeve.
Today was like any other Tuesday. Nearly every morning my two year old son and I head to the nearby hospital for outpatient therapy, speech, physical and occupational. It is a routine that typically feels safe and a part of our shrinking bubble. The outside world continues to work its' way in as Amos ages and so, I am consciously thankful for the few remaining places that feel safe and free from critiques or the long stares that scream disapproval. Today, with those words, I realized our bubble has burst.
Amos was still in his footy pajamas, I had woken him up and transported him from crib to car seat before 8am. He ate the leftovers of his sister's cinnamon roll, drank his whole milk, and had a chance to wake up in the next five minutes. I deposited him happily in therapy and then sat writing in the waiting room. I was interrupted by his cheerful call, "Mama!", which never fails to bring me a smile and I stopped my activity and began the discussion over the therapy session. The therapist and I talked while he played with the Legos available in the waiting room and when I beckoned him to leave, he stopped and moved to follow me. A perfect two and a half year old though in hindsight, his silence must have been deafening.
The woman who had sat quietly beside me in the waiting room for the last fifteen minutes, broke the silence with a question, "Is he your only one?" I had heard this time and time again, Amos and I evidently fulfilling a stereotype, the older mother and her constant companion, the very blond and bespectacled two year old. Of course, he must be my only one. How would a stranger know his three older siblings were at our local elementary school? I was unaffected and cheerfully replied that I actually have four children. Instead of the typically offered sheepish apology, this woman from the sidelines continued. She went on to explain that she asked because he seemed spoiled. Ahhh, yes. Of course he does, the happy boy clad in pajamas playing alone in the waiting room while his mother and therapist talked.
These days I speak up when these observations pass by me, innocent bubbles that manage to burst my joy. They are popping more and more often these days and I can't avoid the underlying tone that travels with the seemingly passive statements. My own bubble of safety is shrinking and the realization of this drove me beneath the covers in the cool dark room, in the large bed which sat alone as an island beside the growing pile of clean laundry. I had done my best, offered a retort that was not my old style of smart ass but neutral and honest. I told her that he can't talk yet and somehow related that to how I was never sure if he was spoiled because I never knew if I was actually meeting his needs. What those needs were was a best guess most all the time, I had said quietly. She paused and then said, "Don't worry, his words will come." My feelings had been hurt and then an apology was offered with the confident prediction that was unfortunately not written in stone. Funny enough, the words meant to give comfort left me tired, sad, feeling alone, and once I was home, contemplative in my thoughts, distraught.
I can see myself in this picture of Amos, the laundry and him laying on the floor upon his blanket and his limbs now tan and sinewy. The baby rolls had disappeared without my knowing and yet his progression of age was always heavy in my thoughts. Sometimes we lay down and weep and then we rise again. Life is like that and as I drink my coffee and reflect, I am ready to pick him up and then meet the school bus. The photograph was foreboding yet freeing. I choose to get up when I allow myself to fall and the grace that covers me is always there and even when I shrug it away, the dark never suffocates me.