I read the caller ID on my cell phone and sighed. It was my 12-year-old autistic son’s teacher calling. This could either be good news or bad news. I usually got good news in the form of a nice little write-up in his take-home journal. A call from his teacher, or worse, the school’s behavior therapist, was the usual way to deliver bad news.
Bad news like when he—all 135 pounds of him—whacked another handicapped student—a tiny girl in a wheelchair—across the back of the head. Great, my son, the bully.
Or when he laid in the hallway outside his classroom and refused to return to his room while the rest of his middle school classmates—the “normal” kids—flooded passed staring curiously at the large good-looking kid sitting on the floor like a lump, calling out to each and every one, “Hello! Hello!”
Or like as a fifth-grader when he knocked a much smaller child off a swing in the playground, then turned to make sure his teacher was watching. Talk about attention-seeking.
I sighed, staring at the school’s number on my cell phone. Then I clicked the receive button, put a smile in my voice, and greeted my caller. It was the behavior therapist.
My beautiful brown-eyed boy had not just whacked his pregnant teacher in the arm or kicked her in the shin as he can do when he gets into one of his moods. No, this time, he pushed hard on the sixth-month fetus in her protruding belly. I practiced my yoga breathing for about thirty seconds as the therapist talked on…”removed him from the room,…placed with another teacher,…keep him there for the week,…his teacher to visit the doctor…”
After I’d calmed down and repented of how many different ways I was going to string up my beautiful brown-eyed boy, I thanked the therapist and told her that I would have a good talk with him when we got home that afternoon.
He exited his school bus like a puppy that knew it wasn’t supposed to lose its bowels all over your white carpet but had anyway. “Sorry,” he said, even before he said his usually cheerful, “Hi, Mommy!” And then we talked.
It was a rough afternoon, although I’m glad to say that if Child Protective Services had decided to visit, I have a clear conscience.
After he’d gone to bed that night, I sat by his sleeping form and gently brushed the thick brown hair from his brow (he really needed a hair-cut), ran a hand down his baby-soft cheek (how long before whiskers would roughen it?), and pressed my lips against his forehead (how many thousands of kisses had I placed there?). I looked down his long torso to his brown legs exposed by the blanket he’d kicked aside. As usual, I stared in amazement at how big my little brown-eyed boy had become. Manhood was closer than childhood, even for a boy with autism.
I sighed as I had when I’d answered my cell phone that morning. He’d be fine tomorrow or in a few days or next week, loving up on his teacher as he was more prone to do. But it was these times, in the quiet of the house when everyone else slept, that the battle between peace and panic, faith and fear, hopefulness and hysteria raged in me over the future of my son.
If I listened to the stomping hooves of irrationality and let loose the reins of my tightly-harnessed imagination, I could easily find myself in dire need of a Valium…or a good Jody Picoult novel to remind me that my life wasn’t really so bad.
I smiled. We had made it through twelve years of challenge. We would make it through the next twelve. And the twelve after that. I reminded myself that while he may not have been normal in many ways, in one way at least he was like any other pre-teen boy–he couldn’t defy you, or any authority for that matter, in sleep.
I pulled up the covers that he had kicked off, laid them gently across his exposed legs, and turned toward the door.
Back on the bed, my beautiful brown-eyed boy started. He shifted restlessly, turned on his belly, and then promptly re-kicked the covers off his legs.
I sighed. So much for slumbering non-defiance.