“I CANNOT WAIT!”
“You will have to.”
“Wait? What? Why?”
Three out of four days with a “rock star” badge at daycare. Perhaps, after a few rough weeks of getting sick and a crazy vacation and summer camp schedule), we’re back on track.
But back on track for what? Are we still waiting for a magical cure for autism?
We’ll be celebrating two years on our no-sugar, et. al., diet next month. The countless times I’ve heard, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” ring in my ears–it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve tried to patiently wait. And hope. And wait.
And waiting is not easy.
Which, ironically, is the title of one of our favorite bedtime books right now. In fact, all of Mo Willems’s Piggie and Elephant books are on repeat in our stack, especially My New Friend Is So Fun, and My Friend Is Sad. I love them because they’re simple and straight-forward; no metaphors or veiled morals like Planet Kindergarten or The Lorax (which are both awesome, too, but there’s something satisfying about picking up a book called A Big Guy Took My Ball and thinking, aha!…I bet I know what this will be about!)
As I read Waiting Is Not Easy to Logan and Sadie, I kind of wish we’d had it two years ago. I see myself in Gerald, the elephant who struggles to wait for his friend’s surprise.
“I am done waiting! I do not think your surprise is worth it! I will not wait anymore!” [Insert the kid-lit equivalent of the sigh of poetic whitespace.] “OK. I will wait some more.”
“It will be worth it,” Piggie promises him.
We have seen progress, undoubtedly. A lot of progress. A friend told me a question that had been important for her when her son was young was, “What are you afraid of?” We were asked by one of the MAPS doctors we saw, “What are you doing here?” And now I begin to ask myself, “What am I waiting for?”
Next month Logan will begin kindergarten with roughly just over an hour’s worth of special ed support throughout the week. Am I waiting for it to be zero? Will that feel as though our changes have been successful?
Am I waiting for five out of five “rock star” days at daycare? I don’t think other children even earn rock star badges from the teacher that often. The things that trip Logan up from earning one — or losing one — include extreme silliness, not following directions, and anti-social behavior, saying things like, “I just want to play by myself. I don’t like anybody.” Polite conversations are still hard, too, with and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him smile at another child or show a real interest in someone else.
Am I waiting for him to make a friend, to arrive at daycare or school at the end of the day to pick him up and find him engrossed in joint play (not parallel play*) with a peer? Laughing and exchanging, back and forth, ideas about where their toy cars should be driving and conversations the pretend drivers are having?
Will two more years make any difference, or has the window been closed, as some people say happens around age 5? Should we wait some more, or abandon ship?
So often–daily–I feel lost as to what to do. And in that uncertainty, I somewhat reluctantly resign myself to the fact that I don’t really know what else to do but wait. Just like Gerald.
“Oh, well. If I have to wait, I will wait.
“…I am waiting.
“…I am waiting…”
“Mom!” Sadie cries from the backseat of our van as we drive home. “We forgot my rocketship painting at daycare!” Into her mouth goes the thumb as worry stretches across her pretty face.
“No, honey–Miss Cathy hung it on the wall,” I assured her. “You can show it to me tomorrow morning!”
“I cannot wait to see it!” Logan announces, and though I’m watching out the windshield, I can hear that slight smile in his voice and see the twinkle in his eye, a sure-fire give-away that he’s wondering if anyone will understand a reference he’s making.
“Well, you will have to!” Sadie laughs, catching on and quoting the book, too. We all laugh together.
“I bet it’s a wonderful painting,” I tell Sadie.
“Yeah, I bet you did a great job,” Logan tells her.
My heart soars.
* Parallel play is where a child plays next to another child, perhaps both playing cars, but doesn’t really play with the other child. It’s common for children with autism to find it incredibly hard to actually engage and play with others, which would be known as joint play.