“They expect me to wipe my own bottom,” my son complained during our phone call.
It’s true. He didn’t know how to wipe his own bottom. That was just one of a thousand things he hadn’t learned to do yet; a thousand ways that put him behind normal kids and their normal milestones. But I’d wipe his poop until he turned 30 if I thought it had the power to calm his storm.
I did everything I could for him and knew everything there was to know about him. I knew his medications like the back of my hand. I sat in meetings with doctors explaining his triggers and what made him go into rages. I’d read about mood disorders in children, and subscribed to mental health newsletters and blogs. But I didn’t know the first thing about who this child was.
I didn’t know how to parent him or how to love him. I’d try to hug him, but he didn’t want to be touched. I’d lean forward to kiss him. He’d bend backwards in a stunt that rivaled Neo’s famous bullet-dodging scene in the Matrix.
I’d lay down with weariness and wake up with dread about what I might have to deal with the next day; fearful that I might not be able to survive it.
And there was something to deal with every day. On this particular one, it was a movie.
“ I can’t get him out of the movie theater. He wants to play another arcade game and it’s time to go.” My husband’s voice trailed off.
“I’ll be right there,” I said.
I drove up and saw my son sitting on the curb, elbows on his knees, and ignoring the security guard who was standing in front of him. He sat there until he was ready to get up…an hour later.
Every outing was a gamble. Sometimes the gamble didn’t pay off.
And when it didn’t, we crossed it off our list. No more movies or ball games or museums or parks or any place that had a gift shop. We emotionally child-proofed our world (to protect him, of course)—until it was too small for friends and family who didn’t understand anyway; whose advice we feared would start with, “All he needs is…”
The truth is I didn’t have a clue what he needed or how to help him. I was all tapped out of Google keywords to search. I knew that we didn’t have that bond, that electrical love charge in your heart when you look at your child. When I was with my little boy, I shook with anxiety. I knew that my spirit was weary and that I could never be one of those moms, with the twelve adopted children—all smiles, all with special needs.
I knew he didn’t need me.