September 1, 2011
We’ve survived the terrible twos with Zachary (which actually weren’t that terrible). My husband and I also made it through the soul-sucking threes with our youngest, a year far more grueling than the one prior, punctuated as it were by daily tantrums and heated assertions of “I CAN DO IT!!!”. We sailed straight into the apparent glory of four, at which point I indulged in the belief that we were technically “done” with that mode of taxing behavior (as a friend of mine once said, “the store is closed”, as Jeff and I will not be unleashing any more offspring into the world). Indeed, we had a honeymoon period with Zach, a hiatus if you will, during which my last child seemed to demonstrate great progress in choice-making (one of my personal favorites), self-regulation, and a desire not to respond to every one of my requests with the word “no”.
Then, the honeymoon was over.
I don’t know if it’s our absurd demand that our four-year-old deign to poop in the potty (we’ve progressed from stickers to a “castle bed” to Disney, I’m not really sure where to go from here). I can’t tell if the regressive autism he experienced at eighteen months just delayed him emotionally, so that what we witnessed during his toddler years was just a hissy-fit appetizer. I’m not certain if the drama that ensues when he spots a single drop of juice bubbling up from his sippy cup has its origins in autism, or if the histrionics are a direct result of a blend of divaesque genes from both sides of the family forest gone wild.
And honestly, I may never know.
I am constantly struck by the irony of having two boys with autism, and the one far more profoundly affected simply desires peace, love, and happiness. Justin is me as a young child, requires little more than a calm environment and kisses. He has completely inherited my personality (at least the one I had before autism entered my life, after which I found caring about other peoples’ happiness far too tiring). Except for his impulsivity, and whatever neurological misfires compel him to rip things and hide footwear, even with a major neurological disorder, he would be the easiest child on earth to raise. If left to his own devices Justin would be completely happy to drink juice, watch snippets of Baby Einstein repeatedly, and conduct hour-long snuggle fests with his parents or his sitters all day. He is my “I want everyone to be happy” child.
And then, there’s the drama king.
Sometimes, it’s so difficult to tease out what’s causing the catastrophe, as turning off an already-concluded tv show so one can eat dinner does not seem like an act commensurate with the now-postponed Apocalypse. Then again, I’m no longer four (my “fine lines” will vouch for that statement), so perhaps I just don’t understand. All I know for sure, and this certainty stems from over a dozen years in the classroom, is that this child, with his mild autism that most people don’t even register, will be just as challenging in his own way as his moderately affected, non-verbal, often OCD-tormented brother. Unfortunately, although we love them to death, it seems that when me and my spouse procreate, we do not produce easy children.
And today, that knowledge just makes me feel so, damn, tired.