August 11, 2010

Mommy Dearest

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , at 6:28 am by autismmommytherapist

We’ve reached a major milestone in the McCafferty household. Apparently, my youngest son is all grown up now, and I am no longer his mommy.

I’m just his mom.

It may seem like splitting hairs here, but the child is only three after all. I can clearly remember back when I was conducting the fertility wars how much I longed to hear the word “mommy” directed at me from someone actually related to me, rather than from a friend’s offspring or the out of the mortified mouth of one of my fifth graders (always a boy). After Justin was diagnosed with autism and it became clear he might never speak, I wondered if we’d have the energy to adopt a child, if I’d ever have the good fortune to be blessed with that monacre appropriately. When my husband and I fulfilled that longtime cliché of IVF couples who follow the test-tube child with an unplanned natural conception I knew I had a second chance, and I waited eagerly for my “mama”. Eventually it came, morphed into “mommy”, and I had the opportunity to hear it every day, all day, over, and over, and over again.

Be careful what you wish for.

The truth is, while it was wonderful to have one of my children actually prove capable of calling for me  (coincidentally “mama” was one of the few words Zach retained when he regressed, smart boy), hearing those repetitive syllables didn’t end up being the pinnacle of my parenthood career. It was a lovely occurrence, and still is, but in his own way Justin says “mama” to me every day, either attempting to formulate the truncated sounds with his lips, or simply beckoning to me with his eyes. As it turns out being summoned vocally carried with it a feeling of deja vue, for I felt I’d already been graced with this staple of mommyhood for years with my firstborn. It was nice to hear, but not necessary for me to feel complete in my caregiver role.

And now, just two short years after my first exposure to the sounds I so coveted in my pre-child days, I’ve been “downgraded” to the far more mature “mom”, and as my youngest and last child approaches his three-and-a-half year mark it is clear to me my baby days are over, toddler years permanently behind me. For some reason, this incredibly grown-up appellation saddens me, which is ironic because I found I really began to enjoy my children the most when they hit pre-school age. It wasn’t so long ago that I was having semi-serious conversations with good friends about engaging in “child share”, in which they would raise my infants, and I’d take their offspring for the pre-teen years, my preferred milieu.

Trust me, during a few of those conversations, we both considered the swap.

It has finally occurred to me that I now understand why some of my friends get misty-eyed at their children’s birthday parties, particularly after the “store has closed”, and they know they are forever finished with pregnancy, late night feedings, and that miraculous smell at the base of a baby’s neck that could never be bottled. Each of Justin’s birthdays has been just pure celebration for me, because for the most part every year has brought him new skills, a lessening of the more severe symptoms of autism that have plagued him since birth, and an increase in his inherent happy nature. The older he gets the more at peace he is, and I cannot pretend to long for the sleepless nights and interminable crying sessions of his infancy. He was a cute kid to cuddle, but at the end of the day I prefer our own separation of church and state, his ability to regulate his own emotions without being held throughout the entirety of the day, and often the night.

But that’s just me.

Zachary however is a different story, and I fear on his fourth birthday, which I feel is the mile marker which signifies the advent of a fully human child, I will be a muddled mess. I’ve already begun to miss a little of the boy who could only stifle his occasional sadness through a hug rather than his current technique of talking himself through a problem logically. I admit I long a little for the child who couldn’t bear to be separated from his parents (except when with his favorite babysitter, for whom he’d abandon us both in a heartbeat), and bear a wistful remembrance for the son who always chose to be nearby rather than amusing himself apart from us. On his next birthday, I will probably need a third glass of the good pinot grigiot.

And as I write these words, it occurs to me that I am truly experiencing these transitions for the very first time, and all is as it should be. I am lucky. Zach is lucky.

With this particular child, it appears I’m going to have to learn how to say goodbye.

July 28, 2010

Baby Talk

Posted in AMT's Faves, If You Need a Good Laugh, Life's Little Moments tagged , , , at 6:27 am by autismmommytherapist

My youngest son is pregnant. Yes, you heard me right, and since he’s an overachiever like his parents, he happens to be having twin boys.

Guess what their names are.

My oldest son Justin has had a home program for a long time, and we’ve been fortunate enough not to have scared off most of his therapists even after several years of working with them. One of them, a lovely woman who’s capable of motivating my son in ways I never thought possible, is having a baby this December. Unlike me, who started showing five minutes after conception and looked like I was about to give birth by the beginning of the second trimester, she has finally sported her baby bump about five months into her pregnancy.

I try not to hate her.

Since my youngest is three and a boy, and therefore oblivious to almost anything around him that doesn’t directly affect his life, he hasn’t really noticed the “extra” Nicole has been carrying around with her. Yesterday however, I had to stop him from careening into the next generation as he ran over to show her the latest gift his sitter had spoiled him with recently. As he slid into my outstretched arms he looked at Nicole’s gently protruding tummy, stretched his gaze up to her face and asked quizzically, “What you have?”
Ah, the time-honored “what you have.”

“What you have” is universal for “mommy, you have wet hair, dry it”, “daddy, you are eating your lunch, I want it”, “Justin, I didn’t require that toy all day while you were at school, but I NEED it now”, and several other assorted commands. It also signifies a desire for knowledge, a request to satisfy the curiosity that runs rampant in this particular three-year-old, and I’m certain, in many others. When Nicole and I both respond with laughter at his query he repeats his request, and looks at me seriously, hands on hips, eyes locked intensely on mine. In other words, we’d better tell him “what she has”, or he may not be held responsible for his actions.

I look down at my sweet son and reply “Nicole has a baby in her stomach. When you were a baby, you were in my tummy too.”

Zach freezes, stares straight ahead as he attempts to process this information. I can literally see the wheels turning in his brain. I’m afraid if he tries to think any harder I’ll see smoke next.

He breaks his reverie, lifts up her maternity shirt and places his hand gently on her rounded belly, looks up at Nicole earnestly, and says “get it out”.

Oops honey, not yet.

Over the next few minutes he tries to climb back into my permanently “closed for business” womb, and searches everywhere for the fake baby I bought during my first pregnancy to try to convince his older sibling that the forthcoming interloper wasn’t such a bad idea after all. He then informs us he is having his own baby, two boys in fact, and tries unsuccessfully to shove said infant down his shirt, bottle and all (guess he’s not fond of breastfeeding either). Once he slips his child through his collar with a little help from his mom, he subsequently gives birth in a time-frame of which any peasant in a field would be envious. The baby’s name is Justin, and as we repeat the act, Zachary follows. He’s a pre-schooler after all, and his imagination is a wee bit limited. I comfort myself that at least my grandchildren aren’t named after signs of the zodiac, or fruit.

My friends warned me that having a kid who talks might not be all it’s cracked up to be, but I’ll take the defiance, the occasional tirade, the endless questions any day. It’s just so damn fun not to have to play “guess what he’s thinking” all the time, to not watch him be frustrated by his inability to communicate. Whether it’s dragons in the sky or babies in the belly, those words will always be music to my ears.

And now, a few years earlier than I expected, I have two grandsons. Guess I won’t get that girl after all.