In a little more than an hour, Tommy will be arriving home from his weekly Saturday stint at a center-based ABA program for children with autism. He goes there each Saturday in addition to three 2-hour ABA sessions at home during the week. He also continues to go to occupational therapy once a week in Weymouth. The man has a busy schedule.
As I write this, Will is at a classmate’s birthday party and J-Bird is napping. Yup, the “Bird” still naps…sort of. Eric took Will and Tommy to Fall River this morning to watch the two cooling towers in Somerset implode at precisely 8am. They were out of the house just before 7. We spent some time yesterday looking at road closures and viewpoints so that Eric could make a fairly quick exodus in order to get Tommy to Middleboro for 9am. Tommy stays at his program from 9 until 3pm. It must feel like another day of school. It makes a long week for a kid.
I also had to spend some time showing Tommy YouTube videos similar to what he’d see because he is deathly afraid of implosions and explosions, but mostly pertaining to the sun. It’s not unusual for Tommy to scream in the middle of the night that he doesn’t want the sun to explode because we will all die. He feels the same way about tsunamis and tornadoes. I can’t fathom what Tommy envisioned when Eric asked him if he wanted to go see two towers implode. I look forward to trying to pull that report out of him when he gets home.
This morning’s schedule left me home with James all day. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with Mr. James (or Hames as he refers to himself) this week as I recover from my surgery. The kid just makes me laugh and I can’t imagine our family without this character.
That wasn’t always the case for me. There was never a question after having Tommy that we wanted more children. When we found out we were pregnant, we were ecstatic. I quickly had the wind knocked out of my sails. I use the pronoun I rather than we because I’m not sure people speak to men like they do to women about having and raising families. Perhaps I fielded the questions because Eric is the boss of sorts (not at home). Here are some of the comments I got:
“What if lightning strikes twice?”
“If I were you, and I found I was pregnant, I’d kill myself!”
“I can understand why Eric would want to try to have another son, but why you?”
Each of these comments implied that Tommy is somehow not good enough or less than perfect. I’m not really sure I can articulate how they made me feel. I don’t think any of them came from malice. I can say that for every comment like one of these, I think a bit less of the person who’s mouth from which they were uttered. In my opinion, it was a commentary on them rather than Tommy or any other person with special needs, for that matter.
I’d be lying if I said that these remarks did not get in my head, they did. But here we are almost three years later killing it! James is the greatest thing that’s happened to this family since Tommy!! Tommy was the greatest since Will. You get my point.
Tommy is even starting to warm up to James; starting being the operative word. Just the other day Tommy reluctantly gave James a kiss on the head and a half hug before James went off to bed! That’s progress! James on the other hand LOVES Tom. “Where’s Tommy?” “Tommy at school?” If you ask James who the boss is, who his best friend is, who he loves, he answers “Tommy” every time without hesitation. We laugh because if Tommy were asked the same questions, you best believe not one answer would be “James.” We still get the occasional “I told you not to have that baby!” That’s a script, but we haven’t figured out from where Tommy got it. Ha.
No human is perfect. No family is perfect. Everyone’s problems are relative to their own lives. Autism is not lesser, just different. There’s a difference.
I can hear James singing one of the songs from The Grinch, signally the end of his afternoon nap. He’s also laughing hysterically. That’s no surprise coming from the kid who climbed the center of the Christmas tree at a year old, mean-mugs strangers for a laugh, licks your face when you ask for a kiss, and doesn’t have time for the mundane when he’s doing the “hot dog dance.” He’s genuinely a happy-go-lucky guy. I suppose I’ll go get him up before the rest of the crew gets home.
In the meantime, let us all choose our words carefully, myself included.