“Jonah lives at a residential educational facility for kids with autism” is how I say it.
Innocent conversation-starter questions at networking events or out in this bad, bad world*: So Jonah is 9? Is he in 3rd or4th grade?
I almost always tell the truth, and it sounds like a carefully phrased script constructed to confuse with alliterative, technical-sounding words that hopefully distract the listener while I try to usher the conversation elsewhere.
Jonah’s at a residential educational facility for kids with autism.
I’m not trying to be politically correct here, though of course it must seem it. It’s just that any alternative phrasing feels awful. “Jonah lives an hour and a half away from me, cared for by strangers I have no choice but to trust because his kind of autism comes with behaviors so severe it was unsafe for everybody to keep him at home.”
What else could I say? “My son’s at a school for kids with autism,” I guess would be okay, but it lacks that alliterative technical-sounding distraction technique and, instead, seems to always invite more questions.
Luckily most folks then let me take us on to “so you went to school for marketing?”
And then, later, I allow myself to wonder what Jonah would be like if he were in 3rd or 4th grade, just a regular kid at a regular school. Would he still love the water, and celery, and tight hugs and car rides? Would he be good at different things? Would we go places and do things together? Bake and hike and play games? I get the feeling I’m over-romanticizing regular kids. You get what you get. And everybody gets their share of shit. It’s just sometimes I feel like mine’s smeared all over me.
There are times I don’t talk about because I’m ashamed of them, the times when I forget. It used to be for a minute, then an hour, then a day. What I forget is how bad it was, how scared I was all the time, what despair and dread we lived with day after day after God-awful day. I forget, and then I feel relief, and I tell myself that Jonah is well taken care of and in the best possible place, with his father just 5 minutes away.
I forget, and I am relieved, and I am ashamed.
If I were a born-to-be-a-mother-mother, one of those special people some folks say I am, I’d have found a way to keep him home with me, protected and loved. No matter what I had to do, no matter how expensive. No matter if I had to get a second job to pay for a 24-hour personal aide, an autism service dog, a kick-ass nutritionist. A behavior analyst – Harvard valedictorian, class of 1988. Some Superdoc who will fix all his violent behavior.
Not everyone should have kids. It shouldn’t be an expected order of things: High school. Then college. Job. Engagement. Marriage. Buy house. Have 2.5 kids. Work until you retire. Wish you had something to do, wish you still felt important to the world. I may not understand it fully but I feel it coming, all this being pushed off the planet by the next generation and the generation after that and the generation after that. Everything starts to confuse you and technology feels exponentially rapid now.
So maybe I shouldn’t have had kids. The truth is I just really, really wanted some unborn child to have Andy for his/her father. Unfortunately I was also selfish enough not to realize it probably shouldn’t have been with someone like me.
I don’t mean to sound whiny or crazy. UGH. Should I post this mess?
*I love the lady in the tutu who hands out the carnations. That would SO be me. I want to find her and be her friend.