Three Minds & Wishes

I’m of three minds, or will be once I get through this week.  But today is Monday, and Mondays are just hard.  Hard-hard.

When God opened his creation kit, it must have been a Monday, because the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  Then God moved upon the face of the waters, in the dark, without tripping on so much as a sea urchin (duh, because they didn’t exist until four days later).

I think every Monday we start over again, because we were resting the day before, the seventh day.  So I’m out of it by Monday, my mind not yet divided into “TO-DOs”.  It’s a slug on Mondays, still gooey from Sunday.  We’re never prepared.

My seven year old son was in a mood today, loud and inattentive.  He couldn’t focus on his homework. I sat beside him repeating over and over again, “If Jim has seven turtles, and Ellen has one more, how many turtles does Ellen have?”

He was mumbling about Itchy and Scratchy from The Simpsons, and sneakily inching out of his chair to grab a Wags-the-Dog toy from a nearby bench.  I yelled more than once, “Sit back down and pay attention!”

We repeated this frustrating exchange at least five times per question.  There were ten questions.

My brain was fried at the end.  I’d been helping my nine year old with her homework as well, checking for mistakes (found two).  Meanwhile, dinner was going, two meals I can stretch for several days — baked chicken thighs for salads, round roast with saffron and rosemary in the crock pot, then something quick for the kids because they were already hungry.

There was laundry in the washer and dryer.  The dogs were hungry and wanted to go outside.  I still had to go through kids’ backpacks and sign crap, read crap, toss and save crap.  Plus I’d been working on a memoir all day, writing about disturbing things in the distant past, and now the present felt disturbing because my autistic son was acting very autistic.

I’d hoped for a good day but no, it’s Monday.  And Mondays are just hard.

I later mentioned to my husband as he was leaving to take the nine year old to dance class, “Autism is harder than usual today.  I’m out of tricks.”

He nodded and suggested I take our son to ride his bike.

I poured a glass of red wine first, sipped dark red serenity while making a list for the week:  tests the kids have to study for, prayers my son has to learn, items we need to practice like tying shoes and piano, playing sentence structure and time-telling games. There were two videos to watch, one about swimming technique so Julian can visualize how to improve; three summers of swim lessons, and he still can’t swim.  The other video is of kids hitting a pinata, so that next birthday party he doesn’t melt down when cut-throat kids dive insanely for candy.  Social skills are hard for kids on the spectrum.  How does one explain pinata etiquette?  There isn’t any.  That’s the problem.

The last thing on the list was Julian’s psychiatrist.  We need to talk about adding attention medicine to the antidepressant he already takes.  His father and I hate this, but it’s time.  He has the attention span of a fly.  Or krill, maybe.

I finished my wine then watched him ride his bike for a while, up and down our street, me wondering when the training wheels will finally come off.  Then I finished laundry and set Julian down in front of the TV with popcorn and a good movie, Aladdin.

Aladdin:  “Wish fulfillment?”

Genie:  “Three wishes, to be exact.  And ix-nay on the wishing for more wishes.  That’s all.  Uno, dos, tres.  No substitutions, exchanges, or refunds.”

Tomorrow I’ll be of a second mind, like a second wish.  I’ll follow my lists, focus on structure.

By Thursday I’ll be of a third mind, the mind that can smell Friday and rest on its way.  And third mind knows my son will one day tie his shoes, swim, ditch the training wheels and master pinatas.  Third mind knows how to trust, and let go:

Aladdin:  “Genie, you’re free.”

Lighthouse

My seven year-old raises my energy, creates an expansion in my heart.

I love all four of my children, but my seven year old needs me most, and I think I need him too, in ways I both can and can’t explain.

Some children are certain that their parents have a “favorite” but that’s not an accurate characterization. I used to vacillate between my older two children, needing one more than the other, then needing the other more than the one. Different aspects of them were speaking to me at particular times, growing me toward higher levels of what it is to be human.

From my oldest child I learned to move more fearlessly through life.

From my second child I learned to laugh at the absurd, to embrace my own peculiar march to a different drummer.

From my third child I’m still learning to love myself.

But my last child, the seven year old with autism, has brought me down a longer harder road. As with most difficult journeys, I’ve grown significantly from this one, from loving him through his many needs while working harder than I ever have before to fill them. Then this love expanded beyond both of us.

Julian happened to me at a time of life when an adult typically begins to look outside of him or herself, to get more involved in matters of social justice or environmental activism, with politics or deeper spiritual pursuits. He has driven me in every one of these directions.

I deeply need to know that the disabled or disenfranchised are treated with respect, dignity, and compassion. I need to know where autism comes from, to understand environmental toxins and what is happening on a genetic level to all of us. I care about politics for the first time in my life, because as ugly and unsettling as this arena can be, it’s also the place where real change can happen, and I know now that my teensy individual say really does matter.

Spiritually, my son has led me toward the strangest path of all. Unfortunately, I have to walk alone on this one, perhaps to a body of water which will ask that I swim down to the mossy bottom and stay a while, at least until I run out of air or my lungs become gills. Whichever happens first.

I don’t have parents or grandparents now. There are no real mentors, outside of favorite writers I’ll never meet. There aren’t any peers who feel like real soul connections. I used to have these, but people die and my life is more isolated now, because I married another introvert, because of autism, because as I’ve grown older I often choose solitude.

So my youngest son shines for me, like a lighthouse, only instead of a ship needing guidance, I am part of his lighthouse. He is the light source, and I am the Fresnel lens, amplifying and redirecting light through prisms. Together, we steer other families away from the rocks, through dense fog and around treacherous storms. At least we try.

My hope is that some day, he shines alone.