The Difference of a Year

“We have a pool,”  the mother of one of Melinda’s friends said to me over the phone.  “Would you like to bring the kids over this afternoon?”

Her name was Sue, and she’d been the room mother of my daughter’s kindergarten classroom this year.  I’d volunteered in the library and reading to the kids once or twice a week, and had met a few of the other mothers that way.  When I’d learned of a Daisy troop forming from one of the girls in Melinda’s class, it had turned out that Sue was one of the leaders.  I had apologetically told her that I’d be happy to help with anything while Michael was at his school, but that afterschool things were hard.

She had been the first mother who had actually talked to me about Michael and what having a spectrum child was like, rather than taking the out and ending the conversation quickly.  “I have another friend with a child on the spectrum,” she’d told me on the phone that afternoon.  “She’s been over to the pool with her son, so I’m used to it.  Really, you should come over and try and see if he can handle it.  If nothing else, you’ll have a few minutes with some grown ups before you have to race out.”

I actually was considering it.  I had been stuck in the house for a solid week since school let out.  I was potty training Michael, who at age five and a half still showed no signs of readiness for toileting.  But Michael was going to kindergarten next year, and we had to try to see if we could get him out of the Pull Ups I’d sent him to preschool in.

It had been a hellish week so far.  R was out of town, and Z was working as much as he could, and so it was just me and the two little kids in the house.  I’d bought a book on potty training the autistic child, Googled it, and tried everything under the sun.  So far, nothing had worked. Leaving him naked just meant that he would let the urine run down his leg into a puddle before he went on his way.  Sitting him on the potty chair until he peed meant literally hours sometimes of sitting there reading to him, putting on video tapes for him.  And no amount of praise seemed to make him aware that peeing and pooping was supposed to happen in only one place.  One minute I’d be praising him for finally getting it right, only to have him make five more mistakes right afterwards.

I was frazzled and exhausted.  Melinda was cranky from being kept inside on the warm, beautiful summer days.  She would love nothing more than going to her girlfriend’s house to swim.  And I could put a swim diaper on Michael and blissfully forget about the potty training for a few hours, maybe.  And I could talk to someone other than a five or seven year old.  “Alright,” I answered, already lightening at the idea of getting out of the house like a regular person again.  “I’ll be over in half an hour.”

As I started pulling together our beach bag full of floaties, swim diapers, sunscreen, special snacks for Michael (since he ate a total of five different foods right now), I wondered if life would ever get any easier.  And then it occurred to me:  just a year ago, I was in New York City, running after Rick Springfield.  I laughed out loud, thinking about how important it all had seemed:  my position, my work, what others thought of all of it.  These days it all seemed so far away, so insignificant.  Now I was grateful for a warm summer afternoon by the pool, something I’d taken for granted would always be easy, be possible.

“Come on kids, let’s get going!” I shouted, smiling for the first time in what seemed like a very, very long time.

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