Contact with Ruth

The other night, when I was woken up at 3 a.m. by the baby monitor, I entered the boys’ room to find a preschooler dance party in progress—“Not cool, Joey” is what I said as I opened the door. I had forgotten to take the light bulb out of their room earlier, so the light was on and Joey was running laps around the room, cheerfully yodeling; Kit was standing in the pack n play, blinking sleepily and saying “Yay.” That Kit is always down for a party.

I haven’t been blogging because it’s taking me forever to answer a question: Have I been in touch with Ruth? Well, the short answer is a “No, but.”

In early November, Ruth posted something on Facebook about a personal accomplishment that was pretty cool—she ran a half marathon! I “liked” that and then messaged her to say Hey, I felt like what happened this summer was probably necessary but I’m sorry that it’s meant that we’re not in contact. I hope things are awesome. She wrote back a few weeks later to say that she thinks that some of the things I said over the summer were unfair, and that she had thought of us as friends, and that her feelings are hurt and that she needs some time. Maybe because of the power imbalance I think that I cannot hurt her feelings, she wrote, but I can and I did.

I wrote back one more time.

Dear Ruth,

I very much appreciate your writing back, especially knowing as I do that I’ve hurt your feelings badly—it was generous of you to explain. I’d like to explain a little more, too, although if this is something you aren’t in a place to engage with, I get it.

I thought of us more as “I wish we could have been friends.” The power thing—it’s so overwhelming, at least on my end. I’m sorry that you regret telling me some of the things that you did about your life; at the time, I was wishing that I could tell you more about my life, but it didn’t seem like I could. Too—and I don’t know that there’s any way to escape this—I was desperate for more news of/from Cricket. I know that you aren’t and weren’t in a position to provide that, and wish that in addition to the human and friendly concern and empathy and love I felt (and feel) for you, there wasn’t this voice in the back of my head going But Cricket, is Cricket okay, How is Cricket Cricket Cricket CRICKET? I think that if we had been in more contact as families, it would have been more possible to have a friendship outside of that connection—but at the level that has been plausible for us so far, it is so much about Cricket for me. I know that you’re a loving mother to him, and have never doubted your care and devotion—but wanting to hear about your life while at the same time longing to hear more about his just wasn’t working.

Catholics lack a holiday for apologizing and making amends—I think that we’re just supposed to feel guilty all the time. But while I think that things needed to change, at least a little, I wish that I had been able to express that with more grace and gentleness. You are, if you can excuse my talking like a Susie for a minute, a good dude: you deserve better than I was serving up. Of course it makes sense for you to rethink and take time to heal, and I won’t contact you again outside of an emergency for a good, long period. In some ways, we’re at the worst possible distance from one another: not like old college friends, able to shrug and walk away without any real pain, but not as close as sisters—I remember being made to sit on the couch and work things out with my sisters when we’d been fighting—and we really had to, because we’re tied for life. Talking out of my pain has never made me a worthwhile person to be around. For what it’s worth, I am slowly growing more patient and gentle—but God, too slowly.

Wishing you a winter filled with warmth and light.

Susie

So. We haven’t had any contact since (that was in December), and I couldn’t even decide whether to blog about it. My plan right now is to leave her alone until her birthday in July, and at that point mail her a card and a scarf that I’ve knitted and then leave her alone some more and see. I still feel okay about how I handled things this summer, and I know that there is a pattern in her life of relationships ending and her feeling betrayed either by that or by the circumstances leading up to that; I don’t expect that she’ll want to be in contact again in the future, and I think that that’s too bad, but I am mostly at peace with it. But I want to send a peace offering after a respectable period of time has passed.

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Early January

Cricket is gigantic. We Skyped a week ago, and he is going through an adorable phase and was also more interested in talking to us than he had been the time before—it was nice to see him and Nora. I also got a photo book from Nora and a thank-you note from Cricket for his birthday present; all in all, it’s been pretty good days in adoptionland.

I am less worried about Kit and autism than I have ever been. He’s talking and talking and talking and TALKING and making jokes with people and bossing us around and just generally on fire with sociability and communication. My parents enrolled him in a dance class as his Christmas present, and while he’s only been to one so far, I think he’s going to have a blast. His temperament is slow to warm up, so he spent most of his first class clinging to me and frowning at the dance instructor, by the end, he was clapping his hands and doing a little soft shoe and just generally enjoying himself. Of course there is always the possibility, but—he’s thriving.

Joey is really enjoying school, and seems pretty glad that his winter break is over; he is in a period of not making much progress right now, and while I know that that’s just going to happen sometimes, it makes me worry more about him. I’ve been taking more care to get some time alone with him—he is so not pushy that it is easy for Kit to just take over my attention. I keep pulling Joey back in, but he is so unwilling to compete that he’ll just slip away again. So yesterday morning, when Kit was busy charming his grandparents, I cuddled with Joey and talked to him, and he seemed as happy as can be.

Turning Over

I hope you all had lovely winter holidays and turns into the new year: Happy 2014! Joey’s been having a bit of a rough time, with all the disruptions to his routine (school starts back up on Monday, and I don’t know whether he or I will be happier), but harder than that has been the fact that he is more and more obviously different from other kids his age; he stands out quite a bit, now. I know that that gap is likely to widen. We’ve had professionals tell me (and I’ve read in more than one book) that some autistic kids are totally indistinguishable from their peers by age six, so don’t lose hope! But that doesn’t seem like where Pete is headed, and I sort of wish that people would stop raising the possibility. If it does happen, I’ll be glad. But if it isn’t going to happen, I don’t want to have my hopes up, you know?

I know other mothers who have children with autism; one woman in particular has a son six months younger than Joey, who seems both more obvious affected by autism and brighter than Joey. It is hard for her to see how unable he is to reach out—but it’s sometimes a little hard for me to see how intelligent he obviously is. Once he starts getting therapy, it seems likely that he will improve enormously. And Joey, too, has improved enormously—and he still has autism. When the school district tested him, they also did an IQ test, and the results were problematic. On the one hand, the IQ score may not have been accurate because of difficulties in taking the test that affect Joey without diminishing his intelligence; on the other hand, the results suggest that Joey will not be living on his own or going to college as an adult. Nothing has been ruled out for him, of course: he’s only three, for God’s sake. But—so I read a couple of Temple Grandin books. And I recommend that to other people, for sure; she talks in detail about her experience of autism. But it becomes clear that she is only able to really explain her autism. Not that I should have expected anything else. But Dr. Grandin talks a great deal about finding an autistic person’s special gifts, and while I know that Joey has gifts, they so far do not appear to be the kind with which Dr. Grandin is most concerned.

I’m grateful for Joey—I hope that always comes across. I’m the mother of a special needs preschooler, so there are of course times when I have a harder time feeling that gratitude keenly; recently, Joey screaming in my face has been especially hard for me to accept graciously. He isn’t doing it to bother me—it doesn’t have anything to do with me—but it’s just wearing on me.

On the other hand, Joey has learned to correctly answer the question “What’s your name?” Small, great things.