Nora told me that she and Cricket would call on Birthmother’s Day, and then they didn’t. I had sort of been dreading the call—it’s nice to hear from Cricket, of course, but I don’t see Birthmother’s Day as a holiday that I’d like to celebrate, and it does feel like an “Of course you don’t get contact on Mother’s Day, that’s just crazy talk!” kind of maneuver. I don’t assume that’s Nora’s thinking, but I do think it’s a common adoption trend. But they didn’t call, and I wonder whether Ruth told Nora that I asked not to get a call on that day last year. The night of Mother’s Day, Nora sent me a text saying that she hoped I’d had a nice one; I wrote back the next day, thanking her, with a cute picture of Joey. As it happened, I was quite sick on Mother’s Day, so I sort of got to skip it.
And now, today, I’m missing Cricket. I don’t especially know what to do with that feeling right now. Nora told me that they might visit in June, and then that they probably won’t visit in June, and perhaps in October . . . ? I am trying not to get invested in their visit decisions, since I have no input into them and can really do nothing for now but wait.
Mister Book and I talked recently about whether we’d ever want to have another child; we have this talk every so often, and we mostly agree that it’s unlikely that we will. My IUD is good for another three years, and so we won’t make a real decision until then—but the thing that could possibly sway us would be Kit wanting a younger sibling. I do feel guilty about the fact that Kit doesn’t have a typical sibling, and that he would if we hadn’t placed Cricket; Kit has two brothers and can’t play with either one.
After talking with Joey’s behavioral therapist, I have figured out that Joey’s current aggression is mostly sensory-seeking behavior; I’ve changed his “sensory diet,” and there is less pinching. The main change has been sessions of me hugging him much tighter than I personally would enjoy being hugged: I wait for him to ask for a squeeze (“Geese!”) and then squeeze him for maybe five seconds. We repeat this over and over again, until Joey gets tired of it.
Every night, I give the same bedtime speech to the boys in English and ASL—Saturday night, for the very first time, Joey tried to sign along. He is completely amazing. Kit has developed his own bedtime routine, which involves running for the hills and laughing like a maniac.
Mister Book is working overnight this week, so he stayed up all night Saturday night—I’m two hours behind him, so while I baked cornmeal lime cookies and almond and chocolate ganache sandwich cookies for my parents’ bible club, cleaned the kitchen, and drank a modest amount of Jack Daniels, he read to me over the phone. This is one of my favorite of our relationship traditions; I bake and he reads aloud to me from choose-your-own-adventure-style books. These days we’re working on his personal favorite series, six books about a ninja and his adventures. After we got off the phone, I learned that my almost three-year-old cell phone would no longer charger; it had died the true death.
My brother’s kidney transplant has finally been scheduled: April 29. It’s been two years since we learned that he was in end-stage kidney failure, and we’re all thrilled. He’s coming out to California for the transplant, as our mother will be the donor, and he’ll stay with us and convalesce for three months. I’m very much looking forward to seeing him again—he and I can be nerds together, and he loves his nephews quite a lot. My sister Kate is coming to visit, too, and her visit may overlap with his; it feels like I haven’t seen her in forever, and I just can’t wait.
My mental health is not amazing. But it could be worse, for sure. Summers are better than winters, and every day I get closer to seeing my sweetheart again.
Both Kit and Joey hurt me on purpose every day, multiple times per day. They each do it in different ways; Joey pinches and chins, which is a term I learned from his behavioral therapist and refers to digging his chin into me, hard, whereas Joey slaps me. Most of the time, I can just get through it—mostly I move away from the kids at those times, tell them that it is not okay to hurt people, and that I don’t want you in my lap if you’re going to hurt me—but sometimes especially slaps in the face really bother me. I don’t hit the kids, and I want only to use time in—but I have put Kit in time out a few times when we were just both at a point where we needed a couple of minutes apart. At those times, I put him in his room and tell him that I’ll be back in two minutes; then I come back and talk to him about how we need to be working together better than we are, and here is what I need from you (stop hitting me, quit rooting through the trash, stop shoving Joey, etc.): What do you need from me? And then we go back out together, and mostly things are better after that—at least for awhile.
There have been periods when the kids were less aggressive with me, and I know that there will be more of those in the future; I expect Kit to grow out of using violence with me altogether.
In the meantime, here we are. I’m not enjoying the hurting, but Joey has otherwise pulled out of his rough patch; he’s having a good time and really engaging at school. Kit and I are going on and hosting more play dates, and he is more and more often able to enjoy the company of other kids—although in a group of five or more other kids, he is unhappy. We had a lot of rain over the last few days, which is a rare occurrence in these parts, and both boys have been mesmerized. And I bought the boys matching Easter outfits and can’t wait to dress them up.
I hope all of you out there are getting some spring weather, and keeping well.
I think I am having the authentic toddler experience. Kit is shockingly funny and wild and wow, such big feelings. I think most people have an idea of the downsides to the toddler experience: screaming, freakout tantrums because I won’t let him empty out the silverware drawer, for example. But he’s such a bright light, and I’m really enjoying him.
Probably everyone who parents more than one kid has the experience of having her every expectation violated by kid number two; I’m having an extreme version of that experience. Joey is autistic and also a very sweet, mellow kid; Kit is typical, very verbal, and a firecracker. Joey cuddles in my lap and Kit jumps on the couch, pointing out the window and exclaiming: “A car! Over dere!” Almost a week ago, Kit developed a game in which he would throw a (clean) diaper into the air and I was supposed to provide sound effects. I am truly awful at sound effect production, so after a few attempts (“ka-pow!”) I started exclaiming at the diaper as though it were a cop on the edge in a ’70s film: “You’re a loose cannon, diaper!” “You’ve got no respect for authority, diaper!” and so on. He loved it.
Skype with Mr. Book is getting better and better; Kit is always thrilled (and Joey is usually quietly pleased), and has started showing his daddy favorite toys and saying “I yuv you!” This season’s hottest toy at Casa Book is a broom whose handle snapped short (and has been wrapped in electrical tape). Kit is also very into building with blocks recently—he builds tall towers of single-block stacks, and when they inevitably fall over (at seven or eight blocks tall), he screams at me to help. I don’t want him to get the idea that I won’t help him, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem super productive for me to just build block towers for him. What I’ve been doing so far is just to start building something different, like a pyramid, and then Kit usually starts adding blocks to my structure. He’s still incredibly mad whenever the blocks fall down, but I guess that’s just something that’s going to keep happening for right now.
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.
The clock starts today. Today, Kit is eighteen months old, and for the next six months, we will all be watching him for markers of autism. Not that we haven’t been; my father mentioned that it is stressful to see him spin, even knowing that all little kids spin.
I know exactly what he means, and I probably make it worse—if Kit twirls in a circle, I freak out, although in practice this means that I open my eyes slightly wider and grow very still—this is what it looks like when I’m panicking, and Kit knows it, and he is fascinated by his own power in this situation. If I spin a couple of times, my mama is terrified! I know that little kids spin, and I know that Kit is mimicking his brother sometimes, and even so.
In most ways, Kit seems deeply nonautistic; he is incredibly social, he does pretend play, he mimics people’s expressions. None of those things have ever been true of Joey, pre-regression or post-. Kit is also using language in different and more sophisticated ways than Joey ever has. Today alone, Kit expressed his ambivalence about being offered a cracker when he really wanted to nurse (on and on, forever, after just having finished nursing): “No! No! No, Mama! Okay. Yes. No! Okay. Cracker. No! Okay” and then a grudging acceptance of the cracker; saw himself in the mirror and said “Pretty!” which I don’t think I’ve ever called him (“cutie,” “biscuit,” and “sweetheart” are more my speed); and brought me a small knight stuffed toy and said “Doll!” although this toy has never been pointed out to him, or called a doll, at least by me or in my hearing. He’s not just echoing or memorizing labels—he’s generalizing and complaining and comparing. But I know that there are no guarantees, and so I’m just going to cultivate an ulcer until, oh, mid-June or thereabouts.