I clicked on the new Facebook message, read it, and groaned. “Long time! How’s your son doing?” Innocent, polite. Sweet even, that she’d ask given she’s younger and doesn’t yet have kids. A former work colleague/friend checking in.
The cursor blinked in the reply area, its steady rhythm mocking me. It’s like I could hear it. Blink. Blink. Blink. I made a mental note to always preview first so these messages don’t appear as “read” until I’m ready. I start typing.
“Great! We’re having so much fun! How are you?” I delete and the cursor blinks. I blink back and tell it to hush.
I wonder what she knows. I’d seen her cousin recently, and he knows I started a blog about my little boy’s developmental delays, my worries, and how we were trying to figure out what was going on. “He probably told her,” I thought.
“It’s not a big deal,” the cursor whispered. “It’s not like it’s a secret.”
“I know!” I replied. “I just want to feel more ready. We don’t really know anything yet.”
I went to bed. I’m proactive that way.
A Harmless FB Question Made Me Lose Sleep
I stared at my ceiling, blinking.
Blink. Blink. Blink. I could hear the cursor from downstairs. “What if she feels sorry for me?” I ask the ceiling. No reply. I roll over; build a pillow nest.
Hot, I kick off the covers. My husband shifts next to me and I freeze until he’s snoring again. Blink.
“Just tell her.”
“Tell her what exactly?” I hiss.
Do I say that he’s the best person I know? Do I type delay and disability and neurological disorder and maybe possibly autism but we don’t know? How can I make sure she knows that life doesn’t suck? “No, he’s not talking yet, but life is good. I mean we have worries but we’re dealing with them and really nobody knows anything but the lives we live. Right?”
“Don’t type that,” the ceiling says. “Hush,” I say.
My son is my only child, so it’s not like I can compare his challenges to a sibling’s previously met milestones.
My little boy has changed my expectations and my world forever. He brings me sunshine. He IS sunshine. He gives me hugs and kisses and laughter and he is my HAPPY.
Is that what I should say?
When do I put the “but…” in?
Do I tell her that he’s healthy, and mind-blowingly wonderful and that he exploded my heart with love a kajillion times over, but…?
Do I tell her that I’m scared to death because he has a developmental delay and he’s not talking and I don’t know why he is the way he is? That it’s really really hard when glimpses into typical kids’ worlds while on a shopping trip make me remember how few words my son says?
That he doesn’t chatter? That even though on a logical level, I know it’s not my fault, that I can’t help feeling like it’s my fault?
On most days, I don’t really see anything different from what moms with typical kids see. I see my three-year old going to school. I see him learning new things. I see him loving his teachers. I see us, playing.
I see a perfect boy. But I know that he’s not typical either.
I know that if I type that we’re going to a special needs preschool 27.5 hours per week rather than the 7 hour per week co-op Montessori that I’d planned on, she’ll feel badly for me.
I wonder what other people see when they meet him. I guess that for those without kids, they see a shy boy who talks a lot less than most of the other kids on the playground.
So. What am I supposed to say? Do you want to hear that I’m terrified that my son may never speak properly and that his career options will hinge on that? Do you want me to tell you that I hope he’ll find love, and have it returned by somebody worthy? I believe he will be loved. With or without the language. I know, maybe better than anybody, that love is felt without the words.
Would it do either of us any good if I were to share with you that something is wrong with my son, and I don’t know what it is?
That I’m learning how to help him but that it’s scary and worrisome?
I guess what I should say is that he’s got some developmental and speech delays. That we’re figuring it out. That he’s adorable and my very favorite person in the world.
That he’s perfect. Because truly, he is.
I get out of bed quietly, pausing on the squeaky part of the floor so that my husband won’t wake up. I walk downstairs to the keyboard.
I smile, thinking how kind of it was of her to ask about my son, and I start a conversation. “Hi,” I type. “Thanks for asking. He’s pretty good. We’re trying to figure some stuff out right now, but I’m happy…”
We chatted about him, me, her, her cousin, life, and at some point, I realize that the blinking has quieted. That my mind has too.
I’m glad she asked about my boy. I’m glad I told her.