Saturday, August 30, 2014
Today we made it final, Alex's sippy cups are gone.
He is 12 years old, in the 7th grade, and a very complicated boy.
I spent a good chunk of time standing outside of his bedroom tonight, watching him. He had his bath, I took him to his room, slipped one of my t-shirts over his head and helped him work his arms into the sleeves before laying him down to put his diaper on. This after bath ritual hasn't changed since he was an infant. He giggles and kicks his legs in the air, he sucks his thumb while I fasten the tabs. I help him up and he hugs me, laughing. Just like when he was a baby. I stand outside his door and watch him lay partially on his side, partially on his belly with his knees drawn up. He's sucking his thumb and watching Disney Junior, with Elmo toys, teething rings, and rattles scattered across his bedroom floor. The same boy who refuses sippy cups, tries like hell to feed himself, doesn't like to be my baby (unless he needs it), and wants to be potty trained (believe me, we're trying) because he's a big boy.
He's done some things lately that have surprised me. I was arguing with Walter over something, and Alex jumped in the middle with his "yeah, yeah." Walter's all excited that Alex agrees with him and asks Alex for a high 5. Alex is freaking laughing while he high 5s his brother. I yelled at him that he so does not agree with his brother, he'd better get over here and give me 5. He walked over to me, still laughing, and gave me 5. That stunned me. Alex has never followed a direction more than "stand up" or "sit down." Alex has never walked over to me when I called him. ever.
which brings me to the next one. Alex now lets me know when he's dirty. He watches me line up the diaper, wipes, and bag, and then walks over to me to let me help him fall onto his back to get changed. This is amazing! It's huge progress toward potty training, not to mention the fact that he's seeing what I'm doing, recognizing the sequence and understanding what needs to be done and what his role is. My baby is not a baby, he's getting older, he's making an astounding amount of progress. I'm just amazed by him. I'm accustomed to seeing him as a complicated boy.
Age appropriate doesn't mean crap in this house. I have an 8 year old who is into weather, serial killers, and zombies; a 14 year old who is more responsible with household tasks and caring for his brothers than my 19 or 20 year olds; and a 12 year old who loves his toddler shows and infant toys. No one is more age appropriate than the other, and there's nothing wrong with any of them. Their interests are their interests, their needs are their needs. They are who they are and it has nothing at all to do with age. I've become accustomed to defiantly defending Alex's interests and needs, he's a complicated boy, ya know.
When we took Alex's sister to be evaluated, the psychiatrist was asking about family history. She was very interested in Alex, we talked about him for a few minutes before she said, "OH!" and with a complete innocence that only a mental health doctor with English as a second language can achieve, "he is retarded?"
Retarded. It's a word that goes right through me. There was a time that it didn't bother me at all, I'm sure I said it as frequently as the people around me. Then things changed and now the word hurts and tends to piss me off. When she said it, I knew exactly what she meant, Intellectual Disability, but I'm thrown by the offensiveness of the slang.
When I first started working this job, I was asked to do a favor for a roommate on my own time. I was going that way anyway, it was no big deal, but the roommate had to do something he didn't want to do to help me help him and declared it to be "fucking retarded." Oh, I was furious, this man has known Alex almost his entire life. I told him that I need him to remember that I do not work for him and I do not have to do anything for him at all. I told him that I don't mind doing things for him if he needs it, but if he wants to ask me for a personal favor, he needs to keep in mind that my son is fucking retarded. I have not heard him use the word since. I didn't have a problem whatsoever telling him, but this doctor asked in complete innocence and I hesitated. The question hurt.
Standing there, watching Alex in his bed, wrapped up in his Disney Jr, sucking his thumb, his diaper peeking out from under an oversized t-shirt, her question and his objection haunt me. His eyes slowly leave the TV, he looks at me for a few seconds- pondering me the way I'm pondering him. In his eyes, I don't see ID. I don't see the pain of his diagnosis being used as an offhanded insult. I see the studious consideration of my complicated boy, wondering what his mama is thinking. I'm thinking I have been blessed. A few weeks ago, we ran into a boy who told me he was sorry Alex was disabled. I didn't know what to say to him then, but now I do. I'm not. He's perfect. Alex is Alex, and I like him just the way he is.