I open the screen door for him and offer a hand to help him down the step and he takes it, running to the porch stairs and jumping down them, one by one, saying jump, jump, jump as he goes. The children notice and come towards him, shouting greetings and asking him to play as his sister smiles her brightest smile before going back to the piece of chalk she's staunchly held on to amidst the kids who are older by several times over than her.
They get too close, or come too fast, or something happens and his face goes blank and he turns sharply on his heel, back up the stairs and to the bistro set we bought Labor Day weekend almost five years ago, the first furniture for our new home together, his father and I. He grabs a chair and tries to topple it, but the porch railing breaks the fall. He turns to the table, a round, mosaic-tiled solid piece and tries to knock it over, nearly succeeding for not my own speed and intervention.
He cries, screams, and kicks when I correct him, telling him he's not allowed to knock things over in anger. I ask him if he wants to go back inside and he bolts for the front door, for the safety of inside as the neighbor kids look on silently. Tova is unfazed, still playing with her chalk and waiting for her friends to return.
Kyle is at the door, and he lets him in, stopping the neighbor child who often tries to dart into our house with the clear intention of playing with my kids' toys and not actually with my kids, telling her that he needs a break, that she needs to go back to the front yard with her siblings/cousins/whoevers right now. We both know the kids don't really come over to play with the baby, but the toys we bring outside when we play, so we're not inclined to let them run loose upon our home. The girl retreats as the other kids stand awkwardly around, not really understanding why the little boy was so happy to come outside, and then was so not happy.
I reassure them it's not them (though I don't know that) and that he just needs some alone time right now, but that they can still play with Tova and the chalk for a little while. They return half-heartedly, though Tova is too young to notice the difference. I sit on the porch steps, equidistant from the door and the gaggle of kids, feeling the exhaustion I carry weigh me down a little more than usual.
Moments later he is back in the window, watching, tapping, shaking his head, and it takes everything I have left to only let a tear from each eye shed.
As mothers, we all make a choice not long after our babies are born. We pretty much fall into two camps: there are the ones who will only ever espouse endless sunshine and rainbows when it comes to their children, and then there are the rest of us. Some of us only admit the truths of the trenches of motherhood behind closed doors or in close company; some of us do it anonymously through blogging or in therapy. Then there are the few of us who refuse to dumb it down or glaze it over. But brutal honesty is a hard thing to maintain, especially when you become aware of people who are chomping at the bit to use it against you.
It wears you down, the criticism, the trolling, the potshots and the name-calling. So you start to walk a delicate line -- you become less open to everyone and reserve your truth for those who seek it out and truly listen. With everyone else you choose your words carefully, cautiously -- you can't lie to them and say that everything is peaches and roses all the time; but you don't volunteer the down and dirty details either, because you know they won't understand. They're too caught up in their own masks of perfection and maternal glow and to have someone challenge their projected view will only make them attack you, so you let it go, save your energy for something else.
Slowly, unintentionally, you go numb.
You don't notice it much at first, but as the numbness creeps through your veins you find it easier and easier to not speak up, not be heard, because it isn't worth the effort or you have better things to do with your time and you're tired of the pity glances and the unsolicited advice and the contrite phrases that actually would upset you if you'd let it, but you won't, you'll just change the subject and wave it off in mild irritation masked as dry humor.
But not all truths are as easily held back.
Somewhere between being told that someday I'll regret wanting Kiedis to talk so bad because he'll never shut up one too many times because fuck you very much, I've been jumping through flaming hoops for two years now and we just now are getting phrases and maybe a sentence or two so no, no I don't think I will ever regret wanting my son to speak ever in the span of ever because this is the work I do, day in and day out, to be able to understand my child, which is something far too many people take for granted and the stark reality of having to physically imitate his tics -- the drumming and head snaps, the sideways running and flailing and the clenched fists he can't seem to open -- to his pediatrician and the nurse while explaining how he still parallel plays for the most part, how he doesn't seem to grasp why it's not okay to hit or pinch or bite or put Tova in a chokehold, and the epicness of his tantrums that blatantly render me afraid of him, the damn broke.
It is officially suspected that my son is on the Autism spectrum.
We have a referral to the Autism Clinic at the Childrens' Hospital for evaluation, new forms and programs to apply for, new considerations to make for nearly every aspect of our lives.
For now, we wait.