Writing 101, Day Four: The Serial Killer
Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more. Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.
*Does not have to be a depressing account of loss
When my husband and I were dreaming up our lives together, we thought about what kind of home we would have, jobs we would work and how many children we would have. One boy, one girl (because that can be worked out, you know lol), one a hockey player, one a writer/teacher, both with degrees and would be rich and take care of us in our old age. Sounds like the perfect scenario, doesn’t it? Ah, the joys of blissful ignorance!
So, in our quest for the Norman Rockwell experience, we got married right after we both had at least one college degree. YAY! Perfect! Because we were together for so long prior to our wedding, we decided to ditch the birth control and go forth with procreation. Why not? We have jobs, are married, and are responsible adults now! Let’s go for it!
Thirteen months after that conversation, our son was born and we could not be happier! He took his time coming into the world, but he made it! As an infant, he was the cutest baby I had ever seen with fingernails like Freddy Kruger. Even his first photo in the hospital looks as though he is beginning a Wolverine-esque pose, fingers stretched wide, nails facing the camera, ready to fight.
Ever since he was born, he has taught me some big lessons in life. When he was three, a daycare provider encouraged us to have him evaluated for some concerns they had for him. At first, we found out that he was having sensory issues, and we went forth with the proper appointments and therapies that would allow him to become a more relaxed and worldly kiddo.
In pre-k, two months before Nathan was to transition into Elementary school, his teacher called me at 8pm to discuss some other concerns she believed he was having. She encouraged us to have him evaluated as soon as possible for a possible Aspergers Syndrome diagnosis. This rocked my world. Aspergers Syndrome? What?! Then you take your concerns to the internet and see a barrage of words thrown at you that make you freeze with fright: autism, high functioning, low incidence, fits, night terrors, loneliness, withdrawal, solitary, lack of empathy etc. It was an overwhelming experience for my husband and I, navigating through the bureaucracy that would allow our son to have the services he needed and still maintain a level of “normalcy” to his life. The years would test him, and we were right there along for the ride. I am proud to say that my son is currently a thirteen year old, eighth grader who is moving into high school next year! Oh how far we have come!
Approximately ten years ago, my husband and I entertained having another child. That was what our dream was, remember?! Because of our son’s diagnosis and then therapies and attention he needed, we had to make that decision: do we want to have another child? We agonized over this decision for a while. In researching the probability of having another child with these kinds of struggles, we found that it was 50% likely that our next child would be on the Autistic Spectrum, and would possibly be lower functioning than our son. Wow, 50% is a huge gamble! So, after soul-searching, weighing what would be in our son and family’s best interest, we decided to only have one child. Our logic was not to take anything away from our first-born, if for some reason he needed more attention or had additional challenges as he grew older. It would not have been fair to him, to us as his parents, or to the new little bundle we would bring into the fold. So, a family of three it was!
Having one child has its benefits. You don’t have to have multiple children’s birthday parties, only have one child to buy for at holiday time, only have to worry about his needs and not spreading yourself thin between two or more children and wonder if you are doing them a disservice. (Well, as a mother you worry about that no matter how many children you have!) But, the drawbacks as parents is that every first experience that your child has, is the last you will experience as a parent. Every celebration can cause immediate nostalgia of the years past. Transitions into higher grade levels, and phases of maturity are heartbreaking (at least they are to me). Every little thing that happens to your child is a BIG thing, even if it is small in actuality. There is no “trial” older child to test methods of parenting on, before lightening up on the younger siblings. You have to do it and do it right the first time. No second chances, no take backs. Just do it right.
I am blessed in that God allowed my family to have our son, and I am thankful for that every single day of my life. It is heartbreaking to hear stories of infertile women who have nothing but love to give, but cannot conceive. I know how blessed I am. But I cannot help but feel heartbroken immediately after the celebrations of my son’s successes. This is it, I think. This is the last time I will have a child that…. or, no more school parties, no more PTA, no more cuddles. It is as though I am having empty nest syndrome every time he does something independently. Lately, his voice has deepened, his mustache darkened, his jokes are witty and his gait more stoic. I miss my baby, but celebrate my young man.
I feel a loss of time faster with one child. Like I am that much closer to retirement and he from having children of his own. About a year ago, I have begun taking the steps to slow down my thought process and not see these wonderful events as losses, but to see them as the beautiful things that they are. My son is becoming more and more independent, when originally I read he wouldn’t be. I never thought he could drive, own a cell phone or even have a clock in his bedroom. Now, I don’t remember what those worries felt like. Those are the losses I should concentrate on: the losses of stigma’s past; stereotypes of A.S. that he does not possess, and concentrate on those that still need guidance. Celebrate him, live in his world while he is still under my roof and wants me there. Breathe and take it slow – time has already passed way to quick.
So, I no longer mourn the loss of the baby, but instead I am celebrating my young man and the lengths he has come into young adulthood. Yes, I will shed tears of joy and nostalgia once in a while, but I no longer see the time as lost. I see the time past as victories won.
My son, the winner.