Every morning I wake up to their sounds. Quick little footsteps, gleeful screeching, the steady bang-bang-bang of D’Angelo’s feet on the wall… always noises.
The slurping of Apple Jacks and chocolate milk, the crashing of toy cars, the steady hum of Xander’s scripted words. My voice blends with theirs as I race around, pausing only long enough to trade a shirt for last night’s jammies or to play referee.
Dressing accomplished and a few train tracks under our belt I herd the squealing boys into the yard.
“Good gentle playing!”
“Please don’t eat the ants!”
And the running, and the jumping, and the exploring take over our lives. My kids stay firmly planted in their activities, engrossed in the details of their yard, but in my imagination we are on a safari or on an airplane or somewhere warm and sunny and not clouded by my thoughts.
With chalk covered hands and popsicle bribes my children walk back in the house in time for lunch. Xander wants a “cheese sannich no cheese” which is a plain hamburger bun, and the baby seems to be satisfied with his snack of ants and sand.
I can usually convince him to eat a little something else too.
Damien Angelo’s eyelids grow heavy and I persuade him to lay down for a nap. The tempo slows, our energy quiets and sometimes Xander may snuggle down for a sleep too.
Today both kids slept. And when I tucked their tiny little bodies into their beds I realized that they took their sounds, and my distractions, with them.
I am a happy person. I mean, I try.
But today? Today when the house was still and quiet I sat at our desk and cried.
Today as I tried again and again to get the baby to look at me, to communicate, to engage with us I saw that I needed to stop kidding myself. I have been saying for months that we believe he has a speech delay and possibly more, but I kept following it by saying that the autistic traits he was showing were learned from his brother. This afternoon I was standing in the dining room talking to Xander’s occupational therapist when D’Angelo took his cereal out of the bowl and made a perfectly straight line on the table ledge. It was like a giant exclamation mark directed at me.
When I first suspected Xander had autism it seemed like the natural thing to do was to reach out and write about it. So why am I so scared now? I have known for over a week that the Glenrose (the hospital that handles all autism diagnoses) wants to see Damien. We started the official referral process that day.
But every time I think about it it breaks my heart. To have one child with autism is a fluke, but to have two must be some indication of how much I suck as a parent. NOT because being autistic makes my children “bad” or “broken”, but because it comes with so many challenges that no child should have to live with.
All we want as parents, no matter who we are, is for our children to live happy and healthy lives. Of course children with autism can achieve this, but sometimes I’m not sure if I am strong enough to help the two of them. I know that overall we are very lucky. When I can see their little faces and hear their little sounds I am reminded of all the good we have surrounding us and am rejuvenated.
But it’s the silence that does me in.