Friday, March 14, 2014

Time Keeps on Slipping Slipping Slipping...

I've talked a lot about N's pragmatic language issues, and that they are especially acute when it comes to various types of measurements; he doesn't really seem to get the difference between an inch and a foot or how many of one goes into the other, for instance. But the most obvious and frequent issue involves time. Quantities of time. Tenses of time.

"Remember when we went to the store tomorrow?" he might say.

"You mean when we went to the store yesterday?"

"Oh, right," he'll reply. "Yesterday."

Trying to find actual real examples of what I'm talking about, though, that's harder. So when I come across one, especially one that keeps getting repeated, I'm wont to write it down, so I can use it, so I can be specific when I ask people to help us figure out how to address it.

Recently, we've been listening to Wonder on audiobook. I mentioned it before, and at some point I'll likely mention it again, because it's been this wonderful (ha!) experience for both of us. It's eliciting so much conversation, and so much emotion.

It's also eliciting a perfect example of N's issues with time.

See, we listen to the book on my iPhone; the iPod function there has a 15-seconds-back function on it; you touch a little clockwise or counterclockwise arrow with the number 15 in it, and that makes the audio skip forward or backward 15 seconds. Because we only get to listen to the book a few times a week, there are long periods in between when life gets in our way, so whenever we turn it back on, I always instruct N to hit the 15-second-back once or twice.

Lately, because my son is nothing if not a creature of habit, he's beating me to the punch when I pull out my iPhone and hand it to him to get us started while I drive.

"Should I turn it back 15 minutes?" he said the other day.

"Seconds, and yes," I said.

"Right. Seconds," he replied.

Two days later:

"I'll turn it back 15 minutes."

"15 what?" I said, prompting.



"Oh, right. Seconds," he said, embarrassed, dismissive.

On the way to school the other day, when we'd been late leaving the house every morning this week (I adoreADOREadore Daylight Savings, but it sure does take me some time to catch up to the mornings), I bemoaned our tardiness.

"This isn't OK," I said. "We're so late. It's already 7:50!"

"Yeah," he said. "I'll have to remind you to leave a few minutes later tomorrow."

"Later?" I said, momentarily confused, until the coin dropped. "Do you mean earlier?"

"Oh, right. Earlier," he said.

That "oh right"? The one that comes with each of these corrections I give him? If you were sitting there, you'd know that they are not "oh, right"s. They are, rather, "isn't that what I just said?" They are, "I'll use repeat your words so you'll leave me alone." They are, "we just aren't speaking the same language."

I can see the disconnect, but I can't see how to cross that divide. I don't know where it's rooted. In language? In something deeper, some quirky biological sense that isn't, an actual inability to know the difference between 15 seconds and 15 minutes? Somewhere else?

Is it fixable? Does it need fixing? Can it be worked around? Is it the sign of some gift instead? Am I looking at it from the wrong perspective, from my time bound world, trying to tie him down?

When N was little, he used to talk about something happening "in a couple of whiles." I loved that turn of phrase, and I still like to use it. But, really, I think that's what time is for him. Just some whiles, all piling up in one direction or another. A couple of whiles here, a couple of whiles there. It's all the same. It's life.

Friday, March 7, 2014


Parenting is hard.

My kid, the one to whom the word 'hard' is not usually applied, is having a hard time. She is 16. 16 is hard. What she's going through are her own things, and none of them are tragic, and none of them are horrendous, and none of them anything close to the sort of shit that too many other 16-year-olds (or 26-year-olds, or 56-year-olds) deal with daily. If I told you--if I thought it was appropriate to tell you--you'd scoff at me. Some of you already have. But for her, it's hard. She's having a hard time.

And that. That kills me. Which is why parenting is hard. Uniquely hard, even. Because I can't fix it. I want to. I can't. Not just shouldn't (which, yeah, shouldn't, because this person is getting closer and closer to ready-to-launch), but can't. I can't fix it, but everything in me wants to believe I can help. Or that I can try to help.

Did I mention parenting is hard? Because here's what makes it even harder. That trying to help part. That makes it even harder. Because I can feel it, the ways in which my trying isn't helping, and maybe is even hurting. I can feel myself flailing. I can see the boundaries, the places where I should stop. And then I don't. I want to, I want to say, "I trust you. You don't need to tell me anything or do anything or say anything." I want to say, "This really isn't such a big deal. It's OK." And I do. But then I think about some article or another, about a tragic ending for some child or another in which a parent inevitably says, "I never thought it would be my kid," and says, "If only I had gotten more involved," and suddenly there I am, asking a question that implies she DOES have to do or say something, or lay down a law that implies it really IS a big deal, or generally imply that I don't approve…of her choices, of her. I end a hug with a lecture. I go back into a room where I'm probably not wanted. I can't shut the fuck up, no matter how much I tell myself to do so.

I approve. I adore her. I just want to help. I don't want to destroy the incredible person she is, but I also don't want to be quoted in a newspaper article or on my blog here saying, "If only I had gotten more involved." I don't want to have to live with having ignored some kind of warning sign. I also don't want to have to live with having crushed my kid's sense of self or her joy or her passion.

And all this from 'just a hard time,' and not from tragic or horrendous or the shit that too many other 16-year-olds deal with daily.

Parenting is hard. I'm not sure I'm up to it. Actually, today, I'm sure I'm not.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Thinking of Others First

An instructor has left one of N's after school programs under uncomfortable circumstances (the who, what, and where are not my story to tell, so I apologize for vagueness). This will affect N, since this person is both his instructor and has children in the program as well, including a boy named Keith in N's class. And so as we headed there today, I relayed the news to him.

I had, mind you, talked to several friends with children in the program as well, and we'd talked and discussed and dissected and gossiped, mostly about how it would affect us and/or our children, and how we ourselves felt about it. I, I, I, I said. Me, me, me.

N's first comment, on the other hand? "Oh, no. I feel really sad for Toni. Keith is her best friend. She's going to be very sad."

Once again, and please say it with me…Autistic people lack empathy MY ASS. *I* lack empathy; there are so many things, places, and people that I am simply OVER these days.

My kid, on the other hand, DEFINES empathy. I have tons to learn from him.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


An email from my brother-in-law:

Last night N told me that when the time comes, he and Em will be the ones to scatter my ashes. “Unless Em has rehearsal that day. Then we’ll do it a different time.”
As you can tell, rehearsal always takes priority in our house.