Posted by Aliki.
I’m posting here because I so badly want to write some things down and can’t on my own blog yet. Perhaps one day I will, but for now I welcome having the opportunity to post this on the back porch, as it were, and thus relieve a little the need I have to write about this and perhaps share it with my blogging friends who know me.
My son swam a little for the first time yesterday. He is almost seven and has been holding back for over three years—taking little tentative “steps” towards swimming; afraid but ashamed of his own fear. The water has tormented him—the kids dancing and diving in the deep end have taunted him. But yesterday he swam a little. As I watched I saw that unmistakably his feet left the bottom of the pool and I saw two slender ankles kick out against the water—briefly--but kick out they did, it all the same.
Mama I swam! He shouted, his gap-toothed grin shining from below his blue goggles. I swam!
On the walk home from the pool he asked what day it was.
It’s the 4th of June, we told him.
The 4th of June! He exclaimed. We need to mark this down as the day I learned to swim!
I did mark it down, and in my mind I made another mark. For yesterday was also the day I spoke for over 30 minutes on the telephone with his school psychologist and learned that the head of the autism team had diagnosed him with Asperger’s Syndrome—a form of high-functioning autism.
For the past year we had suspected as much, but had shied away from going down the testing road. We were afraid of labeling him; of causing more harm by perhaps compartmentalizing him into a category that could shape and define him for perhaps the rest of his life. But because of how at times desperately difficult things have been this year—particularly this past winter, we felt suddenly out of our depths. His behaviors were interfering with school—not academically, so much, although we feel is capable of much more than he is able to produce—but socially. In other words, the social side of school has become so difficult and almost unbearable for him at times that he’s developed many disruptive and upsetting behaviors to combat this and is often in a heightened state of stress and anxiety. It has been sad to see and very, very difficult.
I’m not sure what I’m expected to feel about all this. Nothing has changed with this official diagnosis yet, in a subtle way, much has. I also have this strange feeling of having done something wrong in going through with all the evaluations. Perhaps we should have left it alone, kept our fingers crossed, gritted our teeth and hoped for the best. I feel overwhelmed.
But I want the best for my son—not in terms of material success, good jobs, or even many friends. I want his days to be better—I want him to have more happy moments than painfully anxious ones. I want him to go to sleep at night and not wake up in terror; I want him to not feel so burdened by every little thing, with the need to control most aspects of his life to the point that it is physically destructive to his own health.
Yesterday at the pool I watched my 6 1/2year old son jump for the first time from the side of the pool and into the water. His body tensed—held back—but he gathered himself and tumbled into the water, popping up seconds later, wet and triumphant. It’s taken him years to build up the courage to do this; I watched him and thought about how it might always take him years to finally get the courage to do what most kids—even his sister—might do unhesitatingly, quickly and over and over again. I don’t want to keep him beside me always—that would sadden me. I want to see him take the leaps, feel the surge of confidence, look a stranger square in the eye; and—most importantly—go through his day and not feel that the world is pressing uncontrollably in on him. Life itself will not be difficult for him; it is the people in the world who will present problems for him; it is the mess of society—a society that moves too quickly and demands too much—that will hold him back, push him further into his cocoon, overwhelm him constantly.
I wish all days for him from here on out could be as uncomplicated as a day by the pool; the water clear and shining, the moment only about the leap, and the happy plunge into the shallows.