Study the past, if you would divine the future.
How much of your daily life do you remember from when you were in kindergarten? I can tell you that I don’t even remember my kindergarten teachers’ names. I remember nothing but a couple snapshots in my head.
I attended kindergarten at a church. There was no kindergarten at the elementary school I attended. But I also attended Vacation Bible School at that church so I don’t know whether I’m mixing up that Bible School memory with kindergarten or not, but I have a strong, persistent memory of singing “How Great Thou Art” from a HUGE storybook with the words and pictures of Jesus. Now the book may not have been that huge but that is my memory of it. I remember being both in awe of the book, and excited to sing at the same time.
The only other thing I, vaguely, recall is playing outside the church in an asphalt-covered, play area. I know I finger painted and had show-and-tell. I could not describe the classroom. I could tell you the names of some of my classmates but that’s all. Did I know their names during kindergarten? I don’t recall.
For my son, kindergarten is a present, dominant and happy part of his world. He loves going to school. He is full of joy when participating with his friends on the playground, in the gym, or classroom. Here he is for 30 seconds playing parachute in class…
Participation and pulling back. There are so many things that set him apart from the rest of the class. The other kids play together. He wanders. They talk to each other. He talks, mostly to himself. The other kids raise their hands and respond when called on. He shows no outward signs of paying attention. He does not answer questions the teacher asks to the class as a whole. He often does not answer when addressed directly, until he’s prompted by his aide.
Was I a hand raiser in kindergarten? I don’t remember… I know I was a hand-raiser in grade school at some point. How different was I from him at his age? Do you ever ask yourself these questions as a parent? And why am I doing it?
A lot of what I am doing is selfish. I’m trying to calm my own anxieties and fears. He’s such a little boy. Always, despite knowing I need to live in the present, I try to imagine his future. To prepare for it. To guess how he will develop. To guide and guard him. To check out schools, to save money to invest in a business he can run, to wonder what will interest him when he is grown.
I wonder if many of the “tell-tale” delays will change as he grows and when. I question- not how deeply he absorbs all that is around him – but the difference in his processing time for what he sees and hears. I wonder about the degree to which the delay may hinder or place obstacles in his life path.
The thing about my son is that he seems to be two people sometimes. He is both delayed and not. It’s like he weaves in and out. One moment he will be reading a book aloud, from cover to cover, doing math problems or shouting out an immediate response. The next minute, I will have to call his name ten times, when he is less than two feet in front of me, facing me at a table, or he will mumble to himself, engage in echolalia or laugh at a joke only he knows.
One day, the very present which is so exquisitely encompassing and delightful to him now, will also be a distant memory, and most likely, more in focus than mine. In comparing my past to his present, I’m doing something that has – in all logical probability – no relevance to his life. It’s like peeking at the ending of a book before you get there.
I’m not missing the ride. I know the joy of the moments of childhood. I know how much I will miss it when he is older. I love the high lilt in his voice right how. The silly games he plays with me. The way he grabs hold of my neck and hugs me tight. The way he tells me ten times a day that he loves me. Someday, those things too will be memories. And, knowing that, in those moments, I live those moments, savoring each second.
But I cannot help wanting to know the unknowable – the future. To know he is safe, secure, independent, cared for, working, and raising a family of his own. I cannot say that autism will ever hinder him from achieving any of that. I have read so many posts by adults with autism. They are all articulate. They range from bitter and cynical to intellectual, creative, and poetic. I wonder where my son will land in adulthood.
I hope someday, that he will write a story of how he has looked back on the things his mom wrote when he was a child. I hope he will recall his mom having a deep, nurturing love for him, and that she would do anything to protect, provide for, and comfort him.
Most of all, I hope, that if he looks back on what I have written, he smiles and laughs at how silly his mama was to worry so much, because he has grown into a strong, independent adult and is doing just fine.