Breathe

I don’t normally preface my responses to prompts from The Red Dress Club – I like to let people read whatever I wrote without my input, and then explain the response at the end.  In this case, I felt like I needed to give a little heads-up.  The prompt was to write about what we want, or what a character wants.  Typically I use the Red Writing Hood prompts to give my fiction muscles a workout, but this time I was pulled back to the memoir.  A recent event tied up in all the hope, anxiety, love, and fear I feel as my son becomes an adult at light speed.

Tissue alert – don’t say you weren’t warned!  Lay on, fearless readers!
“What do you want for Michael next school year?”
I stared at the guidance counselor and her manic chipmunk smile.
What do I want for my son?
  
***
 
When he was born I wanted him to breathe.

For months after he was born I wanted the scale to tell me he was gaining weight instead of always losing. 

When he was a year old I wanted him to walk and talk.
When he was two I wanted to understand what he said to me.  I wanted him to say, “I’m hungry,” instead of, “yoongee.”  I wanted a few months without an ear infection – without a 3am visit to the ER and another round of antibiotics and yogurt.
When he was three I wanted the speech therapy to work for him like it did for his brother.
When he was four I wanted him to be potty trained.
When he was five I wanted him to be ready to start kindergarten…and potty trained.
When he was six, I wanted our second time through kindergarten to be the charm.
When he was seven I wanted him to make some friends.
When he was eight I wanted him to have a teacher that understood him – instead of one who fed him sugar donuts for a morning snack and then complained that he was hyper.
When he was nine I wanted him to stay in third grade forever.  The only year that went well…the only year he had a teacher who actually thought he was amazing.
When he was ten, I wanted someone to tell me what was wrong with my beautiful boy.  I wanted someone to be brave enough to be the bearer of bad news instead of the cowardly liar mouthing false hope. 
When he was eleven I wanted him to punch the kids that tortured him on a daily basis, instead of just believing that sooner or later they’d like him if he was nice enough to them.
When he was twelve I wanted him to stop coming home with that expression of hurt confusion on his face after another day of teasing. 
When he was thirteen I wanted to make the autism go away so he wouldn’t struggle so hard to understand the simplest social interaction with other kids.
When he was fourteen I wanted to take away his anxiety so he’d stop picking at his skin until his arms and hands were covered in open sores.
When he was fifteen I wanted to see him smile like he did when he was four – back when hope and joy still lived in his world. 

Now he’s sixteen.  I’m sitting in another meeting with people who assure me they know how smart my son is…and yet they talk to him like he’s six.
What do I want for Michael?
“Let’s talk about improving his social skills and working on self-sufficiency.”
The chipmunk turns to Michael. “Does that sound good to you?” she asks, using a voice a second-grader would find condescending, and I watch him frown and mumble an agreement.  He’s tuning her out.
What do I want?
I want a damn crystal ball that tells me whether or not this beautiful, brilliant young man will be able to make it on his own in a few years.  I want the fucking magic wand that I can wave and make everything right for him, the one that guarantees success and happiness.
What do I want? 
The genie didn’t give me three wishes.  I got the only wish I was going to get – I wanted him to breathe.
Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing this moment of my life with me.  As always, comments and concrit are very welcome!
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21 thoughts on “Breathe

  1. You already know what I think! Esp since I had a meeting of my own today. “No, we don't think your daughter is autistic…” At least she is getting a lot of help, even though a diagnosis is not on the horizon.
    I loved being able to crit line by line, and I am really curious about how it looks to other people. The only log in I had to do was to pick a username, e-mail, and password.

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  2. If you go back and hover over a highlighted line, it will tell you how many comments have been made on it. Then when you click it, you get the threaded comments. Great for concrit, I think!

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  3. I adored this. And yup, I cried. And I think I can relate to this in the way that nobody will tell you what's wrong, or they spell it all out all wrong and expect you to live by that, and they expect you to be as sick as they think you to be. And I have to say it… those chipmunk voiced/faced people, they are the most annoying thing on earth, especially if you're stuck with one in a hospital room… Anyways… Well done =) I really enjoyed reading this… even though I cried…

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  4. Wow. Just wow. You really went raw this time. I have nothing but admiration for how open and honest you are here. The format and the words are perfect, yes. But the message? Is pure love.

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  5. This is so well written. Your last line is amazing and makes me feel hopeful and frustrated at the same time. The piece makes angry at the system that thinks it knows best when often it has no clue as to what's going on.

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  6. @ Galit – thank you!

    @ Christine – thanks! I hate to see him tune out when people treat him like he's a little kid, but I can't blame him (and wish I could join him! LOL)

    @ Kelly – thank you! we've spent a LOT of time fussing with the system!

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  7. More Wows. This is so well written and your emotions, your frustration and your love is spilling out of every sentence.
    I too have seen friends suffer through a lack of understanding, support and action by school systems. Your son is lucky to have you as his advocate.

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  8. Dang, you weren't lying about this being a tearjerker. How incredible your son must be to put up with the manic chipmunks (and their counterparts) of the world without punching their lights out. Too bad people never try to REALLY, TRULY understand each other. Differences define us all…no one is better than the other…although many are much more special and deserving of love.

    Great piece. I love how you tied everything back to “I wanted him to breathe.” Bittersweet.

    Stopping by from TRDC and so glad I did.

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  9. I could not imagine going through this. You are a fabulous mom who only wants the best for your son and regardless of his experiences so far, you have always been his champion, his hero, I think.

    I wish you luck in finding him the support he needs and people who see him for the wonderful, beautiful person he is.

    Visiting from RDC

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  10. I just love this. I really do. It shows what a fierce advocate you are for your son and how much you love him. This touched me because I too have a son that I want the same things for. He has had a hard 7 months of teasing this past year and I've been feeling alot of what you expressed.

    Concrit. Honestly, this flowed for me so none that I can point out.

    Visiting from TRDC. So glad I stopped by!

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  11. @ Mad Woman – thank you! It gets frustrating…but we usually have teachers that at least try – and those that don't learn to fear us! LOL

    @ Katie – He's awesome, really. He works so hard to be positive all the time. I'm the one taking deep breaths to keep my cool!

    @ Carrie – thank you! Hubby and I are an unstoppable team!

    @ Melanie – Thanks! The teasing is brutal – it seems so minor, until it escalates. Even then each individual thing is so little that it's easy to forget the bigger picture that makes them so miserable. Last week of school this year someone sliced the strap on his backpack – the school replaced it, but still… You just have to hang on and work on making it better next time (and not punching anyone).

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  12. Writerly, I loved his third grade teacher…I really did.

    The line by line is interesting. Basically, you click and drag to highlight the word or phrase, and when it's highlighted a little thought bubble pops up. That's the part you type in. I think. LOL

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  13. I understand the need for clarification. I didn't say my piece was fiction at first, so everyone was giving me sweet words of comfort, lol. I felt awful that I hadn't made it clear up front.

    Okay, this was wonderful, heartfelt, and honest. I have not walked in your shoes, but I can relate to hints of this because my niece has Asperger's. It broke my heart when she explained that at recess the girls walk away from her when she approaches them. ugh. I can only imagine that you have had to find strength you never knew you had. This was wonderful, and I thank you for being willing to share it with us.

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  14. Wow. Just popped in following some linky-madness, and I gotta say you moved me.

    I am on the other side. I work with adults, several with severe autism. I wish my clients would have had Moms more like you.

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  15. Thanks for popping in barefoot!

    I've met a lot of parents with kids on the spectrum. We all have different challenges, and none of us ever seems to find that magic wand. But we keep looking for it!

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