There’s been a lot of drama, trauma, and exhaustion in our wee little household as of late, hence our silence. Chad was gone for a week for school, first to Ireland and then to Yale. He came home under the weather plus had jet lag. Nate got new SMOs, which are now blistering his feet. We had to fire our beloved physical therapy firm because of an incident that we felt jeopardized Nate’s safety. (Long story.) Nate bloomed with petechiae, little red dots on his skin, while at school. After a visit to the doctor, they disappeared as quickly as they came, an excellent sign that cancelled the scheduled blood draw. (If they stuck around and blossomed further, it could be an early sign of leukemia. Grateful that the universe gave us a pass on that one.) And Chad has homework, endless homework. And I have grants to write, which I really enjoy but not necessarily when they’re all piled on top of each other. And Nate’s self-injurious behavior is through the roof, so much so that a BCBA has been added to our school-based therapy team.
But if I take a minute to think back to where we were a year ago, we’re in a much better place. We had just put our dear Archibald J. Cat, Esq. down for eternal sleep only to be whomped by Superstorm Sandy. Without power for a week, we stayed at home for as long as we could until the chilling temperature became unbearable. Then we began to hopscotch to and from hotels, which only had one-night availability, in an effort to stay warm. So, yes. Things are better. But still — we are exhausted.
I haven’t the energy to blather on about all the things I mentioned above. They’re draining, exhausting, ongoing. But what does cheer me is love. So, dear friends, I am here to tell you about love – specifically, Nate’s love life. Without any effort, Nate’s love life is at an all time high. Apparently women like the cute, silent type.
First, there were Sunny and Sophia. They’re the twin sisters to Nate’s classmate and pal, Matthew. Sunny and Sophia are older women, Kindergartners. When Matthew joined Nate’s class, they were just senior pre-schoolers (in the “4s,” dontcha know) and became quite smitten with Nate. The romance started with requests for “high fives,” which expanded to requests for “high tens.” Then the girls (plural) wanted to hold Nate’s hand as he walked to class. At first, there was only one hand to hold (because I was holding the other) so, after a squabble, one girl held Nate’s hand and the other held her sister’s hand, thereby holding Nate’s hand through osmosis. Once in the building, I felt comfortable enough to let Nate walk on his own, which meant his left and right hands were adorned with a different twin, both of whom were chattering away at Nate about how cute he is and how much they liked his outfit and how much they liked him.
One morning in April, Sunny leaped out of the minivan, ran to me, and handed me a note. She said, “This is for Nate. From me. And Sophia.” It was the first confession of love.
This relationship was innocent enough until Extended School Year when Sunny asked if Nate to come to her house for a play date. A play date that should extend into a sleepover that would last until school started in September. This request was made of Nate in July. I politely suggested that we should simply start with a play date that lasted an hour or two before anyone moved into anyone else’s home. Thankfully, the girls didn’t bat an eye.
This fall, Sunny and Sophia started Kindergarten at a different school than the one Matthew and Nate attend. There, they made new friends, met new boys, and formed new relationships. Nate sees Sunny and Sophia when they drop Matthew off at school. The girls say hi but it’s not the same. At the first Special Olympics gathering of the season (which includes neurotypical siblings), Sunny and Sophia saw me and Nate and ran over at full speed to give us a hug. As they were running, they veered left…toward a classmate…named Andrew (I think) and then proceeded to play tag with this friend, who they both go to school with, for the day.
Nate is Great fans, fear not! For another young lady, this time a first grader (!!!) has made her love known for our boy. Charlotte is the daughter of Ms. Mollie, Nate’s awesome speech pathologist. Sometimes Charlotte hangs out in Ms. Susie’s room at the start of the day or with her mom during early morning sessions. During these moments, Nate apparently caught Charlotte’s eye. To be honest, I had no idea because this young lady is very quiet whenever I’m around. On Monday, at our team meeting, Susie handed me this piece of paper and said, “Oh. This is from Charlotte. She said it’s for Nate and his mom.”
Take in the full scope of this beautiful drawing, my friends, and let me give you on a little tour of its highlights. First, it doesn’t say, “I Love Nate.” It says, “I Love 8.” We’re not sure if Charlotte thinks Nate’s name is the number eight or if this is a clever play on words. Second, there are many puppy dogs on this poster. That is because Charlotte loves Nate (or eight) and puppy dogs. Third, if you zoom in on the t-shirt, underneath the green crayon are the words “Will you gho [sic] with me” in red. Well. What’s a mom to do with that one?
It’s not clear to me if the blonde child in the green shirt is Nate or Charlotte, as both of them have blonde hair. And do I respond to Charlotte’s request in the stead of my nonverbal boy? Are they betrothed to be married and I didn’t know it? Is Nate’s name really eight and I had it wrong this whole time!?! After a family meeting, we’ve decided how to respond. Nate will give Charlotte a Halloween card tomorrow and, with it, one of his special bookmarks that he made. He will mention how much he liked the drawing, how much he enjoyed the play on his name with the number 8 (though 2 and 5 are his favorite numbers), and he’s glad that they’re pals. Sounds like a plan, right?
Whether or not their child is neurotypical, I think every parent worries that their kid might not be accepted or might not make friends. Learning in a contained classroom and without words, at the ripe old age of four, Nate’s pretty much wiped that worry from my mind. He’s got a gaggle of gals who think he’s cute and friends at school that he’s happy to (parallel) play with. And that kind of love really warms a mama’s heart.