My son Aidan is now occasionally wandering off—we found him on a busy street corner the other day, barefoot and mumbling about going to the library. He has no idea how to get to the library and these new acts of independence and defiance are partly age- appropriate and partly scare-the-shit-out-of-Mommy time. We are in a new city (that I love and he loves) with no family or real support network yet. Aidan’s outbursts are getting more aggressive, so his dad and I have daily conference calls with each other, the school, doctors. We coordinate cross-country babysitting (I wish this were an exaggeration) because we know I am taking the brunt of this. While his dad would take him to live with him in a heartbeat, the reality is that Shane’s living situation would be much worse for Aidan, as are his schools/support system for him if that happens. So we make do and try to make THIS work.
My guard is constantly up in public with Aidan and I jump when a bird tweets or a child laughs in the background—will this be the final straw in his tolerance level today? Does he have his headphones on and did we do enough brushing techniques today before we left the house? What about pressure? Is he going to freak out and knock a café table over or get so agitated that he will squeeze the hell out of a stranger? Did I mention I do this alone as I settle into a new job and city and try to figure out where the best grapefruit juice deals are for Aidan, not to mention libraries and bookstores?
My ex-husband was in town last week and I said, “Hey, I will pay for dinner if you help me with Aidan in the restaurant, like taking him outside if he freaks out and I will pay the bill and we can go.” And he looked at me like I was insane and said “Uh, of course I will help you with OUR son in public.”
And we realized at that moment that I am just getting very, very used to doing this all alone. It was becoming a reality for us in Texas before the move, given my ex’s busy travel schedule and new obligations and my increasing desire to leave Austin.
Fortunately, my ex has visited about 5 times since our recent move to California, and has come to terms with the fact that our son’s life here is MUCH more diverse and freer than it was in Texas. Aidan is having a bunch of experiences—like riding the train and weekly jaunts to the beach (which he loves for sensory reasons), and easy access to city life and people. My ex tells me (reluctantly), “Well I want to see him every day but I can’t deny that he seems happy.” And that’s it. I don’t want my son to go back to Texas without me for the summer, but Aidan jumps up and down in front of the calendar when I talk about him going for a visit, so I have to assume he’s happy about it.
This is the way we do it, and the reality with a child like ours. It’s not easy, Aidan can’t be left alone for even 30 minutes like a lot of kids his age, or text me unassisted to tell me things and let me know if he’s ok or not. I am always gauging his moods and sickness and levels and teaching teaching teaching social skills. And I sometimes think I thought in the divorce that I was divorcing the idea of disability/autism and it would all go away. Wishful thinking.
It did not go away, and in fact got harder. We are moving toward self-sufficiency and what Aidan wants for his future, and ways to get him to express that and more importantly, live it. So his dad calls on speaker phone telling Aidan to behave for Mommy. And his dad will come back to LA to help fly Aidan in to Texas because we BOTH have to get on that plan back with this kid and pray to god there are no babbling babies on the return trip and Aidan can be sedated and have headphones and electronics otherwise he might try to take the plane down in a fit of rage. That’s the way we do it.
Now, my ex could be a jerk and not come, but then he could leave all 5’3” of me to deal with an episode in public and the possibility of police officers and legal system trouble that he might be liable for—so yeah, he chooses to come and pray for the best to get the kid back for a summer visit.
We will let you know how that turns out.