Just another Saturday
The stone wall, the spot of red paint, and a lot of bugs: From one hot season in Minnesota to the start of a New Jersey summer(#5)

The class of 2015: What is normal?

So the banner in the hallway of Charlie's school proclaimed: The second graders (class of 2015) and kindergarteners (class of 2017) were graduating. Grandparents and an extra-large number of parents streamed from the doors as I waited to pick up Charlie. I was just fielding a call from the school nurse as I walked through the parking lot: Charlie had banged his head twice about a coloring activity at the tail end of a pleasant morning, the last week of school. Kindergarten graduation? Second graders moving up to the big ol' third grade? More milestones missed! In Autismland, we make our own milestones. Or, I just don't worry about them--too busy chasing Charlie in the pool and explaining for the 47th time why we do not need to buy another copy of Goodnight Moon or the Wiggles' Yummy Yummy DVD. Here are a few of Charlie's--in the past, my attempts to ask him to do these resulted in A Really Bad Screamfest of "NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!" and more--you will need to imagine the ecstatic thrill in my voice or my husband Jim's or a therapist's or teacher's as we report each accomplishment: "He got up in the middle of eating white rice and chicken to use the bathroom ON HIS OWN! And a #2!" "He looked at another kid going down the slide!" "He said the /f/ sound perfectly three times in a row!" "He let me cut his fingernails while he was awake!" "He recognized the word 'Alphabert' on the computer screen!" "He played with Legos and built something instead of just stimming on the colors!" "He got to the door first and said 'open door' UNPROMPTED!" And a long time ago, when Charlie was 2 years old and starting his home therapy program, "He imitated her putting the block in the bucket!" "He said Gong Gong Po Po phone! He wanted to talk to my parents on the phone!" "He went to Barnes and Noble with me and looked at the Barney DVDs and walked out without us having to get one!" I record each triumph in my journal before going to bed, no matter how apparently small, and certainly the big ones. "He can ride without training wheels!" (Jim taught him this just before turned seven years old, last year--I must have been at least 8 years old myself when I, ever the coward, finally let my dad take mine off.) At 8 years old, Charlie is technically second-grade age; he was not at the moving-up ceremony and is "not at grade level" academically, whatever that signifies--when I was kindergarten age, I was purportedly ready for the 2nd grade--and it took until I was half way through my third decade that I could swim as well as my seven-year-old fish of a boy. What is normal? After today's late afternoon swim, Charlie and I went to the women's locker room to "takea hot shower"--it'll be another milestone when I stand outside the men's room and shout in directions to Charlie: "Is all the soap out? Wrap yourself in the towel. Are your shorts on the right way? DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING BESIDES YOUR CLOTHES IT'S DIRTY." I was just setting down our swim bag with the towels and clothes and suntan lotion when I heard "hot shower" and saw a skinny, naked boy, water dripping from his little tummy to his big feet, outside the stall, and pre-teenagers in bikinis whisking by, talking about teenage guys. "Back in the shower, Charlie!" "Hey, excuse me!" Long hair with blond highlights, pre-summer bronzed, piercings. I prepared to explain why my way-larger-than-a-toddler boy was in the women's bathroom. And showing off his tan. "Do you have any conditioner?" "Uh, no, just shampoo." It's Blueberry Blast and makes Charlie's hair smell like perfumey candy. "Oh." She disappeared into a stall. "Mommy, I want hot shower! Turn on!" Add to the list of so-called milestones, Charlie ordered his own food at the pool snack bar today: "I want fries. Yes." The snack bar girl gave him a huge heap. "What do you say?" I asked. "Tank oo." What is normal?


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