It’s rare that I’m unaware that the Monster is different from other children.
I’m somewhat accustomed to the matter, and his Autism is a fact of my life. I’ve spent a lot of time coming to grips with the fact that this is our “normal”, and that, as I say to the wife, there’s even less purpose than normal of trying to compare him to other children. My wife’s the one who tends to get a bit more upset when there are kids his age who are doing things he can’t… or when there’s the kvelling by her friends about what their child’s doing, when the Monster’s still barely verbal and can’t really read.
But that’s not always.
I had another one of my bonspiels (curling tournaments, for those not up on the lingo) this weekend – the last one that I’m in for the year, barring something extraordinary happening. This one took me to North Carolina, so since I was away from home, I called to check in on Saturday morning. And while I was on the phone with my wife, R asked to talk to me on the phone.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of doing so, threenagers really don’t get that you can’t see them. Oh, they understand the whole concept of “listen in one side and talk in the other”, but the rest of “the other person isn’t really there” is a nebulous concept. My wife had to translate for me once or twice as he shrugged and the like as answers to questions.
But that’s when it hit me. The Monster’s never asked to talk to me on the phone. I’m not even sure if he was aware that I was gone for the weekend.
This wasn’t a “my child doesn’t love me” moment, or “my child is happier being with just Mommy” moment. It was a “I don’t think it’s registered with my child that I’m not present” moment… and that a “normal” seven year old would be aware that Abba’s not home, that he’s on the phone, and would want to talk.
It’s unexpectedly hard.
Being a logical person, I’m still trying to apply that part to the problem. Part of the problem might be the whole barrier in his mind between abstract and concrete – he interacts (somewhat) with me over Facetime when he can see me, but the phone is a weird concept that he’s not really done much with. And part of it might be how he’s actually wired, that he might not be thinking much of those things that aren’t in his physical proximity.
But, standing outside the Triangle Curling Club on Saturday morning, all that really mattered was that kind of hurt, that kind of realization of my child not being “normal”.