Monday, June 11, 2012

Second Son

This post appeared about 6 months ago on my blog, but as my second son's second birthday approaches next week, I thought I'd publish it here, just to see if you other parents have felt the same way, are worried about the same things, or just want to allay my fears with your own stories. Thanks for reading!


Let me tell you the heart of fear—having one AU child and then having his younger sibling approach the age where changes in the oldest first started peeking through.

In December, Eliot will be 18 months old.

He’s starting to do things that I’d forgotten Liam liked to do—stack cans, play with the dog food, tip over the dog water, rub the vacuum lovingly, pull out cords from the wall, tear books apart at their spines, help me unload the dishwasher (and climb into it)…

Are these age appropriate actions? Are these signs of AU that I missed in Liam?

I don’t know. Like a shaman, I watch for signs to tell me truths about the future.

I notice that Eliot will flap his arms sometimes, his night-waking is getting worrisome, and he sometimes stares into the distance and spaces way, way out.

I can explain these things—he’s copying his brother with the flapping or he’s just excited; Liam’s noisy night times wake and keep Eliot up; the spaciness is due to him being tired….

Could be true; but, I said the same things with Liam. For years, I told people: “he’s too tired to play/hug you/laugh/talk.”

I know this is an unproductive worry, but I can’t help it. There’s an abyss at the 18-month mark and I feel pulled to its edge. I can’t turn away and so I turn these questions over and over in my mind: “Autism, will you take my second son? 

Can he weather the assault of genes and environment to stay the same happy, laughing, curious, playful boy that he is—or will he retreat into corners of himself that I’ll have to wrestle him out of?”

Just let me keep this one. Please. You tricked me with his brother, and I’m dealing with it. But, let me keep this little boy.

Eliot does a lot things that Liam never did—sit with a toy for long stretches of time, ask us to read him books, seek out back and forth interaction, play chase, point to airplanes, identify pictures in books without promptings, make 2 word phrases at appropriate times (“hi dad!” to Adam when he gets home; “hi Eliot” to himself in the mirror)…these are like little stars in the dark unknown of the future.

We’re also a lot more savvy about his diet and his vaccines. He’s not had shots since Liam’s diagnosis and he’s been on GF/CF diet since he could eat solid food. Maybe these things will be enough. Maybe they will help him through the next 6 months.

For now, I watch my second son carefully. I watch and I wait. I cherish his every little word, interaction, and milestone. And I try not to worry too much.
(And then, when I do start to worry, I marvel in secret awe at the parents who have done this more than once. You are so much stronger than any of us know. )

I think this quote, which I remember from a wooden plaque in my parent’s basement, sums it well:

Now is the only time we have.
The past is gone.
The future is not here.

Perhaps it’s trivial, but I can live with that. I can live in the now with the children I have, not the ones I thought I had or the ones I might have in the future. Now is the only time we have.

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  1. It took me a long time to get to the point where I could accept the child I had and not the child I wished I had. I find myself wondering too about my younger son. He's fine but every now and again I when he says "NO" to me I push hard to see how hard he will push back. Will he break something or come at me in a blind rage? No. He doesn't. He will listen and he can be reprimanded and he can accept that and he can move on.

    I do feel like I had to have missed obvious signs but our son was in therapy on and off since he was 5 years old and no one ever diagnosed him with Asperger's. Since he was my first we had nothing to compare him to. He just seemed--well--difficult. I hope all of the wounds will eventually scab over without breaking open again but they are deep and they do still itch like hell!

  2. Wow. I feel the exact same way!!! Constantly watching my youngest for any of the telltale signs and wondering how I could EVER go through this again- if God forbid I had to....