Susan's Blog

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Our House

Our house
is a very, very, very fine house
With three kids in the yard
Life used to be so hard.
–CSN, with me

I woke up with little pictures of Nat floating in and out of my head. Before I was even fully conscious, I was remembering how he was last night, getting into that van of kids. It’s the same way he is at Special Olympics meets; he is just grinning the entire time, waving his arms, talking to himself loudly, bursting at the seams with happiness and excitement. It is abundantly clear to me that of all the things in his life, being with friends is best to him.

I wondered many things, lying there in my tangle of sheets. How can I make that happen more? How do I find him more friends?

I love the fact that these are my worries. I used to worry that Nat did not understand what was good about being with people. I feared that he would never enjoy his peers; that he would miss out on that deeply satisfying aspect of life.

And I feared that I would miss out on his having friends, too. Perhaps selfishly, I wanted to experience Nat going off with friends, seeing their delight in him, hearing them laugh at secret things, watching how they respond off of each other and I just sink into the background. Rather than having to facilitate, moderate, and teach, teach, teach “social skills,” to just sit back and let it happen, come what may.

This is the way Max’s life has gone, after all. Over the years, I have had to intervene, explain, set up, organize, oversee, and referee with Max and his friends, but there has always been a larger reality than my oversight, in Max’s case. Max’s social life has always had a life of its own. Sometimes it has gone off in directions that make me worry, but I have tried to stay connected to him, a spider-web-thin strand that sticks to him no matter what, but one which I hope does not get in his way.

To me, the Promised Land has become having kids here. I think that for years I was afraid to have kids here, because it would mean a lot of effort on my part. Effort regarding Nat: making sure he was appropriate, not aggressive, etc., with the friends that were here. Effort regarding Max: making sure his friends were kind to him and he to them; that no one was fighting or hurt; that the mess stayed within reasonable bounds; fetching snacks; getting the kid to leave when it was time. All of these efforts replaced much of the joy and made me stop focusing on having a “typical” house overrun with kids.

I may have mellowed over the recent years, but I have recently become aware of a hunger for that kind of house. It may be because I now see that Nat truly enjoys having people here now, with no effort needed on my part. It has been years — knock wood — since Nat pulled the hair of one of Max’s friends, or was somehow inappropriate.

It may be because once Max hit 7th grade, he was often not here, but somewhere else with friends, and I missed him. I mentioned this to him the other day, “So do you think you’d ever want to have your friends here? I mean, is there something I could do to make that more comfortable for you? I would love to meet them.” He thought about it for a while and shrugged. It seemed that he hadn’t really considered this option. I continued, “I mean, even if you want to have [his girlfriend] here, that’s fine. That would be great!” I let him just think about it, and hoped he would trust us, his family, that it would all be okay.

He did. We have tried it a couple of times. The first time, I was very nervous. I wanted it to go well. I wanted what I think of as normalcy. A strange kind of normalcy that is actually extremely self-aware, but that’s okay. It’s okay to be fully aware of what you want. There is no other way, ironically, that our family can have “typical” family life. We are just too vigilant. But — that is now who we are, what we are used to.

And it is so clear to me now what is important. A kind of happy, sloppy fatigue that comes from making that effort for your kids. You get that from the chaotic, jumbled, social knots of new people in your house. I have really missed that, without knowing it.

The thing is, I have grown up as my kids have grown up. I, like them, am ready for that now. So now we are trying things, having people over, sending Nat off with others. It’s making our life expand, and it’s making me aware of new possibilities, some which don’t even have a shape yet. But the promise of my boys’ (and my) growth lies waiting, like an unopened present.

Max decided to give it a try. “Really?” I asked. “She’s coming over here?

She walked in, totally adorable. Sweet, young, beautiful, happy. There was a moment, when they were upstairs, I checked on them, and I saw they were just playing wildly and very silly with the Wii. Door — open. Strange to hear a girl’s laugh in our house, but really nice, too.

Nat was downstairs smiling. He seemed happy about it all, too. Ben was his usual very busy, hyper-focused self. I was very tired all of a sudden. So I just lay down on my bed for a few minutes, feeling very, very full and deeply content. Although very little was actually happening, it seemed to me like something really momentous was going on in our house.


That’s a happy snapshot Susan. Thanks for sharing it with us. A pleasure to read.

— added by Someone Said on Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 9:57 am

I was just thinking about that this morning – more kids in the house.

I love this post. It was a sweet and perfect bite – like a petit fours.

Thank you for this.

— added by Drama Mama on Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 1:00 pm

I hope HBO doesn’t overlook your story…I’d watch it. I was gonna say that I have recently discovered this kind of thing with the in-home ABA. I’m starting to feel more able somehow. OH, and I’m pregnant! I wanna beastie girl. -Mrs. G.

— added by Anonymous on Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 11:05 pm

Yay, Mrs. G!!!! A Beastie Girl for the planet is a good thing.

— added by Susan Senator on Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 6:56 am

oh, susan, so lovely! i have been yearning for that house full of kids and all their sounds feeling for years and years.

— added by kyra on Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 9:45 am

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