Susan's Blog

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Next time hold the rice

“It’s funny to see you with them,” Ned said to me on the escalator ride to the Cheesecake Factory. I was standing among my three giant sons, Nat, Max, and Ben (yes, Ben is now taller than me). We were going out to dinner for the last time before Max was to go back to college.  “They’re all so much bigger than you.”

I dropped back behind them. “Just let me bask in them,” I said.  We walked in and waited for the table, which was odd because no one else was waiting, and yet the host said, “It may be a few minutes.”

Nat then said to me, “Restaurant.” Yes, indeed. Was this a restaurant, or what? Why were we waiting?

We were soon led to the very back of the place, to a large round table. I felt a languid, liquidy happiness as I reached for the phone-book sized menu. Pretty soon we all started to call out what we wanted. Nat was very interested in our orders. He himself chose spaghetti and meat sauce, Max a portabello burger, Ben a turkey club, Ned a chicken barbecue ranch salad. I didn’t know what I wanted.  I said, “I don’t feel that hungry because I ate a lot of goldfish.”

Eventually I settled on chicken tacos. We then talked about Tolkien and the Orcs, and Ben mentioned how they were actually enslaved by the Elves but the movie doesn’t show that. Our conversations are always very technical in one way or another. Max and Ben get into intricate detail over whatever they’re discussing (usually video games, internet memes, cartoon characters, Tolkien, and religion. I like it when I can be involved in their conversations, but because of their extremely focused interests, I can’t always.  Max and Ben are geeks, nerds, and perhaps have some legitimate claim to the Asperger’s end of the Spectrum.  Just like Ned. Just like me — sometimes I really do think so, especially when I feel that I don’t fit anywhere. But tonight I fit in, because I know just enough about Tolkien to have something to say, and a real interest in learning these new points.

Nat was unabashedly given over to his stimming. While he ate his spaghetti, his head bounced and his self-talking swooped high and wide around our table. And every few moments he would turn and self-talk, but directly to Max, as if trying to engage him. We all love talking to Max.

As we finished up, my rice sat there to my left, untouched. Suddenly Nat noticed it. “Mommy will eat rice,” he said.

“No, Nat, I’m done.”

“Mommy will eat rice.”

“No, Nat.”

“Mommy will eat rice.”

“Nat, it’s okay.”

“Mommy will eat rice. No goldfish!” Remember, I had mentioned casually when we sat down that I had had goldfish and was not that hungry. God, he is so with it, I thought with pride, even while at the same time I was nervous that he would start shouting.

“Nat, I just don’t like rice.”

Ned chimed in. “Nat, we’re just going to throw it away.”

“kay.” And then, “Mommy will eat rice,” very softly.”Mommy will take Tylenol.” Because I must be sick if I’m not cleaning my plate.

“Nat, we’re just going to throw it away,” Max said gently.  My heart flipped over in gratitude for this compassionate and cool young man I’d raised. But Nat started hitting his head, his voice getting louder, “Mommy will eat rice! Mommy will eat rice!”

I picked up the fork. But I did not want the damned rice. I realized that I should not be forced to eat rice just to keep Nat calm. That was crazy. I put the fork down. Ned signaled to the waiter to clear it.  “Nat, it is time for dessert.  Do you want dessert?”

Nat was still smacking his head. Ned said, “Nat should we go outside?” This kind of conversation has not happened in months, years, perhaps. I felt a little nauseous, remembering other tantrums, other escalations… but Nat is not really like that anymore. And indeed he said, “No.” And then started sucking his thumb, which is the way I know he’s helping himself feel better. It had already passed.

And when the trough of cake came, I divided it into five, and felt so happy to have a fresh slab of cake in front of me and all three of my boys around me, a little shaken, but not stirred.


What a great story. I feel a similar sense of satisfaction if we get through a grocery story run with everybody intact!

— added by Lisa Lilienthal on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I enjoy reading your slice of lfe.

— added by Janet on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 11:28 pm

I so understand that place. We’ve been there at a restaurant before and my daughter wanted to clean up her plate. At that time we didn’t go out very often and when we are at home we make sure everyone cleans up their plate. I could feel her body tense up when we tried to stop her from going into the kitchen and putting it in the sink. I know the feeling of dread when you think that it could be the end of your meal, and the whole, “But it was going so well.” thoughts. My husband and I decided that day we needed to take her out more so she would understand things are different when at restaurants.

— added by Melissa M on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm

And you’ll get more dinners at restaurants out of the deal!

— added by Susan Senator on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Exactly! No cooking? Sure it’s just therapy…

— added by Melissa M on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Oh, how I love the way you describe the exact feelings I’ve had with our 9 year old. I’ve loved your books and your blog. Your stories are a great comfort and encouragement to me. Thank you for sharing Nat and yourself with us.

— added by Amy on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I can so sympathize with you on this, my children though are much younger, but the experiences are still the same. The different parts of the spectrum they each fall under has been a blessing for them as a sibling unit because somehow, they know about eachother and help eachother – my oldest somehow knows when it is even affecting me or their father and tries to step in (she has PDD-NOS) because she knows what its like I guess.

We recently had a melt down when the Play Place at Mc Donald’s was closed but as a family, we worked through it. Our kids truly are special.

— added by Krystal on Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm

ciao susan io sono carmela la mamma di un bimbo italiano,e come avrai capito anche il mio bimbo è affetto da una forma di autismo.volevo solo dirti grazie a nome di tutte le mamme di bimbi diversamente abili.fora tigre non smettere di ruggire

— added by carmela on Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 6:53 am

It’s wonderful (but a bit disconcerting) to have big, tall sons who tower over us.
I can relate to the panicky feeling of being in a public place when things start to slip out of control. I was in my early twenties when I taught autistic teens and I still shudder at some of the close calls we had while we we out and about. Most of the boys were lovely, though, and I often wonder how they’re doing.

— added by Jill on Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 8:15 am

Cara Carmela,

— added by Susan Senator on Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 9:54 am

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