Some days it just really pulls on my heartstrings to send Jacob away on the little yellow bus, watching his sweet chubby face through the tinted window as they head down our street and off to school.
You'd think I would be used to it by now- it has been five years of Jacob leaving home for preschool, kindergarten, and now 1st grade. Despite the fact that all these years have gone by, each time it is still like sending an innocent toddler away everyday, out into the big, bad world alone, without me to protect him.
I went to his school today, to register Tyler and Madison. Our move next week puts all three of them in the same school for the first time. I feel some comfort knowing that his big brother and sister will be there with him from now on. Defenders, if he ever needs them. My children, siblings, all born from love and with the same carmel skin and soft brown hair, yet miles and miles from being the same.
While I was there I stopped to watch him for a few minutes, through a small window in the classroom door. He was sitting at his desk with an aid across from him and it looked like they were working on IEP goals. I saw her lifting her arms and wiggling her fingers in the air, trying without success to get Jacob to imitate. She gently nudged his chin up, so that he was looking at her fingers above him, and finally he half lifted his arms, and slightly moved his own fingers.
The lovely aid smiled and clapped and I saw her lips saying, "Good job, Jacob." And while I was pleased to see her kind and patient interaction with my son, my heart felt a little heavy. Raising arms, wiggling fingers- so basic and simple. But for my child it is something that must be coaxed out, praised, and rewarded, and it felt like watching someone train an animal.
Does that sound cold? It feels cold. All these years, five since he first started in the Early Intervention preschool. Hours and hours of therapy and discrete trials, and it is still a struggle every single day to get him to respond to something so menial.
When Jacob got home today the note in his backpack said he responded once to the "my turn, your turn" trials. That is what I saw through the window. The one success. The three seconds where he seemed to understand what was being asked of him. The half-effort he gave to accomplish the task that means nothing outside of his classroom. Raise your arms, wiggle your fingers, receive a smile.
How long must we keep doing this? For the rest of his life? For the rest of mine? I have grown older than I should since autism came, aging and tired beyond my 32 years. And Jacob has gotten no where. I feel like I am two steps away from being the one who rocks and moans and ignores the world as it turns around me. Would that be safer? Less disappointment, less pain? Would being autistic protect me from what hurts?
I love this boy. So much that it seems he is a part of me. My heart. My bleeding, breaking heart.