Heart of Gold

One child needed help understanding the terms of the scientific process when conducting an experiment. Then she needed help with calculations based on absolute numbers. Then another needed help with estimation problems in math. The six-year-old needed to be scolded to get back to coloring his patterns. Another child wanted me to explain what “setting” meant when writing a story. Still another needed to be quizzed for a reading comprehension test. And the eldest, who was prepping for his upcoming SATs, kept dodging me when I asked him to spare me 20 minutes for a practice essay-writing prompt.

Six kids – two of my own and four of my sister-in-law’s sat doing homework in various locations around my house while husband and I supervised. (My sister-in-law was out for the afternoon picking up her husband from the airport.)

We were switching gears in our brains trying to help a kindergartner, a third grader, two fifth graders, a seventh grader (her homework was the hardest for me) and a senior in high school.

And then there was the seventh child — Lil D, who was working with his therapist on sorting clothes and then self-care skills in bathing himself (something we’ve been working on for more years than I can count).

At one point, when I was scrambling to finish getting dinner ready and my seventh-grade niece was asking me about a math problem, I heard Lil D’s loud cries and bangs in the upstairs bathroom. His therapist and I had discussed how we would add deodorant to his bathroom routine – as in teach him to put deodorant on himself.

Apparently after swiping one armpit, he was not in the mood AT ALL to swipe the other pit.

It hit me at that moment – seventh grade. Because we held him back one year, Lil D is in seventh grade now (though grades are totally an arbitrary number for him) – the same as my niece. She is working on Algebra. He is balking at learning to put on deodorant.

She is attending a local middle school with nearly 900 students, taking classes in French, English, U.S. History, Algebra, Digital Art, Economics, P.E/Health and Life Sciences. He is in an autism school with a behavior intervention plan and an IEP (individualized education plan) with goals like learning to spell his name on the computer, understanding number concepts (as in when asked to hand over two bears, he must understand how many “2” are), exchanging ID cards when asked what his name or address is, learning how to do laundry (sort clothes, hang them up on hangers and take clothes out of the drier) and constant prompting to use his iPad as a communication device.

Oh, I thought I was over this. I thought I was done. Done with the comparisons, done feeling that tightness in my throat when I see my kids’ cousins or children of friends the same age as Lil D doing “typical”  things, learning “typical” curriculum.

Maybe it’s because it’s all right in front of me all the time right now – with my sister-in-law and her family staying with us for a few weeks as they settle in here. The house is full of children and their homework, games, conversations, laughter and fighting. Its mad chaos, and so much fun. Amal and Hamza love it, and even Lil D too. I worried about him, how he would handle so many people in the house. But so far, so good.

So what is my problem?

My dear friend texted with me last night. She knew I was feeling low. I told her, I rarely compare him to his cousins. But they are in front of me all the time now, and sometimes it’s tough.

Roll with it, she told me. Do what you need to do to push through to the other side. And one thing, she said. She then related a story of when she was over at my house. We were all outside in the backyard, and she was in my kitchen fixing something to eat when Lil D wandered in.

I asked him for five hugs, she said. And he was with me. Every single one. It Was. Gold. So you do what to do. But that heart of his is gold.

Well, yeah. Heck, yeah.

Eff you, comparisons. Eff you, eyes that blink back tears and throat that constricts. Eff you, everything that can be so hard and frustrating and so different than that which others are doing around us.

My son has a heart of gold.

About Dilshad Ali

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