Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sweet, sweet dreams

"Drop me on the bed," he begs.  It is a ritual that has remained constant since he was able to utter the request.  I snatch him up in my arms, and--as I have done for more than the two years since those blessed words have come--hold him in wriggling anticipation over his mattress.

A knuckle finds his mouth--an action that, for him, signals excitement, and he giggles.  The sound makes my heart happy.

I hold him suspended for a second longer than is necessary, knowing that these days are numbered. Soon, his lengthening limbs and increasing height will finally overpower my maternal urges, and I will no longer be able to lift him.

That day is not this one, though, and when anticipation has turned giggles into belly laughs, I drop him onto his bed, laughing with him as he bounces.

He settles himself into position for the night ahead, with nary a protest.  My baby loves his sleep, and always has.  

"Just blankie," he declares, and I cover him lightly with the baby blanket that he has remained attached to for as long as I can remember.

When winter comes, he will allow the colorful sheet and comforter that make up the rest of his little nest, but even then only in one order - blankie, sheet, covers.  No deviation.

Because I know how hard he works to acclimate in the rest of his daily life, I don't push, and follow along with the routine.  Social expectations are one thing, but I am determined that he will feel free to find comfort and security in whatever routines he needs to when he is home.

I kiss he and his brother goodnight, and he declares solemnly, "I won't wipe your kisses off, Mom."

As I turn off the light and let the door latch snick closed behind me, I hold those words close.  They don't sound like much to most--but I know how precious they are.  I know how hard communicative speech was to learn, and how precious spontaneous speech was when it came.

I can start my own winding down now, and pick up my tablet to browse the news of the day.  Sifting through Hollywood gossip, photography articles and the various detritus in between, I stumble on a Reddit post discussing the recent rise in measles cases due to declining vaccination rates.  This does not come courtesy of the various autism news feeds I subscribe to, it's just there--on the front page of a crowd-sourced news site that millions visit each day. 

It's gladdening to see these articles come to public attention--I sometimes wonder how much my own little bubble actually has to do with the "outside" world.  This is important to me, but does anyone else see this?  Is the significance of a horrifying number of children being needlessly affected by a preventable and serious disease lost on the rest of the world?

As the current top comments on the article are pretty vitriolic concerning anti-vaccine advocate Jenny McCarthy, I have to think that my sentiments are shared.

While it is good to see the public outcry, it is also saddening.  Comments rage against McCarthy and Wakefield and "stupid hippies," and all I can think about is the significance of those numbers as they relate to autism hysteria.  Although measles is a potentially life-threatening disease, and the rate of contraction is higher than the supposedly-vaccine-related autism case numbers, 92% of cases were found in children with no history of vaccination, or unknown vaccination history.

The parents of those children, at some point, chose not to vaccinate.

Autism has, in essence, become such a horrifying prospect that it pales in comparison to a disease that once killed children en masse.

My son's autism is not horrifying.  It can be confusing, frustrating, even scary sometimes, but it is not horrifying.  In fact, it is sometimes just as confusing, frustrating, and scary as parenting my typically developing child. 

Different, perhaps, rougher in patches--but by no means so horrific a prospect as to risk death or life-long medical ramifications.

I know my child is only one child, with one unique version of autism.  I know there are parents of disabled children who struggle mightily every day, much more than we do, and wish that they could go back in time and change something--anything--that may make their baby's life less of a struggle.

I get that desperation, that fear.  I do.

But here, on the other side of our autism, I'd take my healthy child with autism struggles exacerbated one hundred times over against even the remote possibility that I wouldn't have one heartbreakingly beautiful little boy, promising to never wipe his mama's kisses off at night.

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