My son is five now, but his speech abilities are around that of a three year old, maybe younger. He plays by himself, and he has no friends among the other sweet, tumble bum boys at his pre-school.
Yesterday I picked up Wonder Woman…the only character from the “original” DC hero pack that he doesn’t like. He leaves her on a shelf in my shed. I tried to play with him. His guys, Superman, an arthritic Spiderman and an off-brand Transformer were adventuring, hollering exclamations of disbelief that weren’t quite words. I jumped in as Wonder Woman. He shouted no at me and took her away. I figured, ehh, boys only. I asked which of his other guys, the ones in the bucket he carries everywhere he goes, that I could be instead. His face crumpled in desperate anger and he just kept saying, “No No No! Go ‘way! Go way!”
Today I squelched out into the slowly drying earth beneath our weirdly green Oregon Valley grass. I took a rock and squatted in the moist dirt along the fence beside him.
“Are we digging a road? Like this?” I drew the rock through the dirt making a small ditch.
“How ’bout this rock is a house on the road? And this stick is a tree?”
I looked up and he’d taken his rock and moved farther down the fence-line, away from me.
I put him to bed tonight. I tried to tickle, hug, sing, play. Slow, gentle; I know not to smother or overwhelm him. Interspersed between each new attempt was the constant refrain, near tears, “Get out! Get Out! Get Out!” pointing at the door.
We interact. He asks for one of the two or three foods he’s willing to eat nearly constantly. His ribs are an accusation or maybe evidence in my hands whenever I touch his torso. He was built thick…his ribs shouldn’t be felt. But I don’t always have those particular foods. Or I won’t give him constant single serving bags of chips and chicken nuggets like he demands. So he is miserable. Every thing out of his mouth unhappy, angry. If I’m not useful to him I’m only an obstacle.
I don’t make him smile. He doesn’t call me to show me what he’s drawn. He doesn’t seek my wide warm lap when he’s sick, as he often is.
It’s been this way for awhile, though it’s gotten worse in the past months. I notice the timing seems to match when I received my balls to the wall four month deadline…and I won’t be so foolish as to dismiss it, though I want to.
He loves the dog. “Bayyyybee. My baby. Oh the little baby..” singsong while grabbing our German shepherd’s jaw, skritching her belly, or using her as a pillow or mattress. She responds every time with kisses, sometimes taking his loose sleeve or pantleg in her predatory teeth and tugging, just for fun.
I’m jealous of that dog. I’ve never accidentally sunk a claw into his face or sent him flying with a simple bump during fetch. But she’s the one who gets the precise love I identify as “real.”
His Dad tried to console me with all the things our boy won’t do or give him, either. But there is a difference. Jack leaps onto and clings in joy to his father’s broad belly when Gus sits on the coach. Gus coaches him to “give mama a hug too.” Jack slides down and comes in for the hug, turning his back to me at the last minute so he faces out while I lightly squeeze against his tugging to be free. Probably feels less trapped by me that way.
I remember the feeling of getting home from a shopping trip, breasts aching and starting to drip, and scooping up a 9 month old version of him. We laid on the guest bed, where he and I lived until he could sleep alone, and I nursed. He relieved the pressure of my milk and I trailed a finger through the fluff on his crown. We were love.
To have your child consistently dislike you strips you of the sacredness of your title, Mama. Your not Mommy. You’re not even Mom. Just Mother.
I love through touch, as do Gus and LE. Jack dislikes my touch. He didn’t always but now he does. He dislikes me. I bring him no joy and am seldom of any use to him. He ‘loves’ me…but…that means he’d prefer me over a stranger and trusts I’ll tend to his basic needs. That’s it. Still Gus tells me over and over not to be ridiculous, of course he loves me.
“Don’t be upset if he doesn’t love you just the way you want,” The Therapist said long ago.
I have nothing to offer him but snacks. That means I’ve failed him somehow. It just does. His life should contain an early burgeon of riches that he needs me to mitigate. But I’ve somehow not lead him to any treasures. I’ve messed up. I don’t understand. You love your mother when you’re little. You just do. You LOVE her, even if she’s a cruel abusive monster!
I love him so, so much. The packet arrived a couple days ago. Once we fill it out he’ll be put on the 4 to 10 month wait-list for the developmental disabilities center up at Hospital City. They’ll tell me if it’s apraxia, autism, retardation. I’ll have a name for why he doesn’t want me around.
But probably not a reason. Not one that satisfies me. I love you so much little guy. I’m so sorry.