Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What To Expect When You Don't Get the Kid You Expected

Funny title, no? Credit goes to my literary agent, Janet Reid, for that one. Sure, it's flippant, but boy does it hit close to home. Because nobody expects life will be an awful ordeal for their child . No one anticipates seasons of struggle and despair. I doubt there's a parent out there who reckons on a trajectory toward death, rather than adulthood. And it's not only parents of kids with autism, or depression -- or both -- who are forced to learn a new normal. Parents whose children develop cancer, or become paralyzed, have to do it too.

It's all about milestones missed, birthday parties that pass her by, friendless weekends. A kid who can't make it in school, who will never go to college, who will inadvertently break some law because he does not understand the rules. No one expects these things, but some of us receive them anyway.

But I want to keep things light. So here's a list of What to Expect that might make you smile (these tend to be autism spectrum peculiarities; feel free to substitute your own):

1. Clothes on the floor, on the couch, anywhere but on the body (you're lucky if diaper/undies remain on).
2. The dialogue from entire television episodes memorized and recited to you at dinnertime.
3. Endless repetitions of the same sentence. Then more.
4. No socks on feet, even in deepest, darkest winter.
5. Hood worn any time a jacket is donned, in any weather, indoors or out.
6. Disinterest in putting shirts and pants on frontwards and right side out.
7. Longstanding inability to tie shoes.
8. Indescribable joy at having just the kid you never realized you'd hoped for. 

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