I Want Extra Innings With My Kids

Photo courtesy of Carrie Cariello

Hey Mom, what did you do today?

What did I do?

Well, I did nothing.

And I did everything.

I made a bed and pulled the sheets tight.

I noticed a broken window blind, and scheduled an appointment for the eye doctor.

What did you do today?

Everything and nothing.

Nothing and everything.

I filled out a form, found a library book, and sent some e-mails.

I thought about Christmas.

I wrote a check for the school fundraiser, and went to yoga.

In the store, I searched for kind-of-green-not-yet-yellow bananas. I bought avocados. I smiled at the cashier and nodded hello to a neighbor and loaded bags into the car.

Home again, I assembled dinner long before I was hungry to eat.

Chicken, potatoes, carrots.

Then I folded.

I folded sweatshirts and pajamas and shorts.

I matched socks and put the towels away.

After the folding, I sat at my desk.

I looked out the window.

I watched a red bird flutter between branches.

I saw a squirrel dart between trees.

I chased a deadline.

As I struggled to bring words to life on the page, I listened.

I waited for the white van with Safe Wheels lettered on the side to deliver your tall brother home.

Jack.

Stimming.

The same question about dinner ninety million times in an hour.

The same argument about YouTube ninety million times in a row.

Relentless.

I suggested baking to distract him. He decided to make chocolate cake.

Autism.

The truth is, autism’s sameness may one day break me.

The same noise, the same worries, and the same behaviors.

All day long, I solve the same problems. For years I have done this. For years I have worked on regulation, crushing anxiety, repetition, and social cues.

Once the cake was done, I started to drive.

Art class and baseball practice and the library.

Across town and back again, the proverbial yo-yo in a red minivan.

Cook.

Fold.

Drive.

Nothing and everything.

Everything and nothing.

What did you do today?

I thought about each of my children.

You see, all day long, you dance across the horizon of my mind, like colorful, celestial butterflies.

Middle school drama.

Flu shots.

Travel basketball, social media, driver’s ed.

Autism.

College.

It snuck up on me.

Infants became toddlers. Toddlers turned into middle-schoolers. And before we knew it, adolescence was upon us like wildfire.

The whole time I was focused on simply getting through the day. Diapers, Cheerios, homework logs, baseball practice.

Acne, hormones, water bottles, Halloween costumes, ice cream sandwiches, music in the car.

The problem is, I didn’t look up long enough to see the years were racing past me.

I didn’t know any better. I thought my time with small children would last forever.

It didn’t.

I like to think I savored some moments.

The second just before the lights came on after you blew out the candles.

The time we laughed ourselves silly at the beach.

That night we hid around the corner and under the table and behind the counter after dinner and pelted each other with baby carrots.

And now, you live in a city hundreds of miles away.

I pass your empty room and I feel a pit in my stomach.

I see your car in the driveway and for an instant, I think you are home.

I glance into the dark night, watching for your headlights to sweep up the driveway

I wish I could have it all back again—the Cheerios in a high chair, carrots on the floor, a game in extra innings.

I want an extra inning.

Then I hear your voice, buoyant and hopeful, and my heart soars.

Hey Mom, what did you do today?

Today, I worried.

I worried about how I will take care of your brother when, in a few short years, he becomes a young adult.

Ideas danced across the horizon of my mind.

Colorful butterflies.

Long-term residential care.

Adult services.

Waiting lists.

Medicaid.

Get him on Medicaid, they say.

But why, I say.

We can pay, I say.

It is not for you, they say.

It is for him.

It is for him.

But what was the point of the work ethic, and the degrees, and the jobs and the dental school if we cannot provide for our own son?

Autism.

A slippery riddle without an answer.

What did you do today?

I hoped.

I hoped that one day, whoever you are—check-writer, deadline-chaser, colorful butterfly.

You will remember the warm sheets at night, the roasted chicken on white plates, and the moment your wish floated in the candle’s warm glow.

And when you wake up in the morning and pull your own sheets tight, you will smile to yourself, and remember it was good.

Photo courtesy of Carrie Cariello

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This post originally appeared at CarrieCariello.com, published with permission.


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Carrie Cariello
Carrie Cariello is the author of What Color Is Monday, How Autism Changed One Family for the Better, and Someone I’m With Has Autism. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their five children. She is a regular contributor to Autism Spectrum News and has been featured on WordPress, the Huffington Post, and Parents.com. She has a Masters in Public Administration from Rockefeller College and an MBA from Canisius College in New York. At best estimate, she and Joe have changed roughly 16,425 diapers. For more on Carrie, you can follow her at CarrieCariello.com, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.