Monday, April 23, 2012

To Have a Voice

Our day was to begin early, so we set the alarm clock for 4:30. We didn't need to bother. At 4:30 on the nose, Ainsley careened into our room wailing, wailing, wailing.

"What's the matter, sunshine," I asked, trying in vain to make her comfortable.

"My eye," she told me as she began wailing once more.

The afternoon before she had wakened from her nap with a gunky eye. I told Dave she might have pink eye. Sure enough. I headed to the bathroom to run some warm water and grab a washcloth. By the time I returned, Ainsley was clutching her left ear and telling me that was troubling her as well.

I reflected on how much appreciate the fact that my kids can communicate.

As a baby, Kolbe came down with one cold, cough, and sinus infection after another. A happy kid by nature (both then and now), he felt lousy on a regular basis. Right around the same time, I went through a spate of ear infections myself. Seems every bout of congestion put tremendous pressure on my ears. The pain was intense, I mean, intense. I took the maximum amount of pain reliever in the shortest intervals. I set the timer for the next dose.

I regretted every time I had held back giving one of my babies medicine. The combination of drugs and small babies unnerved me in my early days of motherhood. I remember two hideous car rides with Kolbe -- one through the North Carolina mountains and one through Virginia. He was congested and his ears probably hurt. He was too little to tell me what exactly hurt or how much it hurt.

While today I don't over-medicate, my experience with the burning pain of ear infections and the hammering of migraine headaches has taught me not to under-medicate either.

I remember the day I was awakened from a dead sleep by the sound of two-year-old Kolbe shouting, "My ear has a boo boo!"

Problem diagnosed -- clear and concise. I was glad my son could communicate.

One Sunday morning found us dissembling in the third pew on the right. I gathered the miscreants and headed for the anonymity of the cry room. Now, I have written about cry rooms before. They, too, were somehow overlooked in Dante's Inferno. Believe me, they offer some colorful and varied torture that at least seems eternal at the time.  You know what's the worst thing about the cry room? Being in there instantly summons the inner Church Lady in me. I no sooner cross the threshold when I begin picking apart every person in there.

This Sunday was no different.

The cry room was unusually quiet. I sat behind a mother who was holding a boy who appeared to be seven or eight. And immediately Church Lady began to wonder why a child that old couldn't handle Mass. And he was wrapped up in a blanket. And he was eating. And Church Lady really doesn't cotton to kids eating in church. And the boy was so quiet. Gosh, Church Lady wished she had a son who could be so quiet at Mass. And as Church Lady was forming all these thoughts -- which, bless her heart, really flew through her head in a matter of seconds -- Church Lady noticed that the mother was wearing one of those rubber bracelets that announce a cause. Church Lady craned her neck to read what it said. And Church Lady gulped.

Autism speaks. The bracelet said Autism Speaks.

The little boy wasn't just quiet; he could very well have been non-verbal. And the blanket? It was a weighted one. And the mother? She was bringing this boy to Mass -- alone -- knowing she would confront not just her child's sensitivities, but also a bunch of know-it-all Church Ladies.

Sometimes I long for peace and quiet around here. That Sunday morning I walked away from the cry room with a new appreciation of noise.

I am grateful my kids can communicate.

Speech is high on the list of things we work on around here. Sometimes I teeter on the edge of despair at the negativity that comes out of our mouths -- mine included, mine especially. The younger set is enamored with all words related to bodily functions, and then there's an unidentified member of the older set who struggles with the usual list of words adolescents seem prone to say.

Sometimes I struggle with volume. "I'm standing right next to you," I repeatedly tell one of my kids who seems to have one volume and that would be jarringly loud.

Sometimes it's the sheer number of words. One of my kids is going to be a rapper one day. The words pour fourth without pause.

But then I sit in church behind a woman whose son clearly struggles to have a voice, any voice.

Just after I tended to Ainsley's eye, I heard four-year-old John coughing in the next room. He came to me feverish and miserable. "I frowed up on Ainsley's bed," he told me in a pathetic tone.

Although I don't always appreciate the message, I am so very blessed that he has a voice.

1 comment:

christinelaennec said...

Yes indeed, I've also thought often recently how glad I am my daughter can communicate so well with me. I have enormous admiration for parents and carers of autistic children. It sounds as if that mother will be the voice of / for her son, in many ways.