How Far?

 Howfar

I’ve noticed lately that my favorite expression has become (next to God help me, of course) the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree. In order to avoid incriminating myself I won’t go into specific reasons why I’ve been referring to the adage, but completely unrelated to all of my gossiping I had an epiphany.  It’s actually a question (surprised?):  where exactly in the orchard would I expect to find my own fruit?

In J.R.’s short seven years I’ve made more excuses for him than I can count.  When the statute of limitations for age appropriateness ran out and I realized I couldn’t use “oh he’s (fill in the blank-ing) because he’s sleepy / hungry / has to poop” I had to get creative.  God forbid I actually say he has autism and call it a day.

I then graduated to “oh, I too was a super anxious child” to explain J.R.’s “quirkiness,” or “man oh man did J.R. get his daddy’s temper,” to mask his penchant for smacking his brother on the skull, knowing full well that these traits are NOT genetic in his case.  I think that children with autism have more in common with one another than they do their own parents.  I am going to get some hate mail for that last statement, aren’t I?

Going back to my original question (who is this alien and from which planet did he come?), I have been driving myself (and my husband) bat-shit over the issue of genetics.  Is J.R. too affected by autism to reveal that he is as hilarious as his mother, or as slovenly as his father? Will our own parents ever do a double take and think wow he’s acting just like Kristi or Timmy?  For that matter I don’t even think the kid looks like my husband or me.  Do I have autism to thank for that as well?

How far in to my son’s future must I peer before his inherent traits appear?  I promise I won’t even complain if he inherits the bad stuff (you know, like my obsession with gift wrap or Tim’s fashion sense). God send me a sign!

Wait, I may have gotten it.

Yesterday J.R. completed a major milestone.  He enjoyed (and I use that term loosely) his very first organized birthday party.

Sidebar:  just in case you are reading this and you do not have a child with autism (first of all, thank you) you probably have no clue the amount of FEAR the word BIRTHDAY aligned with the word PARTY puts into a mom like me.  The only thing more frightening than receiving a birthday invitation is the thought of sending one.  This will be another one of those instances where I won’t even attempt to explain.  Use your imagination (and again, thanks for reading).

Back to my story.  Thanks to my penchant for busting my butt making sure everyone else on the planet is happy while neglecting hearth and home, I didn’t lift a finger for the party.  Let me rephrase that- in order to keep from kicking myself for spending hours creating favors or decor my son wouldn’t as much as glance at, I thought I’d save myself from heartache (and near bankruptcy) for once.

Overall J.R. did well.  Naturally the whole singing the happy birthday part (minor detail, right?) was a bit touch and go, but I swear on my roller-skates that I was mentally prepared to sing without him if need be.  Happily, J.R. surprised us all and ate it up.  Speaking of, I’ve got a whole sheet cake here if you’re hungry. Few guests cared to eat up what he spit all over.  I seriously have never met a child with autism under the age of ten that can blow.  Should I add that to my theory of genetic code for autism? Right under HORRIFYINGLY (is that a word?) OBSESSED with trains?

By the time we arrived home I felt like someone had beat me with a baseball bat. Before I could run straight to bed (at 6 p.m.) my typical son screams “PRESENTSSSSSSS!!!!!!” The presents.  As he runs toward the pile larger than my dining room I begin to picture myself as Robby Benson in the movie Ice Castles. Remember the last scene when his girlfriend ice skates competitively for the first time since the accident that blinded her?  She does a beautiful job until she busts her ass skating over the congratulatory roses tossed onto the rink. As he comes to her rescue he looks down at her and says “the flowers; we forgot about the flowers.” Ok maybe it’s a stretch but that’s EXACTLY how I felt about J.R.’s gifts.  I didn’t see them coming, so I got tripped up.  Maybe it’s because, like Robby Benson, all I could focus on was the actual “performance.”  The gifts were a bonus I didn’t anticipate (yes I am that much of a birthday party throwing virgin). Now I actually feel embarrassed about the fuss of gifts.

Then it hit me.  I am more like my son than I realize. He abhors fuss and attention, and so do I.  And believe me, I can dish it out.  I just can’t take it. Just like J.R.!  Finally I have something to work with here!  Release the hounds!

While we’re on the topic, have you SEEN J.R.’s hair?  He must have 200 cowlicks.  As do I!  And that whole scary skinny look that Eddie Cibrian has convinced Leann Rimes is all the rage?  Both my husband and I sported that look most of our lives (oh add ghost white to complete that look, but don’t expect photo evidence of this phenomena).  J.R.? He is seven years old and appears to weigh 40 pounds soaking wet.  And he is super-pasty to boot.

Did I mention his love of frosting?  He so gets that from me!  I’m dreaming of spit-drenched buttercream as we speak.

And why, do you ask, have I suddenly let go of the idea that I had to have come home from the hospital with the wrong child?  Maybe it’s because as I begin to accept who I am as a person (at age 41, go figure), I am able to finally SEE my own child.

J.R. probably wont play professional baseball or grow up to obsess over fonts (pity on the latter!), but the more I allow him to just “be,” and stop standing over him chanting (internally, thank god) “wait for it… wait for it …. wait for it … it isn’t coming, is it?” the more I will enjoy watching him grow and develop into, well, a J.R.!

As much fun as I had writing this, I must go.  I hear J.R. wants birthday cake for breakfast and I must tend to him.  I couldn’t possibly figure out from WHOM he could have inherited that disgusting habit?  Hmmmmmm……………..?

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