I don't normally preface my responses to prompts from The Red Dress Club - I like to let people read whatever I wrote without my input, and then explain the response at the end. In this case, I felt like I needed to give a little heads-up. The prompt was to write about what we want, or what a character wants. Typically I use the Red Writing Hood prompts to give my fiction muscles a workout, but this time I was pulled back to the memoir. A recent event tied up in all the hope, anxiety, love, and fear I feel as my son becomes an adult at light speed.
Tissue alert - don't say you weren't warned! Lay on, fearless readers!
“What do you want for Michael next school year?”
I stared at the guidance counselor and her manic chipmunk smile.
What do I want for my son?
When he was born I wanted him to breathe.
For months after he was born I wanted the scale to tell me he was gaining weight instead of always losing.
When he was a year old I wanted him to walk and talk.
When he was two I wanted to understand what he said to me. I wanted him to say, “I’m hungry,” instead of, “yoongee.” I wanted a few months without an ear infection – without a 3am visit to the ER and another round of antibiotics and yogurt.
When he was three I wanted the speech therapy to work for him like it did for his brother.
When he was four I wanted him to be potty trained.
When he was five I wanted him to be ready to start kindergarten…and potty trained.
When he was six, I wanted our second time through kindergarten to be the charm.
When he was seven I wanted him to make some friends.
When he was eight I wanted him to have a teacher that understood him – instead of one who fed him sugar donuts for a morning snack and then complained that he was hyper.
When he was nine I wanted him to stay in third grade forever. The only year that went well…the only year he had a teacher who actually thought he was amazing.
When he was ten, I wanted someone to tell me what was wrong with my beautiful boy. I wanted someone to be brave enough to be the bearer of bad news instead of the cowardly liar mouthing false hope.
When he was eleven I wanted him to punch the kids that tortured him on a daily basis, instead of just believing that sooner or later they’d like him if he was nice enough to them.
When he was twelve I wanted him to stop coming home with that expression of hurt confusion on his face after another day of teasing.
When he was thirteen I wanted to make the autism go away so he wouldn’t struggle so hard to understand the simplest social interaction with other kids.
When he was fourteen I wanted to take away his anxiety so he’d stop picking at his skin until his arms and hands were covered in open sores.
When he was fifteen I wanted to see him smile like he did when he was four – back when hope and joy still lived in his world.
Now he’s sixteen. I’m sitting in another meeting with people who assure me they know how smart my son is…and yet they talk to him like he’s six.
What do I want for Michael?
“Let’s talk about improving his social skills and working on self-sufficiency.”
The chipmunk turns to Michael. “Does that sound good to you?” she asks, using a voice a second-grader would find condescending, and I watch him frown and mumble an agreement. He’s tuning her out.
What do I want?
I want a damn crystal ball that tells me whether or not this beautiful, brilliant young man will be able to make it on his own in a few years. I want the fucking magic wand that I can wave and make everything right for him, the one that guarantees success and happiness.
What do I want?
The genie didn’t give me three wishes. I got the only wish I was going to get – I wanted him to breathe.
Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing this moment of my life with me. As always, comments and concrit are very welcome!