24 January 2008

What I asked for

Kids at the Madison Schools don't go outside to play when the temperature hits -10. We found this out today as that was exactly the temperature. There is some wind chill as well but we'll forget about that. IT IS COLD.

Julia has become very, very cooperative (even when she is pretty grumpy like she has been the last two days and which I attribute to Cheshire's going back to school) about putting on the pile of clothes she needs to go outside each day. I am reminded of the layers of clothes that Chinese kids, especially the babies, wear in the cold. Maybe she is used to it in some way of remembering China. Sher reminds me to put on my hat and gloves, to buckle my seatbelt, and which way to go after I back out of the driveway. Still, one bossy kid!

I am slowly coming to terms, becoming more comfortable, accepting – something in that pile of words – to the idea of Julia with autism. There is a very selfish part of me that protests, this is not what I signed up for. I look at all of those pictures of pretty, smiling, seemingly very normal Chinese girls who have been adopted by hords of families all over the world. Why isn't my kid like that? Of course, I know that there are lives behind those pictures and doctors seen, behaviors dealt with and medical issues worked on. And my envy of normal kids diminishes.

And two things come up.

First, this is my kid and I am ready for what comes. I know she has talents. I know she is bright. I know she wants to please us and I know she wants to have friends. I am so much more than willing to do what she needs. Of course, I realize that our task is to help her socialize, to teach her about conversation, interaction, and friendship. There is a bit of the gods laughing in this one. David and I love our friends and have deep and abiding relationships, but we are not the most social folks at the cocktail party! We both have suffered from shyness and can be utterly quiet in a crowd. AND WE ARE THE ONES TO TEACH HER??

Second, that had Julia been left in China, she could have wound up living in some institution for the rest of her life. And what of her talents, her way of looking at pictures and sculpture that is different from her non-graphic artist parents, her laughter, her joyful love of her family. As we were driving Cheshire to the Milwaukee airport, Julia said to each of us in tern, “Cheshire, I like you,” “Mommy, I like you,” and “Daddy, I like you.” She really means it.

I am close to joyfully shouldering the task that is my Julia. I did not know that this was what I was getting into, but I am pretty sure that this was what I was asking for.

1 comment:

Robin said...

I'm delurking after years of lurking (since before you went to China) to add my voice to the chorus of you are not alone in this. My 4 year old daughter isn't autistic but shares many of the same characteristics with the autism spectrum. Enough that they don't know exactly how to classify her. When I was having a bit of an emotional crisis last week during an adults-only meeting with her psychologist as we try to figure out what to do about kindergarten next year, she reminded me how very far children with PDD and autism type issues can go today, many even reaching university, and that one of the most important factors is having parents who encourage them and provide them with the tools to be the very best they can be, whatever that is. Julia's present, and her future, may not be what you dreamed before she came home, but there is every reason to believe that it can be very bright indeed.

Good eye contact, empathy, and a willingness to learn are all very good signs. With such loving, caring, involved parents as you I have no doubt that Julia will thrive.