I wonder what Mother’s Day is like in other families. The ones without kids on the autism spectrum.
Is it a quiet day? One where the house is so still that Mother gets to sleep until she wakes up naturally? Or a boisterous day? One where the house is filled with joyful exuberance as Mother is greeted by breakfast?
I wonder what it is like without the highs and lows.
I wonder what it is like without the screaming that sends younger siblings seeking sanctuary in their rooms.
I wonder what it is like without the sobbing and helplessness.
On Saturday night, the kids decided that they wanted to do something special for me. With my husband out of town, they convened a “kids-only meeting” and hatched their plan. Witnessing Ben’s excitement was enough to make me put aside any misgivings about the inevitable mess that would be left in the wake of their complicated efforts to create a festive atmosphere.
Charging the six-year-old with the task of tucking me in, including reciting the Sh’ma over me, the two older kids set about decorating the downstairs. Festooning every single available spot with streamers, balloons, or both. And when that was done, Ben, whose passion for technology includes making videos, set out to make a video montage. Buoyed by this undertaking, Ben did not go to sleep at his usual time.
For future reference: do NOT let Ben stay up three hours past his bedtime no matter what.
Just as I was dozing off to the gleeful sounds of cooperating children, a horrific sound shattered the rare peace. Ben was screaming at his nine-year-old sister in a terrifying voice.
“She won’t listen to me. She won’t listen to me. I didn’t know what else to do. She won’t listen to me,” he kept repeating.
Lilly and Jacob ran for cover while Ben collapsed in my arms.
Many moments later, with the younger kids in bed, I sat with Ben. He remained distraught even as he succumbed to exhaustion. “They’re terrified of me. They hate me. Why can’t I just be normal. Why do I have to have autism? Why did God make me this way?”
Alone, after silence filled the spaced once occupied by fear and anger, the tears came. Mine. They don’t come often. Not because they aren’t there, of course, but because I don’t let them. Tears and sadness aren’t allowed, lest they erode the strength I need to get through each day. But tonight, tears.
Tears not for me, but for Lilly and Jacob. Whose positive memories of growing up with Ben will, I fear, be trampled by the negative ones.
Tears not for me but for Ben. Whose behaviors and emotions are as perplexing to him as they are to us.
The next morning dawned early. Apologies were exchanged between siblings. Though my children made a beautiful Mother’s Day for me, complete with breakfast in the dining room and the surprise video by Ben, I can’t help but wonder.
Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr is a CLAL Rabbis Without Borders Fellow whose work appears regularly on the Rabbis Without Borders blog and Kveller.com as well as a variety of other online sites. Writing at This Messy Life (www.rebeccaeinsteinschorr.com), Rebecca finds meaning in the sacred and not-yet-sacred intersections of daily life. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccaschorr