I’m going to write about putting my children to bed last night. But first, let me recount my last visit to the dentist.
After our grandfatherly and super chatty dentist inspected my teeth with bright lights and sharp instruments, he asked if I had any questions for him. You bet I did. I asked him if he felt comfortable seeing a four-year-old patient with terrific amounts of anxiety about lots of things, and especially dentistry. As we chatted about how we could create a (sort of) successful dental visit for said child, the dentist began quizzing me with random questions about Charlie.
“Why does he have anxiety?” (Because he was born that way, duh. I have no idea why. But he has it and we’re handling it).
“What types of situations set him off?” (New things, scary things, dental things).
“Does he line up toys?”
This question stopped me cold. My response was to ask Dr. G if he was implying that Charlie is on the spectrum, because he does indeed line things up with predictable frequency, which means he may well be on the spectrum, which is something we are aware is a possibility but about which we are not certain. Nor do we care to find out at this particular moment in time. We are working on anxiety right now, which is the primary issue. One thing at a time, dentist man. And we don’t want to pay two grand out of pocket for the ADOS test, which insurance companies won’t cover, thank you very much.
I vaguely remember the dental hygenist taking a small, awkward step away from me at this point.
After my head stopped spinning around in circles, the dentist said, “I’m pretty stupid and I don’t know what you are talking about when you say ‘the spectrum’. I honestly don’t know what that means. I just asked because lining up toys is normal. It’s something kids do.”
Yep. That just happened.
This strange conversation got me thinking about the fact that I am a) over-informed about all things autism, b) sensitive to “parenting insights” from the likes of Dr. G, c) confident in my ability to raise a special child since I’ve both been there and done that, and d) not interested in anybody weighing in on my third son’s quirks unless I overtly demand their opinion (child psychologists, the pediatrician, his preschool teacher, and other special-needs parents fit this category).
Back to last night’s bedtime experience: instead of going to sleep, Charlie repeatedly got out of bed and created a hallway-sized tableau of carefully lined up blankets, colored beanbags, and Star Wars Clone Wars character cards. It was an impressive and complex grid system. Was it a normal thing that kids do? According to the dentist, perhaps.
My gut tells me that it is not. But neither does it compel me to freak out, hard core.
It did compel me to crack open a pomegranate soda and dive back into my Jane Austen-inspired book club novel, which contained this perfect little quote:
“She believed now in earnest that fantasy is not practice for what is real—fantasy is the opiate of women.”
I’m pretty sure that I don’t have a clue what “normal” is, anyway. And now that the orderly hallway mural has been disassembled and returned to the closet, this woman was happy to sip her drink and partake of her opium-laced ebook.