Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to dress a porcupine

Ethan, age 5

This morning Guy actually woke me up to help get the kids ready for school. Usually, he gets them started and I come staggering out as the battle over who-gets-to-read-the-cereal-box commences ( I think I prefer the kiss good-morning to the screaming. Wait, think? Duh! Bring on the kisses). He woke me up because we had six, count ‘em, six kids to get ready. Our friend’s kids spent the night while she, a single mom, got to sneak off to the city for a well earned night at the theater. Let me remind you… we have one bathroom. I braced myself for a rough morning.

After getting everyone settled at the kitchen table I sat on the couch and folded laundry, waiting for the munching and slurping to end, and preparing myself for my real job as “The Hurrier”. I am the sideline coach that periodically barks out an update on how soon dad will be leaving ("the bus"). I am also exceptional at reminding kids to brush teeth, grab lunches and pack up homework. They no longer need me to dress them, but I am often employed on these mornings for finding socks and wayward hair brushes. It’s a pretty good gig.

I looked up to see Ethan cross the room, dressed from head to toe, shoes on, backpack in hand and hoodie up (it’s a sensory thing… while I don’t particularly like the grim-reaper look, it filters the sound for him and helps him to cope, so OK). He’s the first child ready to go, and with a half hour to spare. I smile.

Let me take you back to the year 2002. Ethan is in kindergarten. We are trying to get him ready for school. I say we, because it takes four hands – one pair to hold the child down, one to force the clothing on to him. He screams, kicks and flails. It takes several tries to get his pants on far enough to button, and once locked into them, his screaming takes on a whole new kind of agony. It is as though we are dressing him in red ants.

The shirt takes five minutes.

Ah, then we try for shoes. This, before the days of seamless socks and tagless t-shirts. He is dying. Any moment someone is going to call CPS. Finally bound up in his miserable, tagged, seam-ridden, stiff, itchy, and tight straight jacket (oh wait, no, it was just pants and a shirt), we try to get food into the child. I won’t even bother to describe the chore of finding this boy something he would eat. Suffice it to say that what worked great one day or one week, suddenly and inexplicably would NOT work the very next day. It’s all wrong to him. Wrong spoon, wrong bowl, wrong cereal, wrong angle of the chair, wrong angle of the sun through the window, wrong angle of the planet on its axis.

Guy has to go to work. I am abandoned, left to deal with this porcupine of a child…alone.

I wrestle him into a car seat (no coat. Are you kidding? A coat?! Please. We're not amatures here), force the straps on him while he slaps and screams, and then listen to him shrieking the whole 5 miles to school… a small charter school we chose to try to help him…it ain’t helping.

I unload him. He is furious because I don’t let him try to undo the buckle himself after many pinched fingers from previous attempts. He doesn’t want me to lift him out. He doesn’t want to use THIS door. He doesn’t want to have his backpack on.



I peck the top of his head. He slaps the peck off by smacking his head hard.

“Have a good day sweetie.” I say weakly.

Grunt. Stomp. The back of his head, bobbing away atop a stiff, angry little body.

I get in the car and cry halfway home.

Now, here, this morning I sit in my robe, smiling at the boy. His shoelaces are tucked in to the sides of his shoes in a way that makes the ends invisible, but I know that means they are touching the sides of his feet inside the shoe. I smile a little more.

“What?” he smiles back (A smile? Yes, ma’ams and sirs, a smile before 8 AM).

Doesn’t that bother you? The laces?” He shrugs. I grin again.

“What?!” he smiles harder.

“Oh, I was just thinking about when you were little.”

Time for prayer, then he leans over and gives me a kiss.

“Have a good day mom. Love you.” He slings his backpack onto his shoulder and bounces out the door.

I want to cry, but I don’t need to.


rebekahmott said...

What a great blog!!! What a great read. It gives me so much respect for you and for Eathan. I really liked this one.

Stephanie said...

Sweet Ethan!

They Call Me Momma said...

The absolute joy, remembrence, and empathy I felt reading this.... reminds me, of how very dear you are to me. I am so overjoyed to hear how Ethan is doing, that kid, always had a very special place in my heart. Can't wait to see you all again.