Six weeks after I had my first child I got a position in a daycare as a childminder. At the time it seemed like the perfect solution to my problem of not wanting to separate from my son. I still had the job downtown at the real estate firm waiting for me. I had toured the childcare centers in that area, had found one that was close enough for me to take my breaks, dash across the street and breastfeed my baby. But with every center we looked at I felt the same empty pit opening in my gut, the one that sucked all the air from my lungs and blood from my veins.
My mind kept repeating the same phrase as I looked around the rooms that looked too small for so many kids, the playgrounds that seemed under supervised, “How will they know what he needs? How can I grow my bond with my child if he depends on others to care for him?” the broken record jumped and scratched against my conscious. It led me to leave a $25k a year job (which was pretty snazzy for a 20 year old high school drop out) for $8k and free child care.
I worked at the daycare for three days before turning in my apron.
I just couldn’t do it any longer. Each time I looked in on my baby he was alone face down on the floor, or his bottle propped under the chin of the worker while she rocked one kid with her foot and spoon fed another applesauce, or alone again in a crib on the far side of the room away from anyone’s notice. Every day I left the daycare with my little boy wrapped up against my chest and cried.
And that’s when I stopped working full time and took on being a full time mom.
When school-time came and my little boy, now a brother twice over, was supposed to be picking out miniature back packs for three hours of “school” a day, I couldn’t do it. I have a very hard time thinking that anyone else knows more than I do about my child or could care for them more than I care. Since Alex started reading, spelling and writing at age four (that’s a WHOLE ‘nother spectrum post) I knew that pre-K wasn’t going to cut it for him.
That was when we started homeschooling. That was nearly six years ago.
Since then, we’ve welcomed two other children into our lives and no one has been sent to daycare or institutionalized schooling. I think they’re thriving. I know they’re smart. I have a pretty good idea they’re happy. But life doesn’t always go the way you want or need it to.
My ASD child is proof of that.
And now we come to the base of the mountain, the one that erupted in front of me the moment the doctor diagnosed Max. It’s gigantic, splotched with hues of blue and purple, it’s white cap hidden behind a thin veil of gauzy cloud. I can see it, see my toes touching it’s massive base. I can crane my head, my eyes moving up, up, up and never truly see the top. My hands have found some edges to hold, my toes some crannies to wedge into as I start my ascent over this mountain called Autism.
But one question that popped up just as instantly as that mountain did is “What about home schooling?” I have to wonder how this will all work. How can I home school four NT (neuro-typical) kids and meet the demands of Max’s therapy requirements? How can I choose which group, the NT or the ASD, is more important than the other? Because that’s what it feels like I have to do. I have to either sacrifice home schooling for therapy or the copious therapy for home schooling time. There just isn’t enough of me to do both and not enough hours in the day for it if there was. As a mother, how do I pick one child’s importance over another?
Do all ASD children go to school? Does every family with ASD kids send the NT ones to school? I’m having a hard time finding resources for home schooled ASD/NT blended families. Or even ASD home schooled ones.
I feel alone. Hurt. Torn in half. Faced with an impossible challenge even bigger than Mt. Autism. And at the end of each day I still haven’t figured it out. I sit listening to the broken record playing a new question, “What do I do?”.
And no one and nothing is answering.