June 6th, 2011

Searching for Neverland

Becca Sanders

Our week starts off like a car leaving the starting line: gathering speed as it accelerates through Monday, gunning the engine through Tuesday to reach the peak on Wednesday, down-shifting then coasting from midweek on and finally sputtering to a stop on Friday. Glorious Friday! My day to be home with my daughter F.

Another analogy: Friday is like a jewel, wrapped in cotton and stashed safely away, to be taken out and enjoyed when I have “earned” it through the hard work of the daily grind. Can you tell I like Fridays? Or used to like Fridays, until a certain little girl stabbed her mother through the heart.

“Mama,” she said on a recent Friday, when I asked her what she wanted to do with our day (color? build block towers? dress in matching Laura Ashley dresses and walk hand-in-hand through fields of wildflowers?). “I want to go to K.’s house.

K. is her daycare provider.

K. is fabulous. She’s been doing daycare for 45+ years and you’d never peg her for being older than, say, 58. (She’s 70.) Her back yard, two doors down from ours, has a huge sandbox, a swing set, a sliding hill for winter months, and a fire pit where the kids roast marshmallows. In the summer, there’s a pond with real koi. If you like your fish in a less animated state, K.’s fisherman husband often has a bucket of fish heads – which F. finds fascinating – on the back step.

Hey, our house is fabulous, too. We’ve got a sandbox and a swing set, we’ve got toys and treats and fish heads! (Okay, not the fish heads.) But K. has one thing at her house that we don’t have:

Lots of kids.

Through the open window I can hear them shriek with laughter and see them dart in and out of  the bushes. For F., it’s a siren call. Right over there is her friend, R., a little girl who has introduced her to the joys of Polly Pockets. Last weekend these two spent most of Saturday running back and forth between our houses (R. lives next door, between our house and K.’s), playing pirate and digging in the mud and just doing kid stuff. That day I felt grateful to have such a great friend for F., only a year older – and right next door!

Today, our day, our Laura Ashley day, when I realize that she would rather be with R. than with me, I feel a little stab of pain. But it’s brief. Soon we are walking over to K.’s to see if F. can hang out for awhile, maybe have lunch…? I walk back alone and give myself a little pep talk.

It’s normal for her to want to be with other kids. This is a good thing. A good thing.

I think about our autistic son H. who has no friends outside of school, who has never had a play date or a sleepover, who has neither the drive nor the capability for independence, who is – in so many ways – a Peter Pan of a boy who will never grow up, who will always be with his mama.

And who will be getting off the bus soon. I’ll get him a snack and a drink, then we’ll cuddle up and watch a DVD. He will ask for “kick-es” and laugh and squirm as I kiss him noisily on his cheek and neck. Show me another 8-year old boy who still lets his mother love on him that way!

Ah, but it’s bittersweet. Bittersweet.

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This Weeks Tip

Leave the beach at the beach

Kids covered from head to toe in sticky sand? Reach in your diaper bag for the Baby Powder, give them a good shake-down (with the powder, that is) and “Poof!” they’ll be clean as a whistle (and smelling powder fresh to boot!)