Grounded Gentry: In the Right and Honorable Name of Love
I’m way into country walks and my favorite rock star is John Rutter and I wish with all my heart gloves would come back in style, at least for Sundays. I’m down with Darjeeling, and I refer to England as the Motherland. But these things are not what makes me an aristocrat.
I’m worthy of the family’s coat-of-arms when I’m scrubbing poop out of the rug and reassuring my autistic daughter—who’s having an uh-oh moment, chanting mournfully “dirty and yucky”—that it’s okay, poop happens. Now, let’s hose you off in the tub, dear. That’s it, let me get between your toes.
I’m sure I was born for upstairs, but we’re terribly shorthanded downstairs. So I do both.
Still, I’m of a special class. I don’t see why folks don’t curtsy when I waltz into the coffee shop with my fair charge—they don’t know any better, I suppose. I order m’lady a lemonade, but she finds it not quite to her taste, thank you, and spits a mouthful onto the floor. Sorry, sorry, sorry! she cries, and I see the tears welling up. Too sour, Miss? I smile as I fashion a mop from a wad of brown, industrial-thin napkins. And then we’re giggling.
Those of with us with extraordinary kids, you know the ones—they rock back and forth and jump up and down and flap their hands—we are parents who do noble deeds, scouring and wiping, coaxing and cajoling. Armed with affection, we call on out-of-this world courage and trudge into battle. Some of us wear war wounds, bite marks on our arms or scratches on our face. Take heart! We are knighted for our deeds, given a title and a vast piece of land, lush and green: compassion we will pass down through generations.
We’re not preoccupied with forging perfection. We don’t view our offspring as our second chance, an opportunity for more feathers in our caps–I didn’t but you should. You WILL. We’re glad for a modicum of peace. And the times when our child makes us laugh, those are our crowned jewels.
The peasants, they have the typical kids, the ones they feel compelled to chauffer all over creation to Suzuki lessons and softball leagues. Poor knaves! C’mon Mom, can’t I play lacrosse instead? Driver, back to Dick’s! Someday those budding professional athletes and virtuosos, they’ll lie, perhaps sneak out after curfew, ditch school, even after all that parental plowing and sewing. Ah, but cheers to these mums and dads, a cup of the best mead!
The claret, rather, that’s all ours.
The blue-blooded crowd, we are crowned with a calling, though we curse it some days. Maybe we curse it, just a little, every twenty minutes. Sometimes we catch ourselves crying in the shower, or when we’re running the vacuum, so no one will hear. But we mostly keep calm and carry on, acting as if—as if we aren’t angry or disappointed or grief-stricken or bitter. As if works for us from the outside in, and our minds are changed, at least in the moment.
In the moment is what counts—we know this deeply, in our very bones. We learned it the hard way, regardless of personality type. Our plans, though splendid, have been laughed at often enough. They’ve split the good Lord’s sides.
So we stop scheming. What are you going to do when she graduates high school, when she turns 21? I. Don’t. Have. An Inkling. Now, off with your head!
We live for today, the space between dawn and bedtime. And so our hearts soar at the way a child’s hair forms ringlets around her face, or that offbeat sense of humor, or, praise be, when we’re hugged for the first time, or kissed, or looked at eye to eye. Oh, for a season we’ll huff about like commoners, with blinders on, but then, come spring, those white dots on the hill that were merely part of the scenery bring us lambs, dozens of them. Lambs everywhere, even sets of twins! We can’t remember when we’ve seen such frolicking, such freshness from God.
We’d be an insufferably arrogant lot, but the poop and the spilled drinks keep us humble. We are wartime royalty, of the people but not quite with them. (The people are busy queuing up at the sporting goods store.) At the end of the day, if we’re clever, we pat ourselves on the back, knowing we’ve hung in there for 24 more hours, stayed subdued one second and ridiculously upbeat the next, all in the right and honorable name of love.
This article was featured in Issue 45 – Protecting Your Child with Autism