All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women
They have their exits and
For all the therapists who have come in and out of our lives since my son’s autism diagnosis at 20 months, it’s our home that’s the stage and the play is pretty short.
Seven from the birth-to-three days.
This included the Saturday-morning-at-9 a.m. professional newbie (we’ll call her B for short) who got screamed at weekly—hey, the kid knew Saturdays are NOT for learning! She never did get to hear him utter a word during her three months with us. But oh, how she persisted, with a patient smile every time.
Then there was the veteran speech pathologist, D, whose pet name for my love— “little turkey”—made him laugh wildly and made me forget for a minute about future outcomes. She left the agency abruptly and got replaced by a speech path who, one month later, got to transition a child she didn’t really know to the big bad unknown of public school (on the upside, that SLP did insist a wink to an administrator acquaintance at our meeting won us an extra half-hour session of speech services a week).
Our beloved G, meanwhile, spent 6 hours a week with my best man, easing him into his first “school,” a weekly three-hour, without-mom (!) session at the agency’s office where Brown Bear, Brown Bear was kept within reach at ALL times because its words and pictures immediately eased the tears that kept flowing from the toddler who wasn’t SUPPOSED to be entering school for another two years.
And when those two years had passed and we started home ABA therapy, we met L, who spent eight hours a week in our living room dealing with homework focus woes, on the front porch creating bubbles with huge homemade bubble wands, on the hammock and swings in the yard, and even poolside during facilitated play dates. Eight hours times about 50 weeks equals about 400 hours with the endearing boy and, at various times, mom, dad, and both grandpas and grandmas.
L left due to scheduling conflicts and was followed in somewhat quick succession by N, S, J, and now M.
Yep, it’s just an alphabet soup of therapists—and school teachers, too—marching in and out of our lives and making huge imprints on our hearts.
And therein lies the problem. This mom has a really hard time saying goodbye.
But must we make that clean break?
With L, the answer was a definitive yes.
As she was leaving, Grandma (who had grown attached despite initial doubts about the need for any therapy for precious, perfect grandson) said, “When will we see you again? Will you visit?”
L: “You really won’t. That wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Me: “Can I have your address to send you a Christmas card?”
L: “That wouldn’t really be appropriate. You can mail one to the office.”
(Perhaps she feared I would show up at HER door for eight hours a week for a year just because I have the address?)
As it turns out, we did encounter L four years later, when Much Improved, Ultra-Talkative, Smart, Awesome, Amazing Boy with Autism joined a social group she was running for boys on the spectrum. A group my son got kicked out of two weeks in for not having good enough whole-body-listening skills.
Ok, L. I’m good with never seeing you again. Exit, stage left, out the door, down the street, and maybe across the ocean, please.
But with most of the therapists who exit our lives, I love the idea of sharing Facebook updates so they can see how far my little man has come and how much far he is sure to go. Luckily, many of these professionals are open to staying in touch and they continue to cheer us on. Two of them were even there for me via Messenger after the social group debacle, reminding me that my kid is MORE than good enough and that success in life does not depend on remaining part of a formal social group. Especially when you’re talking about a kid who is like a friend magnet already.
Being open to Facebook connecting, however, can also involve putting up boundaries with me. As I was getting some thoughts on our current programming from one former therapist—who left us when she had her first baby and had even come back to visit, twice, so we could meet her new precious bundle—she was pretty much literally IN LABOR with her second. I hadn’t even known she was expecting again, and in our back-and-forth she didn’t really see the need to mention it to a former client.
I try to be conscious about contacting former therapists and teachers very sparingly about today’s issues. While they always seem to want to help and I know they still care about my son and our family, it just feels cheap to be soliciting free advice. Even when it’s not being requested during active contractions.
The surprise baby situation got me thinking about how important it is for me as a parent to expect and respect that kind of boundary. That doesn’t mean avoiding any conversation about the personal life of these “friends.” In fact, I think at least occasional attempts at that are important to my goal of being “someone” to them as they have been someone to me and my family.
But if they don’t reply to a question or if someday they unfriend me because it seems our time for crossing paths is up, I am learning not to take it personally.
Maybe someday we’ll exchange an email if there is reason to reconnect. Or I can just remember the time we spent together as I look in wonder at my not-so-little-anymore guy who has made tons of progress, in large part due to those past team members who taught us all so much. Who really cared. And who probably think of us now and then as well, missing my son’s ultra-silly, super-smiley temperament (best client EVER, right? right?!).
Yes, our world may be like a stage, with a series of one-act plays featuring lots and lots of characters. But we share a connection with them all. On some level or another, we’ll always share it.