This evening, holding my son- who has been quiet and subdued all evening.
Me: What’s wrong, Ray?
Me: Anything you want to talk about?
silence- the silence gets to me. It’s not a loaded silence. Just a still.
Ray: What do you want to talk about?
Me: Any words in your head?
Me: Any feelings in your head?
Me: If you were a color, what color would you be?
Me: If you were a shape, what shape would you be?
Ray: A sphere
Me: If you were weather, what kind of weather would you be?
Ray: A cloud
Me: A stormy cloud, a gray cloud, or a big puffy cloud?
Ray: A rain cloud.
Me: What does the rain cloud want to do? Feel better? Get some sleep? Feel happy?
Ray: You know.
The problem is that I don’t know. I’m never quite sure what son I’m going to have on a day-to-day basis: Do we get the angry, resistant, black mood Ray; the quiet, not-really-there Ray; the run-around and talk a mile-a-minute Ray; the anxious and wring his hands Ray, the focused scholar and look-how-smart-I-am Ray? While all kids go through “moods”, his are intense. Even when he’s gray.
Jess, from Diary of a Mom, talks about fighting “dragons with rubber swords”. I feel like I’m fighting fog with pointed sticks. We have the “stick” of medication, which nibbles around the edges of issues– creating other issues in the wake. We have the pointed stick of therapy, in which he refuses to engage- or worse, pretends to be completely normal (a play therapist told us that it was our problem, not his when he was 4). We have safety and structure in our house, which leads to agoraphobia. We sortof have labels: Anxiety Disorder, mild Tourette’s, mild giftedness, not quite autism, not quite bipolar, not schizophrenia. In dark times, James and I have to remind each other- he has special needs. And just because there’s no good label doesn’t mean that the needs aren’t there.
I’m grateful for many things: I’m grateful that he has never tried to hurt himself or anyone or anything. I’m grateful that he has never talked about not wanting to be here. I’m grateful that he’s smart and funny and that he can do academics well enough that everyone around him is frustrated that he’s underachieving- but not failing. I’m grateful that he has a few good friends. I’m grateful that I have enough background to have consistency, behavior charts, and metaphors to help him.
But I’m terrified. I feel like I’m keeping him from falling off the edge through pure will- and he’s only 9. I’m terrified of adolescence. I’m terrified of his genetics. I’m terrified of losing my child to alcoholism, to suicide, to a place where he won’t let us help him. I’m terrified to speak possibilities aloud for fear of them coming true.
And I don’t know what to do about the monsters in the fog that never quite reveal themselves enough to fight. If you can’t see something well enough to fight, it can’t be vanquished. It just shifts and morphs.
Into the gray.
Ray, I have no idea what to do. But I’ll do anything to help you.