cutting the apron strings

This blog has been focused, mainly, on Evelyn.  But there is also Maxine.  Who is the other half of my world.

A friend that we just met in person for the first time said, “Maxine is sunshine.”

And that’s just it.  She is sunshine.

I’ve, more or less, spent 24 hours a day with Maxine since her arrival.  We play together.  We eat together.  We sleep together.  We’re pretty much always together.

I’ve all but designed the world in which she has lived to date.  I’ve felt good about the things that I’ve let into that world and the things that I’ve kept out.

She believes that she has choices and that her, “no” will always be respected.

She is unfazed by the fact that some people speak and some people don’t.  Some people walk and some people don’t.

She knows nothing of violence, monsters, bad guys, and evil.  Well–there was the 5 minute trial of watching “Ratatouille.”

She doesn’t know what, “fat”, “skinny”, “stupid” and “hate” mean.  Because she hasn’t heard these words.

She doesn’t have any concept of competitiveness.

I’ve poured every ounce of love and affection possible into this child.

She has bloomed and grown in the shelter of my love.

Tomorrow she starts preschool.

And I wonder.

Am I releasing my delicate flower into the elements without having given her the tools she needs to protect herself?

Yes, I realize that I am releasing her into preschool.  Two mornings a week.  A parent coop–chosen for its philosophies which are almost identical to my own.  How exposed will she really be?  I might be dramatizing just a titch.

But I worry.

You see, she understands about many things.  She discusses the food chain dispassionately.  She knows how her body works.  She knows how to keep her body safe and healthy.

But did I keep too much out of her education thus far?

There’s this total big world out there.  One that she has no idea exists.  I’m sure some of it will trickle down, even, into preschool.  I can’t help but to question my judgment in keeping it from her.  To question my personal motives for doing so.

Kind of like procrastinating doing something unpleasant.  Did I put the inevitable off for her benefit?  Or mine?

I can only hope that the sense of security which I’ve been trying to love into her will be enough to preserve her as reality starts to come into focus for her.

That the foundation of trust that we’ve built, brick by brick, doesn’t crumble under the outside pressures that are waiting for her.

That her very gentle beginnings will keep her strong.

I also really hope that she doesn’t say, “fuck” or any variation thereof at school tomorrow.

STILL nursing–world breastfeeding week

I wanted to do a post for world breastfeeding week…but, as usual, I’m late.

Someone recently said to me, “Is Maxine still nursing?”

Emphasis on “still.”  In case you didn’t get that from the italics.

Maxine is almost four.  And, yes, she STILL nurses.

Some people call it, “extended nursing.”

“Extended beyond what?”  I always want to say but only sometimes do.

Extended beyond what is socially acceptable is what they mean.  Extended beyond what they think is normal and appropriate.  Extended beyond the year that most people seem to think is the magical cutoff for breastfeeding benefits.

Mostly, I just don’t give a shit about what people think about my nursing relationship with Maxine.  It comes naturally to us.  It feels right.  And it is really not anyone’s business but ours.

The question I get most often is, “How long will you breastfeed her?”

My answer is always the same.  Until she decides she is ready to stop.

She isn’t ready and mostly I don’t give it any thought.

And no, I’m not worried that Maxine will breastfeed until she goes away to college.

Maxine has been weaning for years.

Gently.  And slowly.  Like she does everything.

Weaning is not an event for us.  Like poof, we are done!

It is a process.  A long process that ebbs and flows with the natural rhythms of her development.

There have been days where she has not nursed.  And there have been days where she nurses many times over.  Days where she is not feeling well.  Days where she is feeling insecure.  Days where she is feeling like cuddling.  But usually two or three times a day.

This might not be normal in terms of American culture.  But it is a normal and natural mother/child relationship.

So Maxine will continue to wean at her own pace.  I won’t put pressure on her to stop–even if people put pressure on me to stop.

She may be fully weaned tomorrow.  She may continue to wean for years to come.

This is our sacred relationship.  Ours and ours alone.

Our ending will not be be an abrupt event but a languid fading…into a tender whisper…of not anymore.




See Evie

I’ve wanted to write this post for a while.  But I’ve held back because it felt disloyal to my father, who passed away in December.  But I recently read Ibby’s post  and I decided it needed to be written.  I wish I’d read what Ibby wrote years ago.

My father loved both of my children deeply.  But he didn’t get it when it came to Evie.

I was told by a friend of his, days after he died, “Your father was devastated about Evelyn.”

And I know it is true.  He was.

And that hurt me.  Every single day.

He would call me, daily, at lunch and always ask, “Is Evelyn making any progress with speech?”  Or potty training.  Or whatever.

And it got to the point that my heart would sink when the phone rang at lunch time.  And continued to sink months after he died because for a minute I would forget that it could not possibly be him calling.

It didn’t hurt because I was upset that Evelyn was not walking/talking/ whatever.  It bothered me because it was like he didn’t even see Evelyn.  He saw a deficit of skills where he should have seen a funny, happy, sweet child.

I would try to, gently, explain to him that Evie is happy and that should be the only thing he worried about.  Because his question did stem from genuine love and concern for her well-being.  But it never sunk in.

And when he visited there were moments where he saw Evelyn.  He would be playing with her and laughing.  And enjoying her.  But those moments were fleeting.

Why is it that we seem to measure the value of a child by the skill she has acquired?  It seems specific to disabled children–having one disabled child and one typically developing child.  People don’t constantly ask me about skills Maxine has gained.  But Evie.  Most people aren’t content to hear about something funny she did.  Or that she loves swimming.  Or that she is the most affectionate kid in the world.

They want to hear about milestones.  Which ones she met.  Which ones she is close to meeting.  How long it will take to meet them.  They want to ask me if I saw this or that on 60 minutes.  Or if I read this article on development.  Or about a milestone some other Autistic kid just met.  Have I tried XYZ?

I can’t believe I need to write this.  But Evie is a person.  She is not a deficit.  She does not have deficits.  We aren’t obsessed with the skills she has or has not acquired.  You shouldn’t be either.

See her.  See my daughter.  She is happy.  See Evie.

see evie