Friday, February 15, 2013


Valentine's Day.

I sit with Ethan, grabbing the opportunity when he seems motivated to stay at the table, to sign his name to valentines for his classmates.

I look at his name. I remember last year, how I had him trace. This time around, his writing hasn't improved all that much. His scratchings are still faint -- he has a lot of trouble bearing down with the pencil and writing. But he can write his name independently, with a little guidance. More importantly, he doesn't mind sitting down and writing. He thinks it's kind of a game, trying to get through all his classmates' names.

In the car, he asks anxiously, "Do we have my cards?" I assure him the valentines are in his backpack.

At school, a friend approaches him. "I have a surprise for you in my backpack!" he says.

"Well, I have a surprise for YOU in MY backpack," Ethan responds. They rush into the classroom, ready to party.

Beach erosion, I keep thinking. It's the analogy his developmental pediatrician mentioned last year, the way Ethan grows and develops. Maybe all kids are like this in some ways. All kids at times have explosions in their development. Other progress occurs much more the waves lapping away at the shore, month after month, year after year; changes measured in inches...millimeters. You have to understand: it's not about ebbing the autism out of him, wearing it all away. It's about seeing the new ways in which he links in to the world around us, the ways he is able to understand and connect.

Two years ago he was oblivious. A year ago I forced him to fill out valentines and then gave up. This year, he understands a little bit more about this holiday that is really, not much more than cliché and convention. And while there is no way of knowing when he may get the deeper nuances of love and affection, of dating and sweethearts and romance, today I can rest knowing: my boy wished me Happy Valentine's Day.


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