Have you seen the Netflix series Atypical? My husband and I watched the first three episodes last night and we are both in love. We are both in admiration and appreciation anyway; I’m probably alone in declaring love at first sight. The series chronicles a family whose teenage son has autism, whose teenage daughter is both begrudgingly and lovingly, fiercely protective of him, and the relationship of the parents as they ride the whitewater rapids of life with a child whose disability makes parenting and marriage more challenging than it might otherwise be.
Elsa, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, becomes especially troubled as her son decides he wants a girlfriend. She defines herself as “Sam’s mom,” his strongest, most intense advocate, and finds as her son is maturing, his need for her control over every variable in his life is diminishing. She is a control freak who thinks she has done all of the right things to help her son find his way in his world. Maybe she has, probably she has, but he’s reaching out in new directions, toward more sophisticated horizons. She is struggling, unsure of her very identity absent her starring role in her son’s life.
I love the character Sam, the eighteen-year-old protagonist, I adore his father, and his big sister, Casey, is simply freaking amazing! As we were watching last night, I asked my husband if he recognized shades of me in the character of Elsa (*spoiler alert* minus her dalliance with the hot, waaaaay too young bartender because obviously I’m not combing the bars seeking that type of attention). To his everlasting credit, my husband responded instantly sporting an expression of utter confusion: um, no, you’re not at all like her.
When I began blogging, my son’s diagnosis of muscular dystrophy was all I could think about. All. I. Could. Think. About. MD became my full time job; my coronation as Empress of My Son’s Diagnosis was immediate. I GET Elsa. I get who and why and how. (Though I don’t get the hot bartender fling, but I’m only a few episodes in, so I hope she does right. Five more episodes will tell that tale.)
I get how easy to define oneself, myself, as that mom could be.
But I hope I haven’t. I would hate to wake one morning to discover I occupy but one dimension. Being an attentive mom is my full-time job, but I also want my children to see the many facets of my personhood, to grasp that their mom is the sum of her parts. I’m a mom all day, every day, sure. It’s the biggest gig I’ll ever get. But it’s not my only duty. I’m a goofball wife and loyal friend. Nine months out of the year I am a baseball mom. I’m responsible for the success of many speech-language pathologists. I’ve got this knucklehead dog I am crazy about. I like to cook, I’m a big fan of this one band I travel all over to see, I’m an avid reader. But yeah. I am the voice of muscular dystrophy in our household. I sincerely hope that my children see me as more than that mom. You’ll tell me if I begin to slink down that rabbit hole, won’t you?
Watch Atypical. Not because I’m telling you to, but because it’s excellent, and it provides a world view with which most of you are unfamiliar. The world is filled with perspectives; this provides a good one.
Happy New Year
In other news, it’s almost 2018. I’m squishy sentimental over all these year-end retrospectives and the promise of the baby new year. Receipt of a billing statement last week reminded me that I begin many a tale here, but lack follow through. So, though I make no resolutions at the dawn of any new year, I resolve to resolve a few items here. Clean slate and all just in time for the new year.
Number One Son met the entrance criteria and was accepted at his top high school choice. He’s a Husky! Just this past Monday, after months of groundwork, seemingly endless waiting, and the anxiety of delayed notifications, he received his acceptance letter into Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School. I’ve not seen my son so proud of himself in well, ever. He did the entrance work, but the real work lies ahead. He’s going to work harder than he has ever known academically, and says he is up to the challenge. Proud mom.
I was royally unsuccessful in my bid to persuade Great Benefit Insurance Company to cover my son’s brain spectroscopy last summer. Despite consultation between our neurology clinic, the hospital’s billing department, and my insurance company, we ended up stuck with the entirety of the not insignificant balance. I still feel a little pukey when I think about it, but the money is gone. I’m over it.
One broken collarbone, one Little League shoulder, and one rotator cuff injury later, 67% of our injured family is healing as expected. I have come to grips with the fact that I will never be made whole again. A Cortisone injection followed by months of physical therapy was tremendously helpful, but not a 100% repair for my shoulder.
I head into the new year not with resolutions, but with resolve to remain in good health. It would be extremely easy to give in, trace an easier path, and waste away in front of a television, inert. But I am better than that, and I encourage you to be better than that too. Do something fun. Do something a little dangerous. Do something just a little bit outside your comfort zone. Do something to show the ones you love you’re more than the one thing you’re best known for. Defy what defines you. Be a little atypical.