The Anti-Romantic Child by Priscilla Gilman

I began this book, as a mother of a child with Asperger’s syndrome, not quite sure what to expect. However, I quickly fell in love with how Priscilla Gilman related so much of her experiences to her most beloved poetry. As a reader, you can literally feel the perception shift in Gilman as she comes to terms with the special needs of her son by the way her interpretations of poetry shift. I could relate so well to Gilman’s experiences with her son. I was shocked, though, when I came across the page where Gilman describes hyperlexia because she was describing my son perfectly. It was because she chose to share her story that I was finally able to identify a mysterious piece of my son’s early development and could provide information on hyperlexia to his therapists and doctors. Through sharing her experiences, Gilman provided me with a new understanding of my son and new ways to relate to him. She opens up the discussion on how we come to terms with having children that do not “fit” others’ and even possibly our own definition of “normal.” Gilman shows the power of love to not necessarily overcome adversity, but to accept it as it is, embrace it, and even welcome it. She shows us that through the shedding of who we thought we were supposed to be, who we thought our children were supposed to be, a new way of thinking, a new way of life, a new self emerges. What was once considered anti-romantic becomes most romantic and beautiful through the acceptance of what is and a fierce determination to no longer allow others to define who we are or who we should be. Gilman not only becomes an advocate for her son but also for herself. She grows alongside Benj and finds strength and courage through his experiences and uses them to ultimately find her true self.

I believe everyone should read and will learn so much from The Anti-Romantic Child. We are at a point where excavating our authentic self is more important than ever, and it may just be that the children we’ve labeled as “special” are indeed so, as they are emerging as our greatest and most powerful teachers yet.

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Authenticity

I have been on hiatus for over a month now trying to prioritize the important things in my life and also to figure out just what direction I want to take this blog. I have struggled with making a decision because I am a lover of everything and it is difficult to narrow down what I am passionate about. This has led to the creation of numerous blogs that have gone untouched and has kept me from posting something that is really important to me because I felt it was not in line with this blog’s purpose. But, life is writing and writing is life and from now on this blog will be about both.

For those of you who don’t know, I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Over the past two years these undiagnosed conditions have wreaked havoc on my health, my energy, my spirit, and my dreams for the future. In fact, it has caused my entire life to come to a screeching halt. Along with this illness I am caring for my four year old whom doctors believe is autistic with Asperger’s and can become violent at any second for any reason or no reason at all. I use the word “think” because I have been unable to have him officially diagnosed and have been waiting for specialists to see him for nearly two years now. The waiting lists are so long and are soul crushing for any parent who desperately wants to seek and receive help for their child. As if that wasn’t enough, I also have a soon-to-be-eighteen-year-old son who will begin college in the fall. AND as if THAT is not enough, I lost my job in mid-December because of budget cuts.

What has all this done for me? It has made me stop and reevaluate my life and where I want to go. It has made me realize that I need to be more authentic in all my interactions. I am was a firm believer in perfectionism and never asking anyone for help. I wanted everyone to perceive me as the person who knew how to do everything. But this mask of perfectionism I am hiding behind is not serving me very well. So, I plan to be more authentic in my writing on this blog, to share with you my fears, my worries, and my truth.

The biggest truth that I can share with you right now is that I am terrified of writing. I do not know the first thing about writing and yet the idea of learning everything there is to know in order to become a great writer is overwhelming and stops me in my tracks. I have so many interests (law, politics, neuroscience, psychology, social work, mental health counseling, sociology, criminal justice, writing, reading – you get the idea) that I find it difficult to settle down into one specific area. It is the perpetual “the grass is greener on the other side” philosophy. What I do know for sure, though, is that I want to help people, I want to teach, and I want to write. That is where I have to place my focus.

To start things off, I would like to introduce my authentic self to you: I am a 36-year-old woman who is still not sure what she wants to do with her life and has not made it past step one in Life 101. I am a woman whose legs hurt so badly some days that she has to crawl out of bed or not get out of bed at all. I am a woman who spends many mornings locked in the bathroom in an attempt to avoid her four year old’s stinging punch to the face. I am the woman who has finally started the journey toward authenticity and finding her place in this often scary world. I hope that you will follow along with me.

Mornings at Lake Reba

Dancing Spirits

It is a daily ritual, one concocted by me to help my special needs son relieve stress. He wakes up at the ungodly hour of 4:00 am and is often bored and restless by 6:30 – the time we now leave for the park. Each morning, except for when it rains, we walk the same exact route so as not to add stress to his already overworked sensory system. As we walk down the shadowy trail we see the sun begin to stretch its tentacles above the trees in an attempt to free itself from the solid earth below. The moon, sometimes drunk on coffee, will decide to stay planted in the sky no longer afraid of being outshone. 

“Mommy, look,” my son will say, head moving back and forth in amazement, “the sun and the moon are out.” 

We have discussed their alternating schedule, how the moon will go to sleep when the sun wakes up, but sometimes things happen differently and to my son, this difference is okay. 

We walk by the playground first where the ghosts of children are still playing on the red bucket swings. They sway and the breeze whispers, “Can you see them? Can you see what I see?” and I do. 

We continue around the curve following the tarry path towards the lake, thin golden rays splaying across the dark-painted wood fence, and we see the sun stretching, just a sliver above the trees. The spirits dance across the cool water, playing while they can, knowing the sun will soon warm them into nonexistence. 

The geese laugh at us as we continue to walk. My son screams at them, “laugh again, laugh again,” and they do. Sometimes we bring them treats and sit a while giving them nourishment as they in turn nourish us. 

We are moving closer towards the next curve that leads to the big hill, the one my son always says he cannot conquer, and yet stands at the top waiting for me, cheering me on. I pause and take a moment to consider walking across the golden path the sun has left across the water, wondering if it is as solid as it looks. But I am lured away by my son’s screams and turn the corner and see the wide golden path shrink into a single ray of light that will soon become a distant memory. 

“Maybe next time,” I think. 

We are coming along the last curve towards the parking lot; the ghosts have all disappeared, overcome by the glaring brightness of the sun. There is a small spot where the path has been broken and my son must walk across this brokenness every day as he heads towards home. 

I drop him off at pre-school, follow his exact regimen: the bathroom, washing hands, his standing by the window, me waving at him before getting in the car, backing out, waving at him again until I and the car are just a distant memory.

*This personal essay is in response to an assignment in my MFA class to write an essay on the mundane.

Immunized

Contemplating
what went wrong after
the last time
they injected you.

Developmental delays,
sensory integration dysfunction,
autism – Asperger’s

maybe.

Talking has ceased
Sign language, they tell me.
We will teach him
sign language.

I cannot fathom what’s
going on inside your
beautiful, odd-shaped head,

one minute alive, vibrant,
the next,
no longer there.

I want to reach inside,
place my love there,
break you free from

what?

I do not know.

Help me understand.
I’m standing on
the outside
Won’t you let me in?

Your four now.
school says you cannot
come back
until you are immunized.

Help me understand
what caused your quick
retreat.
I’m on the outside.
Please let me in.

*My second post for the “Poem A Day” Challenge.