My house is haunted tonight. Halloween may be over, but some mad force is loose, and it’s coming from me.
My husband attended a parent training workshop tonight at A’s school and in the talk, the speaker advised all of us to sign our kids up for group homes when they turn 14 because the waiting list is so long and it will take at least 8 years for their names to reach the top of the list. He said that even if we don’t end up sending our kids to homes, it’s important to have that option open because we will not be young or physically able forever.
I’m writing this essay after having succumbed to a bout of tears. Some days, the truth of our deepest fears lies exposed, with no cloak of good cheer to conceal it. I am afraid, every day. I don’t want to talk about these things, but A is getting older, and we have to.
While my husband was at the talk, G and I were in A’s bedroom, romping and playing with him. He was shrieking with laughter and things got crazy, so we all ended up a tangle of arms and legs. A got winded, and lay quietly for a while on his tummy, smiling while I patted his back. I bent to give him a kiss on his shoulder, and the dear, familiar scent of him reached me.
It may make more sense to imagine a time when he lives somewhere else when that time actually comes close. Right now, it seems like a nightmarish prospect. How will I live without him?
For the adult he will become, we will have to strengthen ourselves in the now. But for tonight, my heart is outside my body, lying in a child’s bed, sleeping deeply, dreaming of patterns and school buses and Spongebob. And while it rests safely behind a closed door, I’m letting the ghouls of fear and pain and even anger out to roam the halls. Sometimes it’s needed.
For a mom like me, there is no need for a costume or a scary mask or a ghostly tale told with a flashlight under my face. The monsters I have unleashed are those of raw emotion, undisguised by social niceties. They only need a small push to stir restlessly, but usually I shove the lid down, and they retreat balefully. Tonight is their night. Can you see their shadows on the wall?
What will finally send them back in the box, what will stop the haunting? Tell some pretty little stories to them. These are not monsters with much stamina. They actually cannot face the open air that much. Tell them that A will always be happy. Tell them that he will have friends who care about him forever and ever. Tell them that he won’t suffer or be lonely. Tell them no one will hurt him or steal from him. Tell them he will always have food to eat and clothes to wear. Tell them someone will take him out and about because he loves it. Tell them he will find work he enjoys. And tell them he will think fondly of his family but will learn to live without their daily presence.
That’s how you stop a haunting. You say the words that the demons need to hear. And you close the lid on a mother’s heart so that she can feel a little less.
What you don’t say is that she shouldn’t ever let the ghouls and monsters out. Just like people need Halloween once a year to indulge in fright night, moms like me need a haunting too. We need to look our demons right in the face. We need a night when we don’t have to keep pushing that lid down. And we need to let the howls rage around us, that, after all, are coming right out of our fierce, protective, lioness wombs. Rage. It’s unstoppable.
4 thoughts on “31. Fright Night”
When so much is asked of and expected of a parent like yourself, it’s cruel to also expect you to be upbeat and positive all the time. If we never let our demons out, they would only build up inside ourselves and consume us so that we have nothing left to give others. So how on earth could you give what is needed of you when no one has let you release that pressure?
Sometimes I think that people are just too unrealistic in their expectations of parents in general, much less of parents who don’t have neurotypical kids.
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Beky, Thank you for your thoughtful comment. In a way I can understand why people need us to sound more optimistic. But we can’t keep putting on a face when so much is at stake. It’s a matter of allowing for a release valve when needed, I guess.
My love you are brave and strong and I don’t even know what to say in response to this that you have written. It is indeed the scariest story of ghosts and demons that I have ever encountered because it involves people I love so deeply. I blame you for being able to write the demons on the page so well. I’m not even going to try to come up with some inspirational quote or platitude. It would be so crass of me. I cannot know how it feels to be you. We will talk more over the phone.
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❤️ You lift me up.