As many of you who have joined the Facebook page "Rarer in Girls", which is a companion to this blog, already know (and as an aside, if you would like to join, you are welcome, if you'd like breaking Janey news but much more importantly, some great discussions with terrific people!), Janey did something very cool yesterday. She found my pocketbook, took out my wallet and located my library card, which she brought to me and said "Want to go to the library?" That was a surprise to me on many fronts. She had never before expressed an interest in the library, but more, I had NO idea she knew what a library card was or what mine looked like. I was truly stunned. And happy---I love the library! So I told her we would go after school today.
However, that plan got moved up in the day, due to Janey's bus never showing up. This was supposed to be the legendary, much rumored but little seen Actual Day With School, but after waiting for Janey's bus for quite a while, her aide (who waits by our house) told us that 100 bus drivers had called in sick and there wasn't going to be any bus. We thought about driving her, but that would require Tony missing a good deal of work, especially if she also had to be picked up after school (I don't drive in the snow tunnels that are the rule right now in the city---see pictures!) And I figured a day without many bus drivers was going to be a little chaotic, so I figured I'd keep her home yet again. I swear, I'm almost starting to see the appeal of homeschooling---at least it's a routine that can be maintained and not one dependent on weather (just kidding a bit, I'm not going to homeschool)
So---we went to the library around noon. Like so many trips with Janey, what would be a little outing for most people turned into quite a deal with her. It illustrated so much of what is tough with her and also what is great with her that I thought I'd write about it.
After finding parking (the lot was very full and made smaller by snow mountains) we went in and went to the kids room. I kind of knew that Janey's picture of the library was not accurate. I'm pretty sure she saw a video about going to the library, probably complete with giant dinosaurs or animated creatures, where there was lots of singing and fun. She's been to the library with me lots of times, but just to quickly pick up books that were being saved at the desk for me, and that was usually a different branch. But I figured we'd see what she thought.
Janey very briefly looked at the picture book section. I told her she could pick out any books she wanted to take home, but she had no interest in that. Instead, while I was distracted for about a second, she ran across the room, straight toward a baby in a mother's arms. When I saw that, I screamed "STOP!" I didn't use a library voice. Several calm mothers with perfect looking little toddlers sitting serenely reading books gave me a troubled look, like I was breaking some kind of code. I felt like saying to them "I was once you. I used only gentle tones. I explained everything carefully to my children. I would have sat down with you and made friends and arranged a playgroup. However, if you value your baby's safety, you should be very glad I am not like that now, or Janey would have at least tried to grab the baby out of your arms" Instead I just said "She is autistic and a little unpredictable" They all smiled an inclusive smile and we went on our way.
The kind librarian asked me if we were looking for anything special, and I said some Mother Goose books. She showed me the section, and I grabbed a few quickly, while Janey wildly spun a globe that was on the shelf. Then she went back to the picture book section and I again said she could pick a book. Evidently that displeased her, as she grabbed my hand to bend back my fingers and then did some fancy trick I am still not sure how she achieved, and twisted my arm around somehow behind my head, and for a minute I thought she was going to break my wrist. I hissed out "LET GO NOW" and she didn't, but I got out of the grip. I said for the benefit of the audience "Okay---we tried the library a little bit, but when you get upset, it's time to go! We'll try again another time!" The librarian was very sweet and offered Janey a sticker, which she took. I checked out our books and we blew that joint as quickly as possible.
So...what's the lesson here? Partly, that I probably should not have attempted the library alone with Janey. She easily could have hit the baby or seriously hurt me. But in a way, I'm still glad I did. I need to get Janey out there, to have her be part of the community as much as I can. It's very, very, very tough to do, but she did ask to go to the library, and maybe if we do try another time, it will be easier.
The whole deal does illustrate why giving Janey a "normal" life is so hard. There is so, so little I can do safely with her any more. It is why inclusion, in so many meanings of the word, is challenged by a child like Janey. And it's why parents like myself, and there are lots of us, so very much need help.