My Photo
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza  

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Just Breathe

I just finished a piece for publication next fall by Key Porter Books, edited by Cori Howard – a woman’ s anthology: Between Interruptions: Mothers Write About Guilt, Anxiety, Amibition and More. I guess my piece classifies for the “more” part.

My hands hurt like I’ve got arthritis, yet my compulsion is to come downstairs and write some more before we leave for the cottage again – a rented one, an exercise in determining how much we enjoy, or not, the weekend schlep into cottage country.

TAAProject is going well. The video is almost complete, the magazine, the Autspoken submissions, the exhibition I have curated and am still organizing. Adam still goes to camp but I enjoy spending these weekends alone with him, relaxed for a change. The water has a way of just letting you take a deep breath.

Like many cities, Toronto is hot in the summer. The heat rises with the smog. The trees and the water of cottage country calls our bodies to just say ahhhh.

There isn’t a moment when I don’t think about our busy-ness, and how it effects our children. Our work, their programs, driving, driving, driving in between. At the cottage, we have nothing to do. We can only be. Adam always seems to talk more when we are up at the cottage with Henry and I. No therapist can bottle that and sell it.

There is a part of me thinking, why the heck am I going up there with the October event around the corner? My pain in my hands remind me that I've been busy. I’ve been writing, and working all the time, so much correspondence now by emails. Many of us share the same quandary – the compulsion to keep working. Perhaps we do not spend enough time observing and being with those we love. We value output instead of input.

The trees will speak to me, the water will beckon and refresh me, and Adam, Henry and I will just breathe.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Gossamer Dreams

I've been to the cottage. I've gathered with about fifteen other mothers, drinking wine, making exquisite food, and playing games in the darkness of the cabin, while moths beat their wings chaotically against the windows, the light lulling them like sirens. We don't let them in.

Our children are at home and the games reveal us -- unravel our everyday mother-armour, our hard practical sides to the soft sticky stuff that composes our mucky lives. I don't reveal to much too soon. When I do, I am always disappointed. I talk about Adam, of course. I talk about how wonderful he is, how I've come to appreciate what he brings to me, how he expands me in every way.

She happens to be a speech-language-pathologist, and as I talk my joyful talk, a look of subtle skepticism crosses her face. I've seen that look before. The kind where I feel like I have to talk wiser, faster, smarter. I've seen it in the eyes of Adam's psychometrist, when Adam was first diagnosed, eyes peering at me from behind dark-rimmed glasses like I was a mother in denial of her doomed child. I've seen it in the developmental pediatricians' eyes when she looks at me as if I don't know what I'm talking about. It is a subtle look, even if unintended,a glance like a drop of poison that could seep in slowly, killing everything.

"I don't admit to know anything about autism," she says. "But unfortunately, the majority rules." She is talking about how we interact. How we are judged and what we have to do to "fit in."

The majority rules.

I can't respond. I have to absorb what she says for a while because I don't want her to think I agree. Thankfully, she is called away while I stay on the lounge chair -- the wind picks up and it's just me and the lapping waves swelling near my feet.

It hits me as the group of women gather on the porch and I stay back with my books and writing notebooks gathered around me, my silence swathing me like silk against the drone of voices in the distant background.

A majority is a perception. That "normal" is just a version of ourselves -- what is normal must be like us. It is a narrow-minded way to look at the world that is comprised of so many different kinds of people. A majority is comprised of tribes and they form larger communities that simmer in melting pots. What is the majority today always shifts the next -- the gay and black communities being poignant examples of a world made better with the acceptance of difference.

I am in town and I buy a magazine to zone out, Town and Country, and find an article about autism, just when I want to think about other things. It is not a good article, but one featuring Autism Speaks, the tragedy of autism, the stories reminiscent of the Autism Every Day video -- of desperate parents pulling on their children's hair..."hard" because they "have to." There it reads in the glamourous gloss of a high-society magazine, directed at an audience that will give their money to any heart-felt cause. It's not that it isn't heart-felt to them, but it is nevertheless destroying the spirit of many autistic people and infuriating me as my own friends will approach me about that "devastating article" with perhaps a pitiful glance at my beautiful son. Adam deserves so much better than this.

The hors d'oeuvres come out on the picnic table as chilled wine is being poured. Perhaps I'm not the "majority" in this crowd who are talking about the many people I don't know, and the ability to talk without end. I enjoy listening. I seem to be welcomed enough for it. I prefer to sit alone next to the trees whispering their sweet messages, the expanse of water soothing away the noise of the city. But the voices call me to partake, to play games, to reveal, to share, to learn, perhaps to burn but to always, always start again.

I am a moth and she my candled flame
By her flickering light I guide the journey
By her guttering glow I view it all
And painted by her light, the world is glorious
And to her I am drawn

I am a moth and she my doom
Fluttering towards her I am flying
Deeper into her pool of joyous light
Ever closer to her killing flame
And by the heat of her presence
I ignite

Gossamer wings burn and seemingly evaporate
Incandescent pain lances throughout my self
I drop to the earth burned and battered
But miraculously alive
And I rail at my foolish ways
I could fly, and where did I go?
To pain, to anguish, to her
I wait to die

But I do not end upon the days next dawning
And upon my burned and scarred back
Are several strange nodules forming
Wings regrowing and a second chance
And by the evenings' cool embrace
flight have I again attained
And as I launch into the dimness
I see a soft light

Its her, her light undiminished for having consumed me
And I approach again

As the next day rises, my new wings just forming
My again burned body rests now
A strange sight I see
Its her I somehow know, but different in form

In the light of day I see her for what she truly is.
Not a candle's flame, but a moth in her own right
And upon her burned back grow
A new set of wings…

© Daniel Wolf Roemele

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


If You Hate the Roots

You can't hate the roots of the tree and not hate the tree -- Malcom X

No one had a greater impact on the cultural consciousness of African-Americans during the second half of the 20th century than Malcolm X. More than anyone else he revolutionized the black mind, transforming docile Negroes and self-effacing colored people into proud blacks and self-confident African-Americans. Civil rights activists became Black Power militants and declared, "It's nation time." Preachers and religious scholars created a black theology and proclaimed God as liberator and Jesus Christ as black. College and university students demanded and won black studies. Poets, playwrights, musicians, painters and other artists created a new black aesthetics and ardently proclaimed that "black is beautiful."

No area of the African-American community escaped Malcolm's influence. The mainstream black leaders who dismissed him as a rabble-rouser today embrace his cultural philosophy and urge blacks to love themselves first before they even think about loving others. No one loved blacks more than Malcolm nor taught us more about ourselves. Before Malcolm most blacks wanted nothing to do with Africa. But he taught us that "you can't hate the roots of the tree and not hate the tree; you can't hate your origin and not end up hating yourself; you can't hate Africa and not hate yourself." A simple, profound truth; one that blacks needed (and still need) to hear. And no one said it as effectively as Malcolm X.
(By James M. Cone)

As I referred to in The Learning Curve of Acceptance, there are different voices in the autism advocacy movement. I think Malcom X's statement about roots sums it up for the autism rights movement as well. In this X equals Y statement, you "hate" your child if you hate autism. I know many parents are really struggling with this concept. Many parents struggle with the disconnect between autism as illness, and autism as a way of being. Parents struggle with figuring out autism, and coming to accepting it. I empathize with their struggle. But I also empathize with autistic people who feel the same way as many blacks did. Just like the black rights movement, there are mainstream activists and militant ones. Yet, what strikes me most is the reverbant voices of the Malcom X's of the world, and just how potent their messages are, even they are hard pills to swallow.

As I said before, parents aren't always at fault. Yet, parents and organizations have to be responsible in how we talk about and present autism. Further, this negative talk effects the way autistic people may view themselves. We are fed bad information by media sources. These messages do not talk about the joy of autism, only the struggle.

Let the voices rise. Let time pass and tell us, we are different, but so very much the same.

Friday, July 14, 2006


An Example of Insensitivty

Yesterday, Adam had a play-date with a non-autistic friend from camp. Adam is enjoying camp. In the morning he watches and waits for the bus, and as it approaches, he jumps happily up and down, “There’s the bus! There’s the bus!” There is a wonderful melodic tone to his speech and the repetition, and I love to make songs out of the things he says and jump around with him.

He has made another best friend, it seems at camp, “M,” – a little three-and-a-half-year- old girl who has motor planning difficulty, making language challenging at the moment. Adam and M sit beside each other during every circle. M won’t go in the pool unless she is with Adam. M began tickling Adam and he giggled and tickled her back until they were entrenched in their own private giggle-fest. She touched Adam’s nose, and he touched hers, she touched his head, and he touched hers. This was the report I received from his counselors.

Adam is in a “regular” camp with a “shadow,” who stands back as Adam becomes independent. Adam needs little assistance now from her and during the school year -- we faded the shadow back to one day a week. It’s just that at camp, the teenage counselors do not know how to teach appropriately to any of the three and four year olds, and I’ve discovered that his shadow’s positive advocacy of Adam and all of his abilities, and meaning of toddler-speak in general, is teaching the counselors how to actually interact with him, and the others, in a positive way. I don’t think I expected Adam to enjoy camp this much. He has formed attachments with one counselor and his swim instructor, and of course, little “M.”

I could have been angry with the camp. Yesterday, the head counselor, also a “teacher,” came out and said that Adam was “crying for most of the day and she didn’t know why.” I felt singled-out and that the look on her face was that he was crying because he was autistc, a sweeping feeling that crossed me, and all the parents stared at me. When Adam’s shadow explained what had happened -- Adam had apparently bitten his tongue and was upset about it -- I marched back up to the “teacher” to say also in front of the lineup of parents, “Did you know that Adam bit his tongue which is why he was crying?” She indicated that she hadn’t been paying attention. “You shouldn’t made a statement that gets me worried without investigating the cause,” I said politely, but firmly.

The mother of “J”, who has the non-autistic child who came to play late yesterday afternoon initiated a discussion that her son “hates camp,” and that that same “teacher” did the same to her in the lineup of parents. The mother also felt stigmatized.

So, it isn’t an argument of prejudice against an autistic person, although I might have interpreted it that way. It was sheer insensitivity and lack of professionalism on the part of that head counselor. I have discovered that she knows little of this age-group of kids, doesn’t know appropriate activities for them, and is so busy being “head” that she doesn’t have time to interact with the kids.

In the meantime, my shadow is in there with a group of teenage counselors teaching them what kids want and need, autistic or not, it sounds much the same to me. Looking at all kids positively, with respect and dignity as little people with reasons and needs seems to be sorely lacking here, and perhaps is the problem with some teachers and institutions in the first place.

Assuming prejudice may be too easy. Accusing people of prejudice may even be deconstructive. We have to look at the context, teach the ignorant (ignorant as unknowing and insensitive), and act positively to achieve the goal of teaching and raising the self-esteem in all children.

Monday, July 10, 2006


The Learning Curve of Acceptance

The Joy of Autism: Redefining Ability and Quality of Life is an event that will take place during the month of October and organized by The Autism Acceptance Project. The event is organized around a group exhibition of international autistic artists, Larry Bissonnette and Jonathan Lerman, and Toronto artists, Michael Moon and students from the MukiBaum Treatment Centres. In addition, lectures around the issues of autistic ability and what constitutes quality of life will be explored by scientists vested in research focused on autism ability, clinicians, autistic people, and parent authors – the latter who will relay their journeys to acceptance of autism.

The exhibition not only seeks to confront popular and misconstrued ideas regarding what it means to be autistic, but also, will ask “what is art?” The elite art world is replete with categories and genres. As such, it has classified the work of autistic artists as “Outsider Art,” “Naïve Art,” “Art Brut,” or “Raw Art.” In fact, the terms are referred to as self-taught art, not belonging to, or informed by, another genre. Tom Sherman of Canadian Art Magazine, states that the obligation of artists is “to find the differences they need to distinguish themselves in an era when similarities rule…The artist has a role to play in our society and that role is to remind people of the value of difference.” He was not specifically talking about art executed by differently-abled people. He was discussing art in the context of a society that “craves conformity and order.” He also makes the “what is art?” question a little more difficult when he states, “There are artists, and there are artists. Creating the appearance of art is easier than making art.” How does the art of self-taught artists who achieve Sherman’s obligation of reminding people of the value of difference – intentionally or innately – fit in? Is this the sole premise – intention to make art – upon which art is rendered valid? What about compulsion? This will be investigated in the exhibition as well as seeking to understand differently-abled people in the name of de-stigmatization, and acceptance through understanding art as human artifact. The event doesn’t seek to draw conclusions, but to raise more questions.

Through art and a lecture series, we can try to define acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean acquiescence. It doesn’t mean that we do not foster skills in our children that increase competency and rest on our laurels as parents. On the contrary to passivity, acceptance is a very active process. It means accepting autism as a way of being, and not conducting therapies that seek to “normalize” an autistic person. This is the fundamental difference in the politicized autism discourse – to conduct therapies in order to “normalize” the autistic person, or to teach and impart skills.

Acceptance means accepting the abilities that can enable an autistic person to succeed in the world as an autistic person. It means seeking ways to educate an autistic person and to help each child fulfill his or her potential. It means creating inclusive opportunities in schools and in the workplace that actively adapts education to meet the learning needs of the child. It means supporting autistic people in areas that they want and need extra support. Many of the autistic adults who have written to me and who I know personally -- who cannot live without assistance -- state that they would not cure their autism despite the challenges that autism, or being different, brings. As a society, we have to listen carefully to these messages and what it means when we study causation and advocate for cures.

The term acceptance is co-opted by many organizations that continue to purport therapies that seek to normalize the autistic person as the final goal. Many organizations still state that autism is an illness and a condition to be cured. This is not acceptance or part of the autism rights movement. As a society, we must continue to be rigorous in what messages get mixed in with acceptance. We must stay aware as to which organizations are lead largely by non-autistic people, who may be presenting autistics as token figures rather than as active participants. Some autistic people have referenced treatment of autistics akin to how the Canadian native community has been treated – with decisions being made for them by non-native Canadians. As the founder of a new autism organization, a non autistic person myself, I’ve had some recent share of scrutiny regarding board and advisory members and the way TAAProject presents itself in addition to the speakers it invites to participate. As it is still a new organization, the board will continue to grow and it will actively seek autistic members, speakers, contributors, advisors, audiences and artists.

It is important to acknowledge that acceptance is also a learning curve. I feel that the learning should never end for all of us. As a mother of an autistic son, I feel that working together – both autistics and non-autistics - is an effective way to change the stigma attached to all “disabled” people. After all, if we believe that we as humans are to all be accepted and supported for our differences, and we wish to create an inclusive and diverse world, we have to debate this, learn to cooperate, and build the important bridges.

That said, it is also important to disagree with the aim to find areas that we can all find in common, with our differences. It is not fine for one part of the population to consider autistic people ill, a tragedy or to impose cures that they do not want. There are also autistic people who disagree among each other about “treatments” and education, about the nature of autism, about challenges. The community is as diverse as any other. Some are militant in their advocacy approach; others are more genteel and persuasive. It’s all communication style, and all of these voices are part of the discourse.

Therefore, there are many autistics who are representatives of the autism community, a community that will forever remain as diverse as the world-at-large. The autism discourse is privy to a variety of perspectives about what it means to be autistic. So long as we respect one’s right to exist as they are, is there not value in many different contributions to the autism community? All of us must take an active role in the process and acceptance of autism/autistic people through the means I am attempting to describe here.

Will science conclude the ever-lasting question about the cause of autism? Can science completely level the equality field? Can it also destroy it? Or can it simply help us understand autism in a way that ironically, society might be finding out for itself through ethical questions. Are we paying enough attention to the ethical issues in the context of science? In the end, even in science, there are no absolutes. Only more questions.

Many arguments are made in the name of “autism acceptance.” It may look and sound like acceptance, but that doesn’t mean that it is autism acceptance. For this reason, rigor is required by all of us. Are large organizations that espouse a cure for autism, who still continue to taut autism as an epidemic, who present scientists without a credible background, being real or honest when they in turn say they “accept” autistic people? If organizations do not enter this active and sometimes exhaustive process, do they have a right to advocate for acceptance? Conversely, can we consider the adaptation of the term the first seeds to a conversion of real acceptance? Further, is it the honest intention of some of these large organizations to really achieve it? Can autistic people have an affect on this process? So, the inherent complications in using the word should be evident. If we advocate simply for acceptance without accepting criticism, are we honest advocates? Are we going to stumble and make mistakes? Most likely. But let us take responsibility for them and own up to our words and deeds and act to change our aims. It won’t happen overnight. It can happen over time.

Conversely, both non-autistics and autistics must be careful in how we regard each other as human beings. That must be the platform upon which autism rights and acceptance must be debated. Let us not engage in character assassinations that will not change minds. We must presume human decency in all people as much as we need to presume competence in autistic people. When actions, words, or intentions do not express that decency, then we have a right to speak up.

Perhaps idealistically, I desire a de-segregation of the autism arguments which create greater divides among humans. I will continue to hope for common ground. At the same time the divides are paradoxically important and inevitable. The pendulum swings from one extreme to another, and proverbially speaking, acceptance and de-stigmatization will hopefully enter into mainstream consciousness. I am also against discrediting all parents as “wrongdoers” as it turns away those who are ready to accept the autism rights movement, and the learning process, without acknowledging the different points they may be along the path to acceptance (presuming human decency). Parents who engage in behavioural therapies may not yet fully understand that autism is not a behaviour and behaviour does not define a person. That said, autistic people must understand that there are many parts of many teaching methodologies that work, maintaining the focus on imparting skills, not in correcting or normalizing behaviour.

So, the messages are politicized, and many parents who are struggling with acceptance, also need to be accepted, morally supported, and must continue to find ways to teach their children. We do not wish to drive these parents away with misunderstandings. Parents are the anchors in an autistic child’s life as they are in any child’s. We want to empower parents with strength, information, choices and opportunities for their children.

The Autism Acceptance Project acknowledges the difficulties of the autism rights movement and the philosophical divides. It does however; believe that the divides are inevitable and important. Research is important. This ethical discussion among all of us is critical right now. TAAProject believes that it is important for many voices to be heard so that the bridges to rigorous acceptance – not token acceptance – can finally be built. It above all believes in equality of all individuals and that all of us, no matter how different, deserve to be regarded as able individuals, with the right to be educated and to contribute to society. Governments and educational institutions need to take responsibility to support children and families, and to provide inclusive opportunities for all autistic and “disabled” people. We must also acknowledge specialized schools where inclusion is not possible at various points in a person’s development. There is an opportunity to foster tolerance in all future generations – start now and start young. All autistic people deserve no less, and autistic families deserve support.

In experiencing this difficult process by organizing The Autism Acceptance Project, I still believe in the Joy of Autism because I believe that there is good in humanity, and that acceptance, support, and understanding can be achieved. As a parent and a curator of art, I studied the works of autistic artists. I came to understand the one thing knew innately about my son and about autism itself: that what the “experts” were saying about what autism was, wasn’t necessarily true. That innately, I knew that my son was capable and indeed a gift. There is ability, there is brilliance, there is depth, there is emotion, there is grace, there is humour, there is sensitivity, there is love, and there is incredible perception and understanding in many autistic people. Autistic people are not the sum of their behaviours. Behaviour is a communication, it is part of perception. The exterior often fails the interior world of most of us. For most people, autistic and non-autistic, effective communication is very tricky.

Most of what I have come to know as autism, I have learned from my beautiful son Adam. Then, through the art that stands alone -- with or without autism -- I wanted to show the rest of the Toronto community what exists and what is possible.

This event celebrates autism and autistic people. It is a living, breathing, thinking event that is growing alongside us all.

For more information see

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Separation Anxiety... For Whom?

Remember my weekend post on separation anxiety? Well, it's me, not Adam who has it bad.

Today was the first day of camp. The first day of getting on a school bus without mom. We previewed camp yesterday and last week. I drew pictures of a school bus, bought him a toy bus and spoke about busses ad nauseum.

The school bus was late, being the first day I guess this is normal. Adam was clingy. I was getting nervous, even though I TRY to hide it, but it seems that Adam picks up on all of my hidden emotions.

Four busses went by. They were not HIS bus. It was like a big tease. I was getting more agitated.

Making the School Bus connection a few minutes before camp. Posted by Picasa

But then the bus came, I scurried Adam in to the bus and his camp shadow followed.

Getting on the School Bus for the very first time. Posted by Picasa

Before I knew it, Adam was sitting on the bus, looking out the window, wondering why I wasn't coming. His eyes showed initial signs of distress. Then, the bus took off and I saw Adam's neck bend to watch me out of one eye for as long as he could.

My eyes teared as I walked into the house, as I laughed while I cried. I called Morgan on her cell.

"How's he doing?"

"Oh, he's fine. His friends are telling him about when they started at camp. He's having a ball."

The camp just called. My heart dropped as I thought I would have to pick him up early -- that something has happened.

"We're just calling to say that Adam is having a great first day at camp."

Ha. Go figure. It's always the parent who is the mess. This parent, anyway.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


The Circle of 4 -- with a postscript

Henry is away with Max in Italy setting him up for film school. Again, I am alone this Canada long weekend, and for yet another week. Against what could otherwise be a very empty house with cold stone floors, I hear the pitter patter of Adam’s feet following me ardently.

Adam, just at the end of his school year, decided to begin his separation anxiety phase. Wherever I go, he will follow like my shadow – to the kitchen, up the stairs, to my office…to the bathroom. He is my loyal little lover-boy, enamoured with me, it seems. If I am ill and in bed for two hours, he will sit dutifully beside me. But if I go to get something upstairs and leave him behind for a minute, there is bedlam – whimpers turn to tears which turn to inconsolable wails.

He will no longer go to his long-time playmate/nanny, Flor – the very same woman who consoled him under the fluttering leaves of our hundred-year-old maple tree which seemed to covet them both when he couldn’t stop crying; the same woman who tried alongside me to put him to bed, which often took up to three hours; the very mate who taught him how to climb his first climbing wall just when I thought he might be so motor-challenged, and it might take him much longer.

Yet, Adam will go to Grandma and easily abandon me. But he will run away at the sight of Flor’s face. Flor, a single, forty-something Pilipino woman, a Jehovah’s Witness, who it seems, has devoted her entire life to praying to God and to the raising of Henry’s five children. She is in tears, “I love him so much,” she said to me yesterday as I tried to console her. “He doesn’t like me anymore.” Flor is a child-spirit in a woman’s body --jolly and playful. She does not yield to tears often.

It used to be after five minutes of leaving the house, Adam would be okay with Flor and happily resume playing under the covers, “peek-a-boo,” or greedily keep requesting a “sqeeeish” from her under a pillow.

So, the problem-solver I like to peg myself out to be, I have Flor and one of Adam’s tutors working together with him. I am also scheduling more time for Flor to be with him. She needs to re-bond, reconnect. They both need to find their mutual playful sides again. They really are best friends.

At four, mommy is the centre of the universe, I’ve discovered. With no other children as a point of reference, I have to recall my own four-year-old memories – being terrified when my mother got out of the cab before me in fear that the driver would skid off with me cowering in the backseat. My mother recalls the many stories of her own exhaustion tempered by her love for me as I followed her, as well, to every bathroom visit. I remember my mother’s devotion, her friendly, sweet voice and the many nights we spent alone together when my father was off on business trips. Yet, how thrilled was I to see him every time he came home with a little something just for me! At four, my dad was fun, full of smiles and caved in when I begged to be taken to a drive-in movie, even though he knew without fail, I would fall asleep in the back. It wasn’t as if he didn’t make me feel secure. It was just that my mom was always there.

I come from a short-line of only children and do not know my father’s biological parents because he was adopted. He was taken away from a family and put into a German one at the beginning of WW2. He was part of a long list of children who were stolen from families in Poland and Sweden for their Aryan features. German families adopted them – and it is for certain that my “adopted” grandmother couldn’t have any children herself. By the time he was fifteen and living in Canada, my father left his “parents” because he felt he didn’t belong to them, and because of what the Germans did. Fifteen. A boy with an unknown background, with no place to call home. At eighteen, he joined the Canadian navy and got himself educated. He did end up resuming a complicated relationship with his adopted parents, for the rest of their lives. Much of those mysteries and complications, I have inherited to mull over, investigate and discover, perhaps, the meaning of it all.

Being separated from one’s roots, now that I have my own child, another “only” child, and married to a man whose roots are firmly planted, perhaps has made separation, togetherness, loneliness and the temporary nature of all relationships, so much more apparent. Perhaps being an only-child instilled this innate sense of independence and impermanence. In many ways, it is quite liberating. One learns how to create family with all the people in one's life. On other days, there is a shadow of existential starkness to it all.

As an only child, I wasn’t spoiled. In fact, my dad was tough on me, I know now because of his knowing about one's need to be resilient, and to create one's own happiness. My mother was attached to me. In fact, I think my parents were very “attached” to me, and my leaving was tough on them. I married to leave the nest right after university, and that marriage didn’t last long. My mother got sick right at the same time, and I attribute a lot of it to her separation anxiety. I understand it now, especially these days when I am tired and want to complain about how much energy Adam can take out of me. I think of when he will be in his twenties, ready to leave me for his own greener pastures. I think of how autism has pulled us so closely together, how our destinies are entwined, and perhaps how much more involved I may be in his life when he gets a little older, although I have no doubts that he will be that proverbial “success.” We can never predict the shape of our lives, but can figure it out a little, by the time we reach our forties. Adam certainly has taken a large lump of the clay of my life and given it great form. It's simple for me to say that I don't know what I'd do without him.

So now, at four, when he is trekking behind me with the putter of little feet on our limestone floors, I have to smile. He will get used to Flor again quickly, I imagine. All things recounted and considered, his phases are pretty short-lived. Weaning him took 3 ½ years, and now it seems like a million years ago. He has just turned four. He is about to go on a school bus to a half-day camp on Tuesday. I hear him crying in the background – he is looking for mommy as he learns to cope with separation.

I imagine I will have many sleepless nights when Adam decides it is time for him to leave home, Henry is away, and I am again, that only child.

POSTSCRIPT: The bonding time worked a great deal. I walked in the hot sticky afternoon, leaving Adam to bond with Flor. Perhaps the quiet streets abandoned by Canada Day cottage-goers has made me think about solitude. There is no work to be done, no store to distract myself with errands.

Adam saw me later and made a fuss. I told Flor to "take charge" and give him a bath. It took only five minutes for him to calm down.
She came to say goodnight to Adam and he did not run, did not cry, but smiled. "Ah," she said with her usual giggle. "We've made up!" Now my four-year-old Adam and I have two days by ourselves in quiet Toronto to enjoy some Canada Day Weekend hoopla, some time which will be spent with Grandma and Grandpa too -- our tight little circle of four.