I like to pretend I’m Supermom—the woman who does it all and still manages to pop out muffins in time for the school bake sale. Alas, however, I’m not Donna Reed, June Cleaver, or even Kristina Braverman from NBC’s Parenthood. Sometimes I simply miss the big picture—which is exactly when it’s good to have a dog (or three) around.
In the midst of all my recent Halloween-party planning for my daughter and weekly library classes with my 19-month-old son, I wasn’t paying as much attention to C.J. as I should have been. Granted, I wasn’t leaving him unwashed or forcing him to forage in the freezer for fish sticks. But one often has to focus more on the words and actions of an autistic four-year-old to understand what they’re feeling and thinking, especially when he has a limited vocabulary.
A few days ago, C.J. was whiney. Irritable. Cranky. In a word, he was clearly unhappy, and I was clearly becoming increasingly impatient. I wrote off his moodiness to poor sleep, not getting his way at the Thomas table, and perhaps a little too much pre-Halloween candy. I couldn’t figure out what he wanted, and he was growing more aggravated by the minute with my seeming ignorance. As you might guess, I was likewise becoming unnerved for the exact same reason. So, I finally lost my cool, blurted out that I didn’t know what was wrong but that he needed to stop yelling, and stalked out of the kitchen to take one of those “Let’s count to ten” moments.
Less than ten later, I returned to apologize via a kiss and reassure him that, whatever it was, we would work it out. But C.J. had already moved on to greener (or should I say browner?) pastures. My son had wrapped his arms around Boomer, who was patiently enduring the bear hug and looking up at me as if to say, “Mom, don’t you get it? Something’s not right with my boy!” When I knelt down on the floor and touched C.J.’s forehead, he was burning up. 102.3 followed by the onset of a horrible little hack about two hours later. Needless to say, I felt like I wasn’t on my way to outdoing Donna, June, or Kristina, but my guilt was superseded by a sense of gratitude.
None of us are perfect, and I don’t think I’ve lived out even half of my off-days. It’s nice to know someone’s got my back when I’m more Joan Crawford than June Cleaver. Better still, it’s reassuring that my kids realize they have someone to turn to when dear old Mom simply misses the boat. So, sorry, C. J., thank-you, Boomer, and does anyone out there know why the producers of Parenthood haven’t added a pooch to that family yet?
Katie Marsico is a proud mommy of 3 human children— Maria, 5, C.J., 3, and Thomas, 18 months. She is also the happy guardian of several furry, finned, and scaled pets.
Marsico has happily written for Tails since its inception in 2000 and is the author of more than 60 children’s books. She works from home, which is located in Elmhurst, Illinois (though she hopes that address will one day be changed to a location in southwest Florida).