I tend to avoid thinking about the future. Even the fairly-near future is a little too much for me sometimes. It's not just that I'm living in the moment - I think I'm too scared to imagine Ryan's life more than like six months from now.
Recently, someone asked me if we would be enrolling Ryan at the local kindergarten for next fall. "The deadline is coming up," she warned. This sent me spinning. This coming Labor Day, Ryan will still be four, and with his delays maybe he'll be up to the level of a three-year-old, so no, we will wait another year before sending him to kindergarten, and hopefully by the time kindergarten time comes around we will have moved; so then I start thinking about where we might move, how long our apartment has been on the market, how much longer it could remain on the market, whether Stu will slip into another depressive funk about how long the apartment has been on the market...
Yesterday Ryan and I went to the nature center. We walked on the trails, visited the chickens, prairie dogs, and turkeys; Ryan was disappointed that there were no lions. We made our way to the indoor exhibit, where there are tanks filled with turtles and frogs and lizards and the occasional furry critter. Some teenage volunteers were sitting around, blocking the view of several tanks; one of them was holding a large snake.
I asked Ryan, "Do you want to pet the snake?"
"Snake," he echoed, but when he says it, it sounds more like "Sny-yick." One of the teenagers muttered under her breath, "sny-yick," clearly more in a mocking way than an oh-that-little-kid-said-something-cute way.
I chose not to respond to her, but in my mind, I flashed to my baby as a fifteen-year-old, still several years delayed, getting teased by his neurotypical peers in high school. Then I flashed back to being 15 and being teased for my untrendy clothes, my attempts at an authentic accent in Spanish class, my unusual personality. I remembered sitting in the hall before school and asking a passing teacher, "Do you have the time?" and her curt reply: "Yes, but probably not for you." I remembered recess in elementary school, standing against a wall as kids threw their backpacks near me and said, "Watch my stuff while I go play," and believing I was actually obligated to do so. I remembered the boy who called me from a sleepover party to pretend to ask me out, his friends laughing in the background.
Nothing good comes of my thinking too far ahead. The little I'm sure of about the future frightens and upsets me. Ryan WILL be different from the other kids. He WILL be delayed. He WILL be at a social disadvantage. He WILL get teased and bullied. And he WILL have to figure out how to make it through each school day on his own. It WON'T be easy.
Now, when kids tease Ryan, I can step in, or remove him from the situation, or teach him what he's expected to say or do. But he won't be four forever, and the world's expectations of him are going to change soon, and I'm afraid for him.