7:32 pm Sunday and Sean is already in bed.
Yes, he’s cold. Yes, he has a fever. Yes to sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and an achy head.
And yes, this is not normal.
Sean almost never gets sick. Unfortunately, this illness still seems to be on the path to getting worse before he gets better.
It’s difficult when your child is ill.
But it’s more so when your child is autistic and can’t quite grasp the words to describe the symptoms they are experiencing.
For example, Sean’s been dealing with an earache for weeks now. Could it be a clogged ear? Could it be a result of his braces being tightened and his jaw swelling (thus causing the ear pain)? Could it be that he stuck something in there and damaged it?
I say it so often but you all know it’s true…
I don’t know.
And to ask Sean – even though he’s academically at grade level and an extremely vocal kid – is almost futile.
“Sean, does your ear feel clogged?”
“It just feels weird.”
“Does it hurt on the inside or the outside?”
“It just feels weird. You look in it and tell me what’s wrong.”
It’s frustrating and heart wrenching all at the same time.
Sean had an OK night but his fever has hit an all-time high of 102.7 degrees. He’s shivering, coughing, his chest hurts, he’s not eating… and yet when I ask him how he’s doing, he answers…
As if Sean would answer anything else!
I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but it’s almost as if you have a toddler or a baby again.
Remember those days when your tiny one would be screaming and crying for hours? They would be fussy and you would have no idea what was bothering them.
And remember how you would say, “If only they could tell us”…?
It was frustrating back then and it’s frustrating today.
The only difference now is that you are less quick to run to the doctor’s office with every sniffle or sneeze.
No, today you have to be the great detective and figure out if the 7:30 pm bedtime is due to teenage fatigue or an illness.
Is he crabby because he’s being normal like the rest of us and having a bad day or is he not feeling well?
And his voice volume… Sean’s volume has always been loud. Could it be possible that it’s even louder today due to some ear thing going on?
Let’s not even go down the allergy versus illness path…
Recently at home we’ve been talking about the 70’s television show Charlie’s Angels. I’m beginning to feel like one of those female detectives - without the benefit of Farrah Fawcett’s hair and body - while trying to figure out what exactly is wrong with my son.
But there is one clue that overrides all of the “greats” that Sean can dish out.
Autistic or not, he’s still a growing teenage boy.
If he’s not on his computer then he’s in the pantry – and I’m yelling at him for both.
Thus, when he walked away from breakfast after only a few spoonfuls of Cheerios and then from lunch with only a half dozen Wheat Thins, I knew a visit to the doctor was imminent.
We’re not famous television detectives with gorgeous hair, model-thin bodies, and driving around in fabulous cars.
We’re moms and dads and caregivers.
We know our kids better than anyone else. What we lack in book knowledge, we more than make up in intuition.
It is our instinct to know our children.
Some may say that I have a special connection with Sean.
I don’t doubt that’s true because I am an extension of him. I have to feel what he feels. I have to anticipate his every move and reaction.
And when he says he’s “great”, I have to know when he’s not.
So to my son… my little boy…. I hope you get better soon.