I was having a bad day last week, and it showed. I was wandering around the house after work, morose and uncommunicative as I put dinner together for the kids. Anna headed off to cheerleading practice and David and I settled in to work on his homework.
"Mom, are you happy with me?" He asked, as I spread the papers out on the table.
I was taken aback. Was my bad mood that apparent? How awful.
"Yes, honey, of course I'm happy with you. I'm very happy with you. I'm sorry. Mommy's just had a bad day, is all. I love you, Bubby."
He leaned in for a hug and we set about solving math problems while I felt even worse for having made my kid think I was mad at him for nothing. I tried to buck up and pasted a smile on my face for the rest of the evening, but by bedtime, I was worn through and I just wanted to go to bed and feel sorry for myself in peace.
I kissed Anna goodnight and headed in to David's room to tuck him in, when he reached up to pull me down by the neck for a big kiss. Then he asked again:
"Mom, are you still happy with me?"
I crawled into bed next to him so I could wrap my arms around him.
"Yes, David, I am happy with you. I really am. I just had a bad day and I will try to be happier tomorrow, OK?"
"OK. I had art today." He looked at me expectantly.
I wanted to sigh but I didn't. Every night when I tuck David in, I ask about his day and ask leading questions in an effort to practice his conversation skills. As a child with autism, this kind of stuff doesn't come naturally, so even though I was exhausted mentally and physically that night, I had to engage him. Passing up an opportunity - particularly when he started the conversation - was not something I could afford to do.
"Art, huh? What did you do in art?"
"Colored with markers."
"And how was the rest of your day?" I stretched, preparing to get out of the bed since the conversation was almost over.
"OK. That boy on the bus, he called me shut up."
"What boy? He told you to shut up?" I was sitting up now, and ready to put on the Mommy fighting gloves.
"Yeah. It was bad manners." He studied my face, carefully, waiting for me to agree. And I did, vehemently.
"That was very bad manners. He should say 'Be quiet please' instead. Were you being loud or singing or something?"
"Yeah, I was singing. But I wasn't loud. He said shut up." He repeated. Obviously, this wasn't a pleasant interaction with a peer. And obviously, David understood that someone was unhappy with him. Not an ideal situation.
"Well, I'm sorry he didn't use better manners with you. And you need to remember that not everyone wants to hear singing on the bus, OK?" I pulled the blankets up and kissed him again, then I started for the door.
"We had a bad day, didn't we?" he said, as I stood in the doorway.
"We did." I said. Then I smiled at him. "But it's better now because I came home to you."
"Me, too, Mom."
And it really, really was.
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