I’m getting sick of us getting sick.

I didn’t catch a photo this time like I did before, but Bella was at work again, paws over her human pup’s legs, watching and waiting. Our older son is ill now. Like his brother the week prior, he will also miss most of the school week. They are very different creatures, my children. The youngest boasted to the entire pediatrician’s office about his six day weekend while the oldest was sad to miss yet another day of school this morning. Though school isn’t exciting to our oldest, the routine is comforting. He likes for things to have their place, their order and schedule. Fridays are his favorite day of the week. The class is quiet on test days and he knows exactly what to expect and what is reasonable to expect of others. I keep bottled chocolate Carnation Instant Breakfast in the pantry, because this is a trusted and tried food, a reliable choice when deciding what to eat is daunting or when what I’ve made isn’t what he had planned on seeing at the table. Sometimes, he just isn’t ready to be out from under his blanket and we don’t allow blankets in the kitchen, so he picks a food that bends that rule by being allowed on the couch. Not only has our oldest been identified as gifted, he is also on the autism spectrum. When routine is disrupted, he will find something he already knows to provide the illusion of stability, though I’m sure he isn’t yet aware of this. His predictability was endearing this morning. I came home from my first client to find him under a blanket with Bella on top of him and the blanket both with a Carnation in his hand, watching one of the Harry Potter films, movies he has seen countless times. His current reading bowl book was opened, spine out, precariously balanced on the armrest of the couch. Bella looked extremely content, enjoying the repetitive pets to her ears and muzzle, then down her back, ears and muzzle, then back. Every few hours today, he asked to take his temperature and every time, he would tell me the difference in tenths from each measurement to the next. Multiple times, he would remind me that he still had a fever so the 24 hour timer would reset again. In the past, even the very near past, I would be bothered by this, because it’s not easy to hear my child tell me what I already know like I’m not the one that told him in the first place. Today, I saw it for what it was and I just listened and we snuggled over my coffee, in between my various trips in and out for clients. He knows I know, somewhere in his head, but he needs to know that he knows, so he tells me again because this creates structure, reinforces his understanding of what is and isn’t, what is yes and what is no, gives him some degree of binary in a world that is nothing but. I see him now, little at Disney World, begging for a map, telling us exactly which way to go. Of course he would want a map. Maps have keys and legends and when you follow them, you end up where you’re supposed to be. When things don’t match, aren’t what you thought they’d be, when plans fall apart, when you have a fever and a headache and you have to miss your teacher and your desk and your pencils sharpened just so, you cling to the things that aren’t in question, to the people who always hug and the foods that taste exactly as they should, every time. There is no map for growing up, but there is Harry Potter and instant breakfast with a soft dog and the smell of coffee and the sounds of me making it in the kitchen in the next room. When there wasn’t a map, my son made one without realizing it and it’s truly a lesson I need to try and write for myself. What would my comfort map look like? When my world is falling apart, what would I need to see and hear and taste and touch to feel safe or if not safe, at least less scared? Even though my son is nearly constantly instructing me on the ins and outs of my own life, providing spoiler after spoiler after spoiler to a story I know quite well, I’m never not learning from him. One day, his map may not have Harry Potter and coffee anymore, but I’ll remember when it did.

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