Philosopher Bean and the Evolution of Motherhood


This kid. Lately we call him Philosopher Bean. I kick around ideas with him, and he bats them back to me, with questions tacked on and insights I had not considered. He’s got way more of his dad in him than I ever expected—and they’re the very best parts. I see beautiful pieces of David developing and rising to the top.

He’s a deep thinker. And his deep thoughts are on big—sometimes metaphysical—vast spiritual and scientific ideas. He grasps abstract concepts and mathematics in ways that take my breath away, and these quantum leaps in growth have happened seemingly overnight. It leaves me trying to catch my balance as his mom.

I had been kicking around the idea of writing my next book on raising a gifted child with autism. But, as he’s grown, I have pushed that idea further and further back. If I do write this book, I believe it will be with him. I am aware of and support the movement away from parents controlling the narrative about their children with disabilities. Bean will have his own voice, his own memories, his own perspective on his upbringing, and it will be his to tell, should he want to. I don’t anticipate this potential project being easy or painless, but I think it might be worthwhile. Someday.

In the meantime, I am learning how to move away from the intense intervention that was needed from me when he was younger, into more of a supporting role as he moves to the forefront of his own advocacy.  It’s not always easy, but me getting out of the way is integral to him taking over his own growth. And he is more than capable.

When he needs me, I am still there—and I always will be. But stepping back at the appropriate time is a huge part of raising a child with a disability. It has been my job to protect him, to advocate for him, to insist on the services he was entitled to, to provide the scaffolding he needed to grow and learn; but the real goal has always been to someday not need those supports.

He had a bit of a rough patch this week, but in the days afterwards, he had insights into himself that he couldn’t have received any other way. Not only could he see that, but he was able to explain it to me, talk about it, and frame those insights into usable tools for himself for the future.

This kid. He has been a singular gift to this family since his birth. As I watch him get ready to move beyond his family, to flap and test his wings, and interact with the world, I wonder what gifts he has in store for the rest of us. Bear with me as I figure out how to navigate the changed mothering roles necessary in this new world. Respecting him, his wishes, his story, and if I can, still carve out a space for my own overflowing heart.

In the meantime, I will return to reading the crazy-dense article on particle physics he found about capturing light waves and freezing the light particles in crystalline form, and how this may solve the world’s energy problems.

February First!

We made it, people. January was 96 days long, and Christmas was six months ago, but we got to flip the calendar today. Do you still have a paper calendar? I do this year. I’m attempting to go analog, and I’m finding it to be super helpful. I’m more productive and more aware of what’s happening—though I admit I may have lost track of a few things in the labyrinthian 14 weeks of January.

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Pretty much.

So the California Hippie Girl is re-surfacing hard as I hit midlife. (What even constitutes midlife anymore? I don’t buy forty being the new twenty or whatever the kids are saying these days, but I kind of think falling down the stairs a few weeks ago (see: January 67th) gets me my Midlife© Card.

Anyway, I grew weary with the lack of recycling options in my neighborhood and went on the warpath (can I say that, or is it culturally insensitive? I am honestly asking.) It turns out our waste management company DOES offer recycling, but since almost no one uses it (seriously, if you drive around my neighborhood on trash day, there are NO recycle toters out at the curb) they don’t really advertise it. I have a shiny new blue recycle toter being delivered ASAP, and I am retooling the kitchen setup so I can teach my kids the glorious art of separating the trash!

I’ve also made the move from plastic food storage containers back to glass and 86’d paper plates or other disposable single-use products. I’ve had the same cloth grocery bags since 1991, so I’m good there. Seriously, it’s not that hard, just keep them in your car. It takes a week or two to get used to it, but once you do, it’s second nature. In the part of California where I’m from (and where most of my family lives) you can’t even get plastic bags anymore. People griped at first, but they got used to it. It’s amazing what our big brains can do! All of this used to be like breathing to me, but moving east sent parts of me into hibernation. I’m going to try and wake some stuff up.

I’m not quite ready to institute composting, but mostly that’s because I hate the outdoors in Virginia, and there is no way in hell I’m going to garden. Swamps are not meant to be lived in by this many people. While you can drain the water, the mosquitoes and humidity are eternal.

I don’t make new year’s resolutions per se, but in the 654 days of January, I had time to reflect on some stuff, and I realized we really don’t need any new stuff. I mean, seriously. We just don’t. I cut back on Christmas last year, and we focused on activities and going to NYC as our big family present. It was worth it. I am trying to make a genuine effort to examine any potential purchase and ask if we really need it. This might make me sound like a ton of fun (and January me wasn’t super awesome, I admit) but it’s actually exciting because less stuff will allow us to take more trips and go more places, and experience more life, and that’s a very good thing.

So, regardless of what happens with the damned Groundhog tomorrow, we will have six more weeks of winter, per the only calendar that matters: the moon. Spring equinox is at 4:15 in the afternoon on March 20, regardless of what a rodent and Bill Murray do. The days will be perfectly balanced for that moment, before we begin the tip towards peak summer sunlight. Equinoxes > Solstices. I know Solstices are fancier and get bigger parties, but I love that balance point, where you can feel the year tip.

Here’s to a mercifully accurate 28 days for February. So far, so good.