I sometimes wonder if you know about Kate’s autism. You are so friendly and kind and we know based on our proximity that you have been privy to many a meltdown. Your children are grown or never existed. Your house is quiet and your garden precisely groomed. I haven’t taken the time to get to know you because I am afraid that you might reject the idea of a friendship with a mom who walks down the street in her pyjamas with a bottle of wine hidden poorly in the sleeve of her coat, to her childhood friend who lives not two minutes away. I am afraid you will reject a friendship with a mom whose puffy eyes are a combination of sleep deprivation and cheap wine on a Tuesday night because Tuesday was so damn hard. You’ve already patiently put up with so much from us.
There are the morning meltdowns that explode when we try and change Kate’s clothes to get her ready for daycare. You’ve likely not even rolled out of bed when you hear Kate loudly protesting the idea of pants. Your perfectly manicured house sits tens steps across the quiet street and you are most certainly privy to the fact that Kate prefers to keep the same thing on, no matter what it is. She does not like change and she lets us know with vigour. We have recently become pretty adept at redirection and can get out of the house in the morning without too many issues about half of the time. The other half leaves us weak and defeated. What you must think?
I imagine your conversations with your husband, you know:
You: What is wrong with that family? Why can they not control that little girl?
Him: I’m going over there this time. We have been listening to this madness for too long!
You: No, honey, I feel bad for her. Did you see her leave for work in her slippers today?
Him: I’m running out of patience for this.
You: Surely, it will get better.
The screaming and crying. The chaos. Do you peek out your window and watch us force Kate into her carseat so we can get her to daycare? Do you cringe when we shut the door car door in the middle of her hysterics? Does your heart break for Grace, who stands quietly by, sometimes in tears, sometimes in solidarity with her sister? Do you pity her? Do you pity us? Do you understand?
I know you know that bedtime can be the same. We have improved and I’m sure you’ll agree. You likely had to shut your windows each evening in the hot summer last year. This year, maybe only half the time. Bedtime is hard. You’re probably settling down with a cup of tea ready to watch your news program when you hear the first screams. You likely frown and set your cup down. You sigh and turn your television up.
The you I imagine in that house is not the you I encounter outside. When we venture out to play Kate is happiest. You never shy away. You always come over and chat. You smile genuinely at Grace and Kate and you casually chat to me as if we haven’t disrupted so many of your early mornings and evenings. You ask questions to our girls about school and friends. Kate rubs your leg. You reach for her hand. You like her. She likes you.
I watch you for signs of anger or frustration. I see none. I never really commit to any conversation because I am always anxiously waiting for you to smile and say:
“It’s not that I mind, but my husband works nights, and the noise…well….”
You never say those words.
Did we hit the neighbour jackpot? I’ve seen neighbours lose it over grass grown a centimetre too long. I’ve seen neighbourhood feuds erupt over a poorly placed fence or an overgrown tree.
For whatever reason you have chosen to give us a pass, and for that we thank you. You deserve a quiet morning and a peaceful evening and we are working hard to make that happen; for both us.