June 01, 2004

My afternoon

Before coming to Israel I was a stay-at-home mom---being
mom absorbed, at that point, about 21 years of my life. If I worked at all it was when kids were at school or at a job directly in the home---generally babysitting in some form or another. During the last 10 years I homeschooled my children.

Come to Israel and my kids are all in school, my dh can't find a good paying job, so I go back to work. 21+years of not working, and a BA in psychology= unskilled working.

Two mornings a week I'm a housecleaner, which is funny because come to my house and you'll meet a slob. In the afternoons, four days a week, for about an hour, I take care of a little girl.

Yesterday was typical of my afternoon with her; because it was so nice and sunny I took her for a walk up and down the block. This actually consisted of her walking a few steps and then sitting down on the ground---which was okay, but I didn't let her lie down which she kept wanting to do also. Then we would walk and she would go over to the plants, try and pull them up, or grab a leaf. I'd point out things to her; how many cars were passing by, the color of the flower she just pulled off, feel how soft etc. etc, making sure she didn't stick something like grass or worse glass in her mouth (she tends to put everything in her mouth.)

Back home we sat on the couch and I rubbed her back while she sucked her finger.

I tried to teach her how to roll a ball, without much success.

And oh, by the way, the girl is 12.

She is both autistic and mentally retarded. I love her to bits. But to her, I'm noting. Deep in my heart I know I am no more important to her than the couch, or pillow which she frequently grabs and puts on her lap. Maybe less important. I'm certainly less important to her than her bottle.

This is the hardest hour of my day. And I wouldn't mind being a chair so much if I thought I could also somehow reach her, teach her something---how to wave goodbye, or set the table, or play ball. Sometimes I have little, tiny breakthroughs---but most of the time, the day is like a described, or even, for me, worse---she lays there on her bed and all I do is give her back and feet a massage.

She is pretty much unreachable and unteachable.

Wow, what a wake up call, what a slap you in the face and learn how much you can't do situation. I go in, each and everyday with such high hopes---well high hopes for her. Today she will wave goodbye to me. Today she will do more than mouth the toy I give her. She'll say a word, any word will do! I'd take NO! I'd break down into tears if she would roll the ball back to me. I was on cloud nine the day she fed herself a whole meal; spilling most of the food along the way, but who cares?

Just any breakthrough will do G-d, really it will.

But most likely it isn't going to happen. Most likely I will keep going there, for one hour a day four days a week until the job expires and she will barely take in the fact that I am there.

I admire her parents; they have 7 younger children; all very well loved and well behaved and cute. And they love their oldest daughter too. And I don't see how they do it, day to day--what they need to do inside so they can love her and still go on.

I guess I would know that if it would happen to me, but I do pray it doesn't happen to me. The hour hurts like hell.

What a whine this turned out to be. But it is also a plea. Anyone who reads this, who can give me a suggestion on how I can help her, write me.

I want to make her life better; in that hour I want to do something for her that will last her whole lifetime. This is a selfish wish to, I know that, I'm not lying to myself about that aspect.

But at least sometimes, I want to be more than a chair.


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