Alex gets home about 1 p.m. from a half day of school. He dives onto the iPad. I decide we'll go for a walk or a bus ride if he wants. He never asks.
He watches the iPad all afternoon. One becomes 2 o'clock, and that becomes 3. I do have a lot to do: fold and stow the laundry, change and make the beds, play too many rounds of Hearts on my laptop. I'm ready in a moment to do something else if Alex wants to, but he sits hunched in his headphones hour after hour.
I have this fear of institutional days for Alex, some place with people who sit at desks and pay attention only to those who need attention the most in the looming days of tight budgets. People paid to act the same way his father does on this afternoon. "If we're going to find a residence for Alex by the time he's 16 or 17, we have to start now," Jill said this morning. I agree. After all, Jill went to college at 17 (imagine what she must've looked like!); Lord Nelson commanded a ship at 12. Given the average of those ages and that Alex already says "Bye, daddy!" when I drop him off at overnight respite, the timeframe isn't out of line.
If I'm a loving caregiver, though, how come we're looking this afternoon at the fourth hour with Alex on the iPad and me at this computer, back-to him, listening for the crash of the plate glass or the wail of a kid who's 13 going on 5 who's hurt himself? "Seven!" I hear Alex say over and over. I turn and see him rocking on his thighs to whatever's coming through the headphones. Elmo? "Bear in the Big Blue House?" "Arthur?" The pile of laundry remains high. I find time to watch 10 minutes of "The Winds of War" on Netflix On Demand. I wish I'd written "The Winds of War" while still in high school. Things would be different now.
Alex, socks to put away!
He could do it, well and quick, but my request doesn't seem to stick. I listen to Pandora and lose myself in memories of stuff that happened before Alex; I put the socks away myself. He stands over there, munching a Goldfish. He doesn't ask for a bus ride or a walk; I'd grab his reduced MTA Metrocard (marked with a bold black R, and what could that stand for, I wonder) and hit the bus for a ride down Fifth or a subway ride to pick up pumpkins for Halloween.
That would be something to do. I know Alex would like that.