At the same time that I was writing the exciting but somewhat dismal story of Martin’s disciplinary problems at school and at home an alternative, contemporanious, much perkier narrative emerged from our daily lives.
On the same day that Martin first urinated on a public sidewalk the rival narrative notes that he also played a complex yet quite commonplace game with a girl of a similar age on a large rope spider web at the Pittsburgh Zoo in which he pretended to be a caterpillar and she pretended to be a spider.
And several days later in the evening after our helpless, hopeless meeting with ten other adults about what we might all do to keep him from getting kicked out of school he played gently with our friends’ corpulent, nine-month old twinlettes cooing words of comfort to them: “It’s all right, Rosie. You’re going to be ok.”
And all four of the days between and around the two school days during which I went into the school to help administer his timeouts had been “green” days during which his teachers described him as “angelic,” “helpful” and “cooperative.” And, of course, I could also have chosen to mention that in the same span of time that he was demonstrating a propensity for public excretion he was also an increasingly compliant client at the domestic hairdressers’, markedly less reluctant to have his nails trimmed and had made a successful exploratory visit to a dentists’ office.
However, narrating the story as I have over the last week is not simply an case of me failing to notice that the cup which is three quarters empty is also one quarter full. My narrative choices are intended to honor a unilateral agreement I have made with my readers to tell true stories about Martin as the come. And the truth of my relationship with Martin just now is that these minor triumphs do not counter-balance the strain of apologizing to kind teachers he has humiliated with a flurry of blows; the glory of his accomplishments with babies does not shine through the lunar eclipse of his unpredictable public excretion; and the excitement I feel at his language and relationship building skills is nearly obliterated by my fear that the coping that the rest of us do to get through this will change us in ways we eventually come to resent.