Milo. Milo Leonardo. Those are two of his four names. He was born on the winter solstice in 2003, as the light was returning. He weighed 9 and 1/2 pounds. He had a full head of dark hair. He was pink and perfect. Until he wasn’t. At 14 months he started to wail. After that it was a steady accumulation of the language of misery, howls, complaints, opposition, defiance, violence.
When he was four we called him “the world’s smallest asshole.” Okay, not to his face, but to amuse and comfort ourselves. Hey, you know grown up assholes right? Well, they were four once. Too bad for their parents but that’s how it goes. When he was five we visited my family in California (we live on the east coast) and my brother, a veteran teacher, the father of two boys and my lifelong ally and soothsayer took me aside and said, hey, he IS an asshole but he doesn’t have to be. Something is wrong with him. It’s not your fault. But it’s your job to get him some help. So we did.
We came home and had him assessed. And reassessed. Medication, therapy (all ongoing). The diagnosis is Bipolar which is controversial, but seems to fit. I’ll tell you my impressions of pediatric psychiatry later, for now we’re going with Bipolar. He has outrageous mood swings, sometimes several in an hour. He has delusions and paranoia. He does not climb onto the roof and try to fly. He does not stay in bed for days unable to move. It’s not the cinematic version of the disorder, it’s the excruciating variation. He can’t sleep much. He has an endless supply of not always productive energy. He hears any harsh word as character assassinating criticism. He thinks you’re out to get him, except when he thinks that you’re the only one who can save him. He is disruptive and explosive. There is a constant electrical storm raging in his head. He tries to calm it. He tries to ignore it. He tries to escape it. We’re hoping he’ll learn to coexist with it. And eventually manipulate the power and the beauty of his unending weather into a whole, long life.
Milo can’t go to camp. Mostly because camp isn’t prepared for his unpredictability. So we spend the summer together. And it kills me. I’d rather be working, or working out. I’d rather send him off smiling to a day of splashing or stomping or capture the flag. Instead I fight to keep his screen time down, to get us each some exercise, to stay calm, patient and engaged as he bores me or disturbs me or exhausts me for hours on end. It’s the season of our discontent. And I’m anxious to share it with you.