Lexi's autism has been hard for her mother to understand, and though Hillary and Joe have tried counseling, the couple recently separated. Admits Hillary, "I've tortured myself over the years thinking that in order to fully love her and parent her, I needed to be able to understand her head." Lexi has enormous trouble generating her own speech; instead, she repeats or mimics what other people say to her. She has a beautiful smile and a lovely singing voice, but her parents worry what will become of her when they are not around to take care of her. Hillary explains how the time since The Miracle Project has affected her view of Lexi's future:
Lexi was in middle school when they were filming, in 8th grade. She's in 10th grade now, and she's in a functional skills program, which means she's not pursuing a diploma - because she can't, the way things are set up. She'd have to be able to pass the tests. She loves everything, so she took to high school right away. But she doesn't have any sophistication or savvy about the ways of the world at all. She's just not set up for it. It's almost like she doesn't have an ego. She's a great Buddhist - she's very in the moment, she takes pleasure in simple things, but she's also innocent.
Stepping to a Different Stage
I know she loved it, but I can't say that the Miracle Project brought her out of her shell. She really responds to Elaine is a special way. We started doing the Miracle Project again, but frankly I couldn't take it anymore. The reason the project was so wonderful for Lex is the reason I had to stop doing it, too. It's so young, it kind of infantilizes the kids in a way, and I didn't feel Lexi would benefit from more of that. She's babyish enough. If Lexi could go off and do it on her own, I'd let her do it. But because I had to be so involved and they wanted me to sit in on the parent meetings ... I'm just done. I've been living this for so goddamned long, and I'm so tired of beating my breast and moaning my fate. I just stopped. She's in an after-school program that keeps her very active - they do karate and bowling and dancing and art and cooking ... Every day of the week she's got something going. Then weekends she's got a tutor and a dance class and her singing lessons. I was just burning out, so that was the one thing I thought we could drop. She loved doing it, but I don't think she minds not doing it. She's performed a few times, singing for her after-school program. She's really good - even in the movie, you don't get a true sense of how good she actually is. She's got a gift. There are a couple of performing-arts programs for kids with special needs, and I just figure that's what she'll end up doing.
Going Separate Ways
I'm not great, but I don't know exactly why. I don't know that I could attribute it just to the stress with Lex. I'm not happy in L.A., frankly; I miss New York a lot. When my marriage fell apart, I thought, 'Well, I just have to go to New York because that's my home.' I gave up my career to come out here with Joe, and then Lexi's diagnosis happened. We separated during the movie, and then the divorce was final in January of 2007.I think I feel ripped off. In the marriage, there's still no closure, and I guess it's still troubling to me. I'm getting older, and Lexi's getting older - the future's a scary place.
Not a Regular Kid
Right now, she appears to be perfectly content; there's not an ounce of contrariness in her. But, she's not like a regular kid. She has no friends. I pay people to take her out to the movies and dinner, young girls who can be a peer friend to her without me and Joe - to give her a chance to be a girl. So far, I've found some really lovely young women, college students who can give us a night every week. Lexi's pretty likeable when you're hanging out with her. She's odd, but she's sweet. She's also 15, so every now and then, there's a moment where I bug her or annoy her, which I'm so grateful for. I really like when she's able to express any, 'Go away, Mom,' type of attitude.
Coming to Terms
We saw Elaine recently, and she was talking about how these children are God's blessing and how they're miracles. And I was like, 'No they're not. They have disabilities, and they're fucked up, and it's a big pain in the ass and a big drag.' We love them, but I just can't go there. I think that's probably my version of the truth. I love Lexi with all my heart and soul, but if it could be different, I'd make it different without even thinking about it. And that's hard to live with. But, it's not going to serve anybody to sugarcoat it. It's tough. And it's sad. But what am I going to say? With luck, when she's older we'll get her set up with a situation that she finds fulfilling and that she's empowered by.