A few summers ago, Adam and I were sitting on the back patio, on a beautiful evening, having dinner. It had been one of those days; constantly on the run, driving my kids to one million places. Dinner was the first chance that I had to catch up with Adam and to find out how his day was at camp. I must have been chatting away, peppering him with questions. I’m not even sure that he was answering me. I will fully admit; I hate silence. After about the 6th question, Adam held his hand up and said “Whoa! Mom! You’re out of words in your talk jar”.
I remember his comment stopping me dead in my tracks; my jaw dropped. I also remember shaking my head and chuckling, for he truly has a knack for saying extremely quirky things that initially don’t make sense. However, after thinking about it, they actually make a WHOLE lot of sense. He just told me in his own quirky way to “shut up”! I often comment how there are some true advantages to autism directness. I love that these kids say what they mean. In their minds, the sky is blue, the grass is green, and every other aspect of their life is either black or white. After that night on the back patio, I silently vowed that I was going to keep this comment in my back pocket for, for in my opinion, it was brilliant. I knew that someday, I would find this phrase to be quite useful…… And for me, “someday” came this past week.
For the past five days, I wasted many hours of my life , trying to convince an individual that Adam could participate in an activity independently. Unfortunately, this person went to all ends of the earth to wear me down beyond belief. In the end, I decided that it was not worth my time to try and convince this person otherwise. In my opinion, Adam was being discriminated against, not to mention my feelings that I was being harassed and judged as a parent. There are just some people who unfortunately are too paralyzed by their own ignorance, fear, and assumptions, not only about Autism, but life in general. Over time, I have learned, in these situations, that I will not get anywhere with their narrow mindedness. Thus, my new favorite mantra:
As much as I continued to remind myself about the circus and monkeys, I admit that my level of frustration continued to multiply. I continued to obsess and my anger continued to grow. I couldn’t fight back the tears. I had many lengthy conversations with this person in my head. I imagined all of the inappropriate things that I would like to say. I imagined my best upward cut clocking them right in the chin. I imagined my best roundhouse kick firing right at their gut. I even (immaturely) imagined tripping them flat on their face and yelling “ha, ha….ha, ha, ha!”. Or my most favorite, just flat out tackling and choking them. As I am reveling in my mental images, my emotions then turned to sheer panic, and self doubt; questioning myself whether Adam will be able to, one day, go to college, be able to live independently, and find a job. This made me even more angry. I was so mad that this person, and their narrow views, caused me to doubt all of the things that we have fought so hard to put into place for our son. To doubt all of his many accomplishments over his short life. So, to this person, I would like to say…..
“You’re out of words in your talk jar”!
It was only after a night on the sofa eating ice cream and watching mindless reruns of anything I could find, that I realized that I had to take a step back and remember all of the good that surrounds Adam and our family. All of the things that life has taught us about raising a child with Autism. I began to make a mental list of all of the people that I would like to thank, and I suddenly realized that this list of positives far outweighs the negatives. And to each of these people, I would like to say:
- Thank you to all of Adam’s wonderful doctors who always speak directly to him and ask him your questions directly and concisely. In addition, thank you for your endless patience in answering all of my many (and sometimes ridiculous) questions.
- Thank you to the wonderful directors of the school and community theater programs who always find the perfect role for Adam in your plays and musicals.
- Thank you to Adam’s wonderful art teachers at our community art school who “shoo’ me away at the door and allow Adam to independently express himself in his most favorite way for two hours every Wednesday.
- Thank you to Adam’s Tae Kwon Do Instructor who tells me that “he will see me in an hour” while he consistently holds Adam to the highest standard just like the rest of his class; because he KNOWS Adam can do it.
- Thank you to Adam’s teachers who roll up their sleeves, dive in with your “can do attitude”, and hold my son to the same standard as all of the other students in his class, because you also KNOW he can do it.
- Thank you to Adam’s soccer and baseball coaches who work so hard and dedicate so much time to ensure that he can play the two sports that he loves.
- Thank you to all of our wonderful friends who never, for a second, treat Adam differently.
As I continue to reflect on my past week, I realize that among all of the aggravation that I experienced, I am truly grateful for the reminder that there is a lot of good to be found around me. My suit of armor as a special needs parent is even stronger. And on that note, I would like to say:
HEY INTOLERANCE, ASSUMPTION, and IGNORANCE!!!
You’re Out of Words in Your Talk Jar!!!