Friday, February 18, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentines

Jared had a Valentine all ready to give away.  One Valentine.  I should have seen it coming, but he had not spoken of this girl for a while and it slipped my mind.

One of his brothers alerted me to the activity.  "Mom, it could end badly."

I know.

It was a simple and sweet gesture - a piece of white paper with a Roses are Red poem scribbled on the front cut out in the shape of a heart.  My own heart broke just a little because I KNEW what would happen if he gave it away.  The feelings were not going to be equally reciprocated.

So we had a talk.  It was a gentle and loving conversation.  It was a talk I would have had with any of my boys had they been in Jared's shoes.

I told him how sweet he was for wanting to do this.  I said that while it was sweet, he needed to re-think giving it away.  Did she feel the same way he did?  Would she be embarrassed to receive his only Valentine?  Would he open them both up to ridicule from others that would cause her to stop talking to him?  There were a few other questions and he answered them all.  At the end I asked what he thought he should do.  Calmly he replied that he thought it would be a better idea no to give it away.

I told him how much I loved him and that I didn't want him to be hurt by other people on such a loving day.  I also explained that now he is in middle school and getting older, he should limit his Valentine expressions to official girlfriends and one day his wife.  This way it's expected and no boundaries are overstepped.

He then told me about telling another good female friend how he felt about her and she stopped talking to him and how it was sad for him.  He was able to relate this experience to the present and realized he did not want the same outcome in this case.  Maintaining a friendship was important to him.

But when could he tell her how much he liked her?  I said 16.  Actually I wanted to say 30, but I'm his mom, give me a break!!!

Jared is 11.  His heart is worn prominently on his sleeve.  So much love to give.

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
You are so great
That you are awesome too.

That is you, Jared.  Love you so much.  

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Litmus Test for All of Us

As a human, I have not come to the point where I feel Autism Spectrum Disorders are a gift.  I accept it is a fact of life.  I love my son unconditionally.  I will do what it takes to help him become his best self, whatever that may be.  I fear he will not have all the same opportunities as his brothers.  I worry that someday he will fall in love and be rejected.  I worry that someday someone will love him back and her parents will reject him.  I wrestle with the fairness of his life.  I worry.  I fear.  But I know he will never be alone.  He will always have love and a home.

From a spiritual standpoint, I believe we all come to this life with certain predetermined challenges and abilities that we use, nurture, and overcome while we are here to learn, grow, and teach others along the way.  I feel that Jared was prepared for the life he was given.  I feel that I signed up to be his mom.  

I've often thought about what Jared's purpose is in this life.  What is he bringing to the table and others like him that gives all their struggles meaning?  I am sure there are many answers to that question.  Here's what I have  come up with so far......

In my previous line of work, a young man came in almost daily.  He had a special need; I don't know what.  Despite that, aside from some hygiene issues, he looked pretty "normal" until he interacted with you.  He was verbal.  Very verbal.  He would talk to anyone who was around him about something that meant a lot to him (usually video games or family stuff) and nothing to anyone else.  He would talk and talk and it was difficult at times to redirect him.  I witnessed many times people he was talking at be very uncomfortable and just try to turn away and ignore him.  I would see this and wish for someone just to take three minutes out of their boring day in a line up to pay attention to him and treat him like a person.  All I wanted to see was a small moment where someone decided it was okay to engage him in some way.  

A handful of times I witnessed engagement.  Someone took the time to pay attention.  Was it hard?  Probably.  I don't know if this young man ever really noticed if someone paid attention to him or not, but I sure did.  

Sometimes Jared has this same problem.....more so now that he is older.  When he was young he was really cute so you couldn't help but engage with him, but now that he is almost 12 the cute factor is dwindling and he is perceived as more weird than cute.  At times I know the perception is, "What the #%$@ is wrong with you?" because people expect that a disability should always be indicated by some sort of visible, physical sign.   

Perhaps I should stick a cheese hat on his head with the words, "I have Autism, bear with me."

I remember as a young adult, I thought I was all that and the chocolate icing on a cake.  I was well on my way to my reward in heaven and it was going to be pretty good.  Then I got married and learned I wasn't as great as I thought I was and had a lot more to learn.  Then I had children and learned that I really wasn't as great as I thought I was and had tons to learn.  Then I proceeded to raise those children and really, really learned that I wasn't as great as I thought I was and probably wouldn't learn everything I need to learn in this life.  The only thing I could do was move forward in a positive direction and learn and be consistent and learn and love and learn.

How do you feel around those special souls amongst us who have challenges beyond our scope of understanding?  Do you cringe?  Do you ignore?  Do you engage?  Do you love?  Do you support?  Do you walk away thinking "Thank goodness he's not mine"? 

Depending how you answer those questions, you may find that there's more for you to learn in this life.  

I know part of Jared's purpose here is to teach others about him and themselves.  I know this world is filled with others who have that same purpose.  To a degree we all serve that purpose at one time or another - some just do it more on a full time basis.  

Our family still has a lot to learn, but we are working on it.  I hope you are too.