So the other day I almost fell off my chair at lunch. Michael looked me straight in the eye and asked, really asked the question to me;
“Mommy, do I have autism?”
I paused. He’d asked before, but this time was different. He got it. He was beginning to see there was something different about him.
“Yes, honey. You do.”
“What is autism, and is it why I’m so nervous Mommy?”
“Autism means you look at the world a little differently than some people. It helps you to see objects with detail, like when you used to spot a toy on the top shelf from far away, it helps you remember things from a year ago clearly in ways Mommy can’t. But yes, it also means you are a little more nervous than a lot of people. Your body and brain feel things more intensely, loudly.”
“But never forget that you are a smart boy. Autism means you see, feel and think of things in another way than I or Daddy do.”
“Do my friends have autism?”
“Some of them do.”
He is blown away by this.
“Yes, honey. You’re not the only person with autism.”
“And there are people without autism who are nervous too. We all have to find ways to manage our feelings when we’re scared, angry or sad. And remember, whose here to help you with that.
“You, Daddy, and the rest of my team, Team Michael. Right Mommy?”
I smile at him. I’m so proud of what he is understanding and trying to do. He is finding himself, and I hope I can help him continue to do that.
“That’s right honey.”
I am drained, excited, wondering what to say next when Michael says what any eight year old would say.
“Can I have a cupcake for desert?”
And just like that the magical discussion is finished. Until the next time. I love how these impromptu conversations come up. I hope I have answered him correctly. I hope he sees only his strengths and not his limitations. Sometimes even a member of his “team” namely me, forgets to do that.
This moment was so eye opening for me though. It showed me how much he is understanding, growing up, and taking in. He is trying to reconcile so many things. I hope I can continue to be his guide and show him what he is capable of, what is beyond him, at least for now, and what he can continue to strive for with enough time, effort and energy.
How have your Exceptional Children surprised you, Moms and Dads? What kinds of questions have they thrown at you that took you off guard, but helped you realize what an amazing little person they are? Just remember, even at the hardest times, never stop believing in them, in what they are taking in, and in what they can do. Also, never stop believing that you can help them by being honest with them about your own shortcomings and strengths. They will surprise you by connecting even more, and then by asking the hard but necessary questions. You’ll become closer as a result, I’m sure. Until next time.