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The Ups and Downs of this Thing called Autism

I have a category¬†on this blog dubbed “Emotional Roller Coaster” and I find that MOST of my posts wind up falling there. I think it’s because that is the biggest part of raising children, the ebbs and flows of parenting. The times that we feel really good about the job we are doing, and then those times when we feel like we’ve fallen short. It’s also about the joys and disappointments we feel as parents because of our children’s actions.

Last night, J had his first home game of the season. He was super excited! Pumped! His team, they’re not the down and dirty kind of kids, play hard, but the last two season openers were 1 loss and 1 tie. So, the expectation, at least to J, was that they might not be victorious. And he was okay with that, as long as they played hard.

After his morning practice, he told me that he wanted to share this quote with his team, but didn’t get the chance:

“I can accept failure.¬†Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying” – Michael Jordan

What’s so big about this is that J is usually the one wailing because his team loses. Although he does not play very much, he holds his teammates to a high standard, which is less than fair to those boys working really hard.

And, J, does not easily accept failure. So, for him to feel that this quote was appropriate shows high maturity and growth.

Since he didn’t get the chance to say it at practice, I emailed his sentiment to the parents on the team. When I told him, he was happy. He doesn’t say much to these boys, but he is choosing his words carefully.

4th quarter. His team is up 26-0. Awesome.

Jackson has not gone in for one play. Not so awesome.

But, then, he’s in. On defense. He’d rather be on offense, but we take what we are given. He is blocking. On the line. He is trying. He misses a block. He gets in on a tackle late. He gets plowed down. And then…THEN…he makes a block. A real genuine block and takes someone down. You can hear all of his coaches, teammates, parents of teammates and spectators cheer and yell his name. This is good. This is soooooo good.

jfootballAfter his game, the next team up is playing. As he’s coming off the field, the national anthem starts to play. Everyone stops where they are and puts their hand on their heart and either sings, or remains silent. So does J. But then he sees me and starts slowly walking toward me. Still looking up at the flag and now with his left hand over his heart because, I can only assume, his left hand got heavy from holding all his stuff and he switched hands.

And that’s when I notice a pack of boys, older than J, snickering at him. Smacking each other on the shoulder to get the other to join in on the laughing at my kid.

Why? Well, he was picking his nose a bit. He was kind of looking giddy. Sure.

I waited until the national anthem was over and I walked up to them and I said, “I hope you had a good laugh.”

As is usually the case when people are caught doing wrong, they froze and turned or walked away.

Here comes the drop. The point in which my joy for J’s accomplishments become overshadowed by the actions of others. Not cool. Not at all.

I tell a few of the other parents because I just need to let it out. They are all equally disappointed in that type of behavior but I feel better because I know these people, my team, are here for us.

But, we get home and I am still mad. It’s late and the kids are tired and I am done.

And I think, “I should write about this.” But I don’t. I don’t because I was too mad. What I would have written would have been an emotional reaction, not thoughtful expression.

I also don’t want to give a handful of seventh grade boys that kind of attention. They clearly don’t deserve it.

So, I wait until now, the next morning, after I have made my kids their usual Sunday pancake breakfast, and we are still in our pjs and rubbing sleepies out of our eyes, and I sit and I write this from a different perspective.

I think of what I would say to those boys if they were in front of me right now. One parent had said that I should tell THEM to put on jersey and the pads and get out there and do it,which felt really good to imagine saying to them.

But, what I would say is this:

You laugh at him. Why? Do you think he chooses to be this way? Do you think he wants to have kids laughing at him? Do you know him? No. But if you did, you know someone who is kind unconditionally. Someone who will be there for those he cares about no matter what. Will these other boys do that for you? My boy doesn’t ask for much, he is low maintenance as a friend, a peer. He will never laugh at you, unless your intention is for him to laugh. He will never scold you, or ostracize you. He will be honest with you. He will be kind to you. And he will fight for you if ever anyone should cross you. Will your friends, who stand here giggling at a child who can’t help the things he does sometimes, be that genuine?

I don’t know who these kids were. I know they are from my town. I think I know what grade they are in. But it doesn’t matter. I am not going to change them. If they think it’s okay to treat another person that way, they will one day learn the error of their ways because that kind of behavior always catches up to people. I’m old enough to know that.

And, in case you were wondering, J didn’t notice any of this. And I didn’t tell him about it. He is better off not knowing how hurtful and stupid kids can be. He will learn that lesson in time as well.

My father-in-law asked me about bullying the other day since J is in a new school with older kids now. I said that he does have the aide at school which kind of deters the kids from that kind of behavior. I also said that kids will look out for him and, since he doesn’t ask for much from his peers, he’s not annoying, which is less fuel for the fire. But, I said, there is going to be bullying and J is going to have to learn how to handle himself. I wholeheartedly believe this but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do ANYTHING to make it not happen. None of us want our children to hurt in any way. We want them to be happy. But that is not our only job. Our job is to raise them to be in the world and to do that, they must learn how to handle adversity. And I will be here to answer his questions about why some people are the way they are, or how to deal with a certain person or situation but all I can do is give him the tools and hope against all hope that he comes out as unscathed as possible. Still my smiling, happy boy who finds the good in people. The boy who shows the love in his heart in the smile in his eyes. And I hope, too, that the rest of the world is ready for that kind of love.

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