Essays: Life - Past and Present
When you have a child with Asperger's, your life is really not your own. It becomes an open book. Therapist and doctors, even family members who think they know better than you, tell you how to raise your child. You’ve always been a private person. An introvert. Along comes this little baby who from the very moment of his birth, goes from zero to sixty in a heartbeat. Your life is no longer private but open for all. He’s grown to be a quite gregarious, lively, young man with no censor button. He remembers everything you say and you never know what inadvertent comment said in the heat of the moment may come back to haunt you.
The house is finally quiet and your boy is in his room writing. Your ginger tabby is curled up next to you. sleeping. Hubby’s out doing his ten thousand steps. The clock ticks the minutes off as the washing machine hums in the background. You recall a conversation with a woman who overheard your son reading somewhere. “Wow, your son reads so well. Did you teach him?” It was one of those how are you, I’m fine questions and expecting a simple answer, she got the history of golf. You watch her eyes start to glaze as you explain teaching him to write the alphabet, all about phonics, and watching Leap Frog videos. You take pity on her and smile, let her off the hook and cut it short and say “Thank you for asking. Yes I did. He’s doing great, isn’t he?”
You hate labels. Some people define their lives by them. You fought ‘labeling’ your boy as autistic for a very long time. You didn’t want him to define his actions, his life by a label. You read all the books and, in the process, learned quite a bit, not only about your son, but yourself and your husband. Dreamers and dynamos, spatial-visual learners, spirited kids, highly sensitive, introverted, extroverted, gifted, etc. Are we all autistic or just human with quirky traits? Smart quirky kids now have labels and people work to fix them, trying to make a square peg fit into the round hole. You decide you can’t change temperament. He can’t be defined because he is his own person.
Books, hard bound and soft bound, thick and thin, every color of the rainbow were arrayed on the shelves in an orderly fashion. The high school library, quiet except for the swish of pages being turned. Pre cell phone and pre computer era, the tables were always full with students reading and writing. You practically lived in the library, volunteering as an aid and hanging out when not in class. You had the dewey decimal numbers memorized and knew where to find almost any book.
Puberty proved to be beyond you and you gave in and surprisingly found out that the medical community had caught up, offering all kinds of services to help kids who are different. You finally accept the label, opening your life to criticism as well as support, some useless and some beneficial.
You now have two sets of world book encyclopedias. Hubby’s old set from the 60’s and a newer version bought in 2003. You have fun comparing the entries and what’s changed over the years. You and your son visit the library a couple times and come to the conclusion you like owning your books. We both like to reread our books over and over again, so our shelves are overflowing with both fiction and nonfiction. Want to find something out, pick up a book. Although some days it’s easier to go online and look it up, you point your son in the direction of the encyclopedias and tell him to look it up.
One of your siblings, the one who always felt so misunderstood, decided to earn her master degree in psychology. You hope she recognized herself in some of the things she learned. She did her thesis on autism and couldn’t comprehend that you’d already read all the books, the studies and theories. She was only too happy to share everything she learned in hopes of making your life better. She went in wanting to help fix your son and came out realizing he didn't need to be fixed, just loved. Your oldest sister, the one with six kids, didn’t understand why you didn’t go to her for advice on how to raise or discipline your son. She’s been there, done that and knew better. Your boy rewrote the rule book and taught her a few new things.
Books shape your life and fill your world with information, hope, joy, and imagination. Anything we can think of, we can find it in a book. Don’t understand something, look it up. Love shapes our lives in much the same way. You accepted the label and shared the books, and now your family understands how our son shaped and changed our life. Why we do things a bit differently.
You know the saying – it takes a village?
For us, it’s a village with a library and unconditional love.