photo from the archives (circa 2007)
I picked the kids up as usual at parent pick-up. I anticipated a happy report of boys that tried hard all day at making good choices. We planned cupcakes for snack, we planned to make them while Z was at chess practice. That's not how it all went down, after all.
Z got into the car without much responding when I asked about his day. He quietly asked to skip chess today. This is not unusual, but I noticed there was something about his demeanor that was different. As I pulled around to another drop-off for chess I noticed his heart beating fast when I looked at his chest. I asked him if he was okay and after several efforts to mumble and hold in his feelings, he finally said, "I'm feeling blue. I hate Autism. Why do I have to have it? Why does it have to be ME?'
I have never been in a physical fight with anyone. No one has ever hurt me with a kick of a boot, but I am telling you that moment was like The Hulk kicked me in the sternum it hurt so bad. I knew one day it would come, but there's no preparing for it. It's one thing to have my own grief to overcome, but his new understanding of this and his grief seemed at the moment an almost unbearable pain.
He dove his head into his hands and began to cry. I tried to find the breath that was knocked out from within me so I could help him through this. I reminded myself the need to let him be in this moment. Let him be mad about it like I was when I learned about it just 3 years ago. Just be with him where he is. Don't try to fix it or push away the feelings. Just sit with him and let him feel it. Let whatever kind of time it takes to sort out and communicate his feelings. Listen. Empathize. Then help him move on. These thoughts were placed into my mind as I rested a hand on his back and rolled away from the school. There would be no chess practice today, but BY GOLLY THERE WILL BE CUPCAKES!
Keenly aware of the two happy children chattering away in the back of the car, I whispered to Z that it would be best to talk about this at home in private. I wanted to be sure he had my full attention. Once we got home, he could sit on my bed and I would be in to talk about it with him in a moment. He did not resist the notion and did as I suggested. This meant a lot to me and the kind of relationship I have always hoped to have with each of my children. I hope they tell me what they feel; I want to be their safe place to talk about things. He was doing just that. What a wonderful, fabulous moment to be home to share with him. A hard one, but important and precious.
I got the television arranged for the two littles and found him laying on the bed with swollen eyes and sad face fixed on the ceiling. I nestled in next to him and just held his hand. He didn't have a lot to say and nothing specific seemed to have happened today. I felt an inspired wisp of words come to me that were genuine and strong. I told him of the important things that will come of his life despite Autism and that it will not get in the way of him having a happy, full life. Yes, some things may be harder, but many things will be easier and give him opportunity. We said a prayer together and both wiped away some tears.
Then it was time to get a snack- popcorn was his choice and some cartoons helped ease his mood further away from the blue zone. I suspect it will return when he least expects it. I hope he remembers the importance of who he is and how amazing he is. But if he doesn't, that's okay, too. I know his parents will always do their best to remind him any time he needs it and even when he doesn't.
By the end of the day the blues had been fully chased away thanks to a play date at the park with a new friend, hooray for XBOX Kinect, a loving brother, and hot dogs.