I have lists for groceries, to-do's to be done in preparation of a big annual event we host at our house every year, as well as the daily grind chores that I have been putting off due to summer vacation. (Who wants to clean when the lazy river at Wildwater Kingdom is beckoning?) Anyhow, it's become impossible to put off the tasks any further...and that's why I wasn't going to think of blogging today. I don't have time.
I'm working on paying bills, catching up on emails, and the general "I-forgot-what-day-of-the-week-it-is-because-it's-summer" confusion, when Ethan and Isaac come into the office. We get into a quick discussion over a few things, and Ethan brings up a server on Minecraft that he heard of just for kids on the autism spectrum called Autcraft. We look up the founder's Facebook profile. Then, as Isaac is quietly standing behind us he says, point-blank, "Do I have Autism?"
I'm not sure how other parents handle labels in their homes. I'm not saying you should or shouldn't tell your child of their special needs. In our home, we haven't told Isaac he is autistic, nor have we used it to explain things to him. It just hasn't been an issue. He sees the world differently, interprets the world uniquely, and processes his surroundings like one of the many fractals on a brilliantly cut diamond. He has a diagnosis, yes, and on paper it says he has autism. It makes him eligible for services that allow him to thrive, and it allows us to form a framework of understanding around a fraction of how he needs to live--but he is not limited to a set of "symptoms" or expected to be put in a box of understanding. Isaac is Isaac.
But when your own child asks you a question like this...
I calmly take him in my arms and hug him. He nestles his chin into the crook of my neck, keeping his arms at his side. I can almost hear his brain clicking and grinding.
"Yes." That's all I tell him.
I feel cornered, trapped, and angry. I wish I could punch the walls around me and throw a tantrum. Because although I believe Isaac is unique and wonderful and I wouldn't change him for all of the typical children in the world...he still has a label...and I can explain the label away, use more socially palatable terms to describe his needs, but he will always need to be identified with autism if he is to get what he needs in a manner that allows him to succeed--both in his own mind and in the world.
Instead of losing it, I get my composure and pull him away to look in his eyes. It takes him a moment. It seems like he is avoiding my glance. I wait patiently for him to meet me, holding his shoulders gently. "Isaac, I hope you know how amazing you are. There is no one, NO ONE like you in the whole universe. I know God was being super creative the day he made you. He was so excited! And He has a plan to use you in awesome ways." He looks at me, nods, and gives me a quirkly smile with squinty eyes and says..."Want to play with me?"
And just like that, the anger, fear, and worry fall to the floor. I have to let the intense conversation that I was preparing to have with my son about all the innate ways he is different--all the moments he has awakened awareness in me and others who know him--all the nuances of his thoughts and emotions...I had to realize it's my job to love him, not label or cover who he is with a band-aid. I need to love him by sharing life with him, answering the tough questions with just one word answers, and trusting that Isaac will discover more of who he is...
Over a game of "Pop the Pig." And I am so glad for that plastic pig with the inflatable belly who eats plastic hamburgers, because now we can just go on. Enjoying the moments, not dwelling on labels or differences...even though we know that they are still there. Always there.
Questions from our children aren't scripted, and we don't always have the answers mapped out. The questions about "who am I?" are to be answered over time, through experiences, and through love. Their questions will often spark the same questions in ourselves. And we learn them, live them, and cherish them together.
|Isaac, last day of 1st grade...a little champion.|