I realized at some point this week that I haven’t written very much about Monkey, lately. I’m not sure why that is. I think that since his official Asperger’s diagnosis I’ve felt conflicted. I felt relief to know what we already knew, but sadness for him to be saddled with a label. I felt hopeful that people who might be able to help him now had a handle on his needs, but wariness about the assumptions that might be made about him by those less than loving. For a while he was still having a hard time with everything, and it was just too difficult to talk about, too painful to say, “He’s my baby and his life isn’t supposed to be this hard and I can’t fix it.”
And then things started getting better—for a whole lot of different reasons, some of which we know and others which are ephemeral and, we hope, continuing whether we understand them or not—and I just wanted to cautiously enjoy it and not think too hard about the WHYs or the HOWs or (especially) the WILL IT LASTs.
Something happened yesterday that made me realize I have things I need to say about my son, and me, and us.
I referenced Monkey’s Asperger’s to an acquaintance who I guess had been unaware of it, and at some point in the conversation I said something like “Well, that’s life with an Aspie!” and this other person reacted as if I’d just called my kid a retard. It was of course one of those poor communication things, but I walked away from that interaction absolutely furious. Which—to be fair—wasn’t entirely logical or the other person’s fault.
I was angry at the ignorance displayed, and I was further really angry at the implication (which may have been in my head, who knows) that he or I or both of us should somehow be ashamed and not reference his condition because it’s one of those Don’t Talk About It kinds of things. Monkey calls HIMSELF an Aspie, as do plenty of the other people with Asperger’s that we know. It’s not a pejorative term, and Asperger’s isn’t something I’m going to talk about in hushed tones because it makes other people uncomfortable. Being able to talk about his experiences makes my son more comfortable, and being able to talk about my experiences with him makes other people less ignorant and him more okay with being himself, and so we are going to keep talking. Hopefully that’s okay with you. If it’s not, well, too damn bad.
The ironic thing is that the whole conversation had started because I had been venting about the fact that Monkey came home with the knees of his pants ripped out yesterday. The pants were new and I’m not going to lie, I was really exasperated with him. I’m very careful with our spending and him completely ruining a brand new item of clothing wasn’t really in my budget. It’s maddening. He’s 10. He should know better. But the truly crazy-making part is that the conversation goes like this:
Me: Monkey! What happened to your pants??
Monkey: What do you mean?
Me: Your PANTS! The knees! They’re all ripped!
Monkey: They are?
Me: YES! What did you DO?
Monkey: Huh. I don’t know.
Me: You don’t KNOW? Think!
Monkey: I am. Hmmm. I’m not sure.
Me: Really? REALLY? WERE YOU WITH YOUR PANTS TODAY??
Monkey: Oh! Wait. I was climbing around on my knees in gym. But I don’t think they ripped.
Me: They’re ripped. LOOK AT THEM. Ugh, nevermind.
Monkey: You’re mad.
Me: Well, yeah. No. I’m not mad, I’m sad. Pants cost money and those were new, and now we have to throw them away. Also I am kind of frustrated that you can somehow NOT NOTICE that you’ve destroyed your clothing.
Monkey: That is pretty weird, huh?
I was venting about the pants because I was frustrated and upset not just about the ruined pants, but about the fact that yeah, he didn’t notice. It wasn’t important to him and so he didn’t notice. At 10 that means ruined pants. I try not to let my mind go to the place that thinks about what that means at 14 or 18 or 22. I expend a lot of energy either worrying about or trying NOT to worry about what Monkey’s “quirks” will mean for his life as he gets older and should be more independent.
So the thing with the pants happened. And then the conversation where Aspie was treated like a dirty word happened. And all along I’m thinking how times had been really bad, and then they got better, and we’re maybe in a little dip, again, but it’s okay, we’re still all doing okay, and I realized that I focus way, way too much on what Monkey doesn’t have because of the particular hand he’s been dealt in life.
Do you know what Monkey DOES have, perhaps courtesy of being an Aspie?
He has a bright, beautiful smile that is never strained or perfunctory. If he’s smiling, he’s delighted, period.
He has laser-beam focus that, sure, sometimes means you have to call him ten times for dinner, but also means he turns bins of Lego into whole cities in record time, he flies through his piano books, he soaks up novels and equations and anything that catches his eye until he knows it inside-out.
He cannot remember what happened to his pants, but he also doesn’t remember that I lost my temper and hollered at him, or that Chickadee was kind of a jerk to him the other day. He loves and expects love back, and assumes we are our best selves most of the time.
He may blurt out things best left unsaid, but he also showers us with compliments and endearments and fondness, in his same filter-less way.
He has challenges and he has gifts, just like everyone else. He’s maddening, sometimes. He’s a joy, most of the time. He will keep stepping forward and back and having problems and triumphs. I will keep worrying about him, because that’s what I do. But mostly I just feel incredibly lucky that he is mine and I am his.
Happy Love Thursday, everyone. Don’t let the backwards steps make you forget the forward ones, okay?