Yesterday a colleague of mine stopped me to tell me she had been reading my blog. She read my pity party blog (see – Day #136 – From the Heart) and wanted to be sure that I knew I could always stop by to talk, if needed.
We talked, we shared, we laughed.
What struck most me was her laughter. Her really wonderful laughter. She may not know it – but I left her office feeling refreshed, uplifted, and joyful.
We talked about social cues and how Tucker doesn’t compare or pay attention to what others are doing and how that’s really pretty wonderful. There is a part of me (actually, a ginormous part) that wishes more of us could be like him.
She told me about her son and how that week he dressed himself for school. He came out of his room in a completely mismatched fashion. She told me she just shook her head and thought that it wasn’t worth the battle, not one bit. We laughed – and I said, ‘The only difference between us is that your son is 4, mine is 12.”
Tucker is on the 7th grade basketball team. Our school colors are black, gold, and white. For his first game he came into the gym wearing his ‘issued’ jersey and his Vikings shorts. Yes – my child. The only one not wearing black or gray shorts. There he is – purple and yellow shorts.
I felt my face flush. I looked at the other parents – contrary to what we often think – no one cares near as much as ourself. He looked at me; then winked, smiled, and nodded. He was having a great time. I was trying to remind myself that it wasn’t a big deal…but that I would need to somehow get him into black shorts.
When I asked him about it after the game he responded, ‘Those are my favorite shorts.” I began to say the infamous, “….but do you see anyone else….” I stopped myself, just in time.
He doesn’t see anyone else. He just doesn’t.
Sometimes I ask Tucker questions about life just to see how he perceives his surroundings, relationships, and events. Thursday morning I asked him if he knew what it meant to be jealous. He said, “Yes. It means you want something that someone else has.”
I asked him if he ever gets jealous – and assured him it was okay to tell me. He responded, “No.” I said, “Not even when you sit on the bench and watch the other boys who play basketball? The boys on the A team?” (He’s on the C team.)
He responded, “No. Why would I?” I didn’t have an answer, but in mom style I kept on prodding.
“What about the kids in your class who do really well at school. Do you ever wish school was that easy for you?”
He responded, “No. Why would I?” I didn’t have an answer, but in mom style I hugged him.
Just to be sure, I asked my 18-year old bonus son the same question. He responded with a list of people that he is jealous of – not in an awful way – but just in a ‘wish I could play like that’ way. I told him the story about Tucker. He shook his head, laughed, and said, “What? Really? I mean that’s cool…but yeah, that’s odd.”
It can be hard for children with autism to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, Tucker simply doesn’t even realize that people have different shoes. His world is his only experience to draw meaning from.
So, what about those shorts? He’s now wearing black shorts and black socks. Instead of referring to what the other kids were wearing we had to talk about ‘uniforms and rules.’ The rule is that you wear a uniform. Why? Because as a team you should all look relatively alike.
Once it became a ‘rule’ I had to go out and buy new all-black shorts.
At the next game? Black shorts, black socks….and a red t-shirt under that jersey.
I told my colleague this story and she laughed…a lot. She replied, “You know – if only more of us could feel as comfortable in our own skin to just wear whatever and be who we are.”
Just a simple reminder that it’s all about baby steps…next? Take care of that red t-shirt.