It's World Autism Awareness Day, and it feels like I should blog. In our old life, we would have replaced the lights with blue bulbs and waved as the neighbors drove by: Light it up blue! I'm sure it made people more autism aware but did it make them more accepting?
In our new life, we live in the country and neighbors are few and far between. No one can see the soft blue emanating from our doors — just us and we are already quite aware. We've been out and about in our new world, and our new world is small — it's safe to say that many people are now aware of us — we have a way of making an impression. They see that there is something about you two, something special, something different... different, not less.
Some people take a moment and ask. Like the woman who works at the grocery store, behind the deli. She saw you, John, when you dropped to the floor right there in front of her meat counter. Your protest was epic, alarming, coming from a boy your size. You desperately wanted the Paas Easter Egg dyeing kit and I said Absolutely not, because we already had several from earlier outings.
Mommy has to draw the line somewhere.
She had kind eyes and smiled when she said hello. And even though you couldn't have cared less as you screamed from the floor (you REALLY wanted that Paas kit), I felt her wanting to know, wanting to understand how she could help, wanting to know you. I said, "He has trouble with disappointment." She nodded.
She smiles every time we come in now.
And Sam, my all-too-aware boy. You want to push autism away and keep it buried. You called it your "deep dark secret" and I hurt for you to feel so, but I understand. In our old life you shared this part of yourself with friends and you were teased and made to feel less. In our new life you want to hide it, you say you will not reveal it — and it is your choice, after all. It is your life, no matter how much I tell you that you are special, you are awesome, and autism is simply a part of that —neither good nor bad – because really in the end — it's just a word. It doesn't change your light, your amazing self. But you are learning that different sometimes feels like less and that is a travesty.
So on this day of Autism Awareness, all I have is this: differences should be celebrated. What makes us quirky should be admired not feared. Having autism makes you different, not less! My biggest challenge as your mom is getting you to see yourself the way I do, the way anyone who gets to know you sees you. You must learn that love and acceptance begin with you and that it will radiate out into the world.
No one ever said this motherhood gig would be easy and it's even harder alone.
Awareness is good. Acceptance would be divine.