I don't know if it is me getting older, or me getting wiser, but I think I am growing up. Hitting 40 last year was easy on me as I never have really panicked over my age. It's gonna happen whether or not I fret about it. I still feel like I am 20 in my head. But lately I have found myself with much more compassion that I have ever had before. I see things that would've typically thrown me for a loop and had me snickering and/or complaining about someone else and now I find myself thinking more positive thoughts about them. I see myself "cutting them some slack". I find myself looking for reasons instead of pot shots. I search their eyes looking for the good in the situation.
I would like to think it is me growing older and wiser, but perhaps it is me understanding my son and his disability. Perhaps I am finding that while I see others making assumptions about us and our parenting skills I am understanding what it feels like to be on that side of things.
I had a talk with Dustin this weekend that I am sure I will have to have many, many times in the future. It is a talk that I think is important enough to repeat over and over. We were working in the backyard and I had given him some stuff to take around front to the trash. I had no realized his sister was in the front yard. They are like oil and water. While she is is staunch advocate when someone messes with him, she really likes to irritate him to no end. They got into a scuffle at the trash can. In the 30 seconds it took me to put the rake down and head out the fence toward them it had already grown to a feverish pitch and he was whining at the top of his lungs. Turns out he had thunked her on the hand with a board and she was refusing to let him pass her and come back to me. He was in tears and jumping up and down, whining, hollering "Let me through you big meany!" She is 7 and he is taller than me. It was quite amusing.
I got him in the backyard. Of course the entire way he was hollering and whining. I got him quiet and asked him to think about something for a minute. I began by asking him about the kids in his class at school who "look different". We talked about the ones in the wheelchairs. We talked about his friend "T" who is physically disabled and drools constantly. We talked about people looking at them and immediately knowing they are different. I explained that we can look at his wheelchair friends and know right away that they cannot walk up the stairs. It is obvious they are different, not lesser, just different.
Then I asked him about our neighbors. We live in an area that has a lot of rentals. There are people that have moved in over the winter that have yet to be introduced to our brand of crazy live and in person. I asked him if they looked outside and saw him what would they see? We talked about how they would see a handsome, tall, teenager. They wouldn't know just by looking at him that his "brain is broken" from FAS. They would expect him to act like the 16 year old's they know. I explained that his disability is hidden inside him and people don't always understand that. I told him that if the neighbors had just been watching him with his little sister they wouldn't understand why he was whining and carrying on like a 4 year old. I explained that he needs to learn to control these types of outbursts in public, not because we care what others think, but because we don't need people in our business. He shook his head in understanding.
He said, "I acted like a baby.". I explained that I could sometimes throw baby-fits too, but I try to keep them private! He laughed.
I want him to understand that how we act when others are looking is impportant. I don't want him ashamed of his disability, but I want him to learn some self control. I expect the same from his siblings who are "typical". I want to temper that with the realization that when we look at other's outward appearance we are judging them with blinders on. We have no idea what their background is, their disability is or their day has been like. We cannot possibly understand the load they may be carrying. I want to teach my children to look at others with compassion and help.