I have always been different.
But it’s just the past 4 or 5 years that I have really, truly enjoyed and reveled in it.
I kind of march to the beat of my own hippie-diva conga drum.
For example, this would be me on the far right:
I wear unique stuff.
I have big hair.
I prefer Indian or Greek or Moroccan restaurants to steakhouses any day of the week.
My walls are painted red and turquoise, and I don’t apologize for it.
I like being creative and artsy, and standing out from the crowd.
Then my son was born. And within a matter of just a couple of years, standing out wasn’t so much fun anymore.
People were actually staring.
I didn’t like that.
When Zion was diagnosed with Autism in August of 2006, it was devastating. And I dealt with it in my own way. I felt the need to explain his behavior to everyone.
I even carried business cards and passed them out to people who felt the need to stare or make comments or give parenting advice.
The cards read “My child has autism, what’s your excuse?”…and then listed a few websites where they could receive information about autism.
Now, if you feel the need to do this, good on ya’ mate.
Go for it.
The problem with it on my end, was that I was behaving like a cornered raccoon.
There was no love in those moments.
Those cards were handed out to people in hurt and anger.
Looking back now, I doubt if even one of those people went home and researched autism because of me. Honestly, if anything, my defensiveness and curt demeanor may have actually stopped them from educating themselves.
But that’s how I dealt with it at the time.
It was all a part of the grieving process. Soon after this is when I began the W Stage:
Why did this happen?
What did I do wrong?
When did this begin?
Whose fault is this?
I spent a lot of unnecessary energy researching why my son had autism, and looking for someone to blame. My OBGYN, the vaccines, gluten, antibiotics, anti-depressants…you name it, I probably blamed it.
But the most liberating moment of my life was when I realized that I needed to stop searching for who, when, why, where and what….
and start figuring out how I was going to help Zion find a way to function in this life.
I let the anger go, as well as the need for blame-casting, and just created a way for us to live.
I stopped worrying about other people’s judgement and staring and careless words, and just allowed my little family to be unique.
Now when we go to the store, we just go to the store. If Zion feels the need to chirp, or spin, or touch a stranger’s butt, he does it.
I may have some explaining to do about the butt thing, but he just is who he is.
And I let him be that.
I don’t tell him to stop chirping or flapping.
In my little family, we are divergents.
And we like it that way.
I give both of my kids the freedom to be who they are, and anyone who has a problem with it can shove off.
The place of peace I finally came to, was that I don’t owe you any explanation for Zion’s behavior and my parenting style, anymore than I owe you an explanation for why my hair sometimes looks like Mufasa’s.
We are who we are.
Earlier this week, Zion and I stopped at CVS.
I had a few things to pick up, and Zion wanted some Cheetos.
We always pick up my items first.
Zion does better at the store if I utilize delayed gratification.
It took me a few minutes to find what I needed, and during that time he must have said the word Cheetos 13,739 times.
As I picked through the moisturizers, at one point a lady stopped and stared at Zion as he flapped his hands.
Honestly I’ve gotten to the point that I rarely notice these things anymore, but this lady stared a uncomfortably long amount of time.
So I stopped and looked up at her.
If you’ve experienced my scathing glares, it ain’t pretty.
I can shoot fire out of my eyes.
And it was incredibly difficult at that point for me to keep my sarcastic mouth shut.
Because what I wanted to say was, “Don’t worry nosey, he isn’t going to take flight.”
But instead of morphing into 2006 Angie, I bit my lip, took my son’s hand, and headed for the trophy Cheetos.
As we walked into the chip section, Zion broke away from me and started to pick up speed.
Little dude practically dove on those Cheetos.
When he saw that orange bag he squealed, snatched them up, and started jumping up and down.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a young man walking toward us.
I looked up at him, and he was looking directly at my son and smiling.
The man said, “I feel the same way about Cheetos, buddy.”
We both laughed out loud.
It was wonderful.
Just kidding. 🙂
But what a profound moment of joy.
No business cards or explanations.
Just acceptance and kindness.
Thank you so much, lovely man, for that moment.
Thank you for making us feel comfortable to just be ourselves.
Because believe me, I am already acutely aware of autism every single day of my life.
I do not need to be reminded by strangers.
Or maybe I do.