Sunday, April 18, 2010
Don't Count Your Chickens...
I was walking with a neighbor tonight, a nice woman who is quite friendly but with whom I don't feel I necessarily click, in part because we have had quite different life experiences and I think our interests and intellectual levels also differ (egads, that sounds snooty, but I think it's the truth). However, she is very sweet and I'm getting to know her a little better. Her daughter used to play a lot with my son, but hasn't in probably a year or so - I kind of presumed the daughter felt like she wanted to hang around other girls or even just kids from the public school that she knows. I don't think she has anything against Jeff, but she definitely dropped him. He hasn't seemed to notice (an AS blessing in disguise?), but her mom (this neighbor with whom I was walking) has brought it up a couple of times. Today when I mentioned that sometimes I felt bad that we didn't know more of the neighborhood kids because Jeff goes to private school, she intimated that perhaps that wasn't a bad thing since Jeff has his Problem. I didn't get her meaning, so I said, "What?" She kind of floundered and said something like she didn't want to say he was slow (slow? my son? This actually almost made me laugh. Almost.), but he seemed to have a problem with anger or whatever. Which is true. So I actually explained that that is a common thing among people with Asperger's (she'd never heard of Asperger's). And we kept walking and talking a bit. At one point she again mentioned she felt bad her daughter wasn't playing with Jeff anymore, and I said "Why does it bother you? It doesn't bother me," and she replied, "Because he doesn't have any friends left!" I laughed and replied, "Um, yes he does!" But it stung. Not because it was true, but because the misconceptions she has about my son might just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of what he will face in his life.
I know we all have misconceptions about other people. We all make judgments based on what we see and hear, and sometimes those judgments are wrong. I know I do it. I know I did it about this neighbor in some ways, presuming from the start we wouldn't be friends because we were just too different. Still, it stings to know that Jeff's "differences" are being noticed even by people who don't know him well. So far it hasn't come often in negative forms, but it's still there. And I wish I could protect him, so that nothing could ever hurt him. Luckily, oddly enough, I think the AS *will* protect him in some ways, in that he's often just unaware of what's going on around him and people's reactions to him. But will that last? Should it?
I just want him to know he will always be loved. Fiercely. But will the time come when familial love isn't cool, isn't worth as much as peer acceptance and approval? What happens when mom loves him, but mom isn't cool? Will he make friends? He has two main friends right now, and a few younger friends he likes. Will he be able to maintain those friendships as he enters the middle school years? Will those boys catch on that Jeff is a bit different, that he doesn't always get the back-and-forth give-and-take nature of friendship? Will they start to care about his tics, instead of just basically ignoring them? Will he feel hurt? How will he deal with it?
I don't know. I guess I can't know. And that's what breaks my heart. I don't like not knowing, I don't like not being able to protect and fix and deflect and... These same feelings arise around Eleanor, too. Same feelings, different issues and different realities. I guess this is the nature of being a parent. But this Mother Hen isn't liking it too much. She just wants to gather her eggs and never leave the henhouse.