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When We Glimpse The Future

The water filter on our sink broke this week. Completely. It would normally not be a big deal, except that water was pouring from it and would not stop.

It was 11:00 AM. My husband was not due back from work until about 10:00 PM. I quickly grabbed a pot so that I could still use the water (our water bill is something I go crazy every month trying to decrease – no way was this taking us down). Then I grabbed another, and another. Then I grabbed every vase in the house thinking this would be a perfect time to bring inside some of our too often forgotten and neglected roses.

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After less than an hour, I knew I could not put this one off until the husband could fix it.

And then it dawned on me. Seriously, it was like a light bulb lit up over my head in a cartoon.

Sourdough was completely obsessed with water filters as a part of his aquarium fixation last year.

Every single time we went to Target or Costco, we visited the filters. He researched them for endless hours, learning all about the difference between Reverse Osmosis and Charcoal filters.

I called him in and within 3 minutes, we had the water turned off (along with a very detailed tutorial on every single component of our filtering system).

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I have been struggling lately with our future – specifically his future. Not despairing, just wrestling with what our priorities should be as he approaches his twelfth birthday. Not necessarily sad, but settling in and adjusting our expectations a bit as we begin to glimpse the reality of how my son experiences the world, and what he can and cannot tolerate on a daily basis.

As part of this, I have been reading, Different…Not Less, by Temple Grandin. In it, she profiles 14 different people who are adults with Autism (including many high functioning, aspie types). She specifically addresses their achievement and success in employment and self-sufficiency.

It is a wonderful book. It is an encouraging book. It is a book about real life, and if you know anything about Temple Grandin, you know there is nothing sugar coated.

Because of that, it is also a book that, if I am most honest, has been really tough for me to read.

Tough because I see my son in so many of the individuals profiled.

Tough because again, I am faced with my own strange denial. The denial where I know that this is my son and it is how he is made and that he might be different, and I would never, ever consider him less…and yet, I still sometimes have to remind myself that he might not ever be able to drive a car. Or he might be the guy who will be picked on his entire life by other, less informed, less sensitive people.

My job is to prepare him for the world he lives in. I don’t like it, and it would be so much easier if I could just shelter him from it.

But that is not what he needs. He needs to be the man God designed him to be, in the world He placed him in.

And that is the central point in this book. Although she says it a bit differently, the underlying message is this:

Find out what you are good at, or what your child is good at, and do it. Do it a lot. Do it in ways that push you out of your comfort zone. Do it in ways that force you to learn to be socially appropriate so that you keep doing this thing that you are so good at, and so interested in.

The summary? Fixations are potential occupations. Not only that, they are the key to developing skills to interact with the world.

That Temple Grandin – she gets me every time.

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As my son so adeptly walked me through how best to fix the filter, it all came full circle. He could do this. He could do this for reals. Like for a living.

He could also work at any pet store on the planet, and they would make him employee of the month, maybe employee of the year.

He could also graduate with an advanced degree in physics because at 11, he already knows it at the college level.

All of these things, these fixations, occupy so much of our time, our energy, our conversations, our money. Somehow, I’ve gotten it all wrong. I struggle with him not doing other things, not learning other things, not trying different, non-fixated related things, because I am worried he won’t have what he needs to be a success.

When I take a step back, I can see how crazy this is. Yes, it is my job as his mother to push him outside his comfort zone – gently, safely, and with determination. But the truth is, I am most successful in “stretching him ” when it correlates to his interests. For example, he was willing to drive for an hour to visit a pet store that posts YouTube videos about reptile care. He usually panics at the thought of a 15 minute drive. This was important to him, so he suffered through it. The drive wasn’t fun, but we made it home, safe and sound, after the two hour round trip.

Not only was it a great memory, it pushed him beyond what he is usually capable of handling.

I hope I remember this the next time he wakes at 4:00 AM because he just has to talk about how to make a corn cob pipe (yes, it happened).

I hope I remember this the next time I am tempted to enroll him in a class for something he could care less about, but I find somehow necessary.

I hope I remember this the next time he seems so different.

He might be. But he is also beautiful, brimming with knowledge, and overwhelmingly loving.

Not less. Not at all.

He is exactly who he is supposed to be.


 

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(Please note: The links for Temple Grandin’s book are Amazon Affiliate links. Although we do receive a very small percentage, should you choose to buy, that was not at all my motivation for this post. If you would prefer to purchase the book without any affiliation, please visit www.amazon.com directly.)

 

 

 

 

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11 Comments

  1. I love that SD fixed your water filter. I love that he could do that for an occupation. The best is the pet store, employee of the month! I love that you didn’t have to spend some stupid amount of money on a plumber. My dishwasher has some clogged filter or something. Can u come over? Well, really I would like SD over please. Love you

  2. I love all your posts. I really, really do. But I just can’t go there yet. Maybe when he’s 12 and not 6. Maybe when I no longer HAVE to believe he can live a normal life. Maybe when I’ve adjusted more? How long does it take to adjust anyway? It’s been 3 years. Do I accept at 8 years? I don’t know. I only know it’s beyond my abilities today. I not only have to accept his limitations, but I have to accept mine as well. And right now, the future is beyond my ability to accept. So sorry.

    1. You should NOT go there now! You will learn so much over the next 6 years, and it will be him that goes there first. Like every child, they grow up. They start to test out this whole adult thing. That’s when you have to go there. Right now? I say snuggle him as much as he will let you. That should be a huge priority at 6!
      Love,
      Shawna

      1. I had a feeling you’d understand. He does love to snuggle. Really, really tight snuggling but that’s okay too.

        1. My mom passed away in 2005, at 54, a liltte over a year after being diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. To this day I still have dreams in which she’s getting better, or getting worse. Or that she’s apparently just fine, but in the back of my sleeping mind I’m shouting wait, this is all wrong, she’s gone. And then I wake up and for a minute, I’m not sure.I miss her terribly. I think of all the stupid things I used to do, like avoiding her Sunday afternoon phone calls, or deciding I’d go to see her next Christmas. It’s hard to remember the good times.

    2. Oh, Becky. Your son WILL have a normal life. Normal for him. And adjusting? Adjusting happens a day at a time. Don’t even think about 8 or 12 yet. Every Aspie/HFA is different, with their own abilities, and they mature at their own rate, which we know is generally slower than their peers. Just breathe and take in today. My son snuggled up until 13 or 14 years old. Just the past couple of years, he’s moved away from it. And it is a precious memory for me. Now, I am learning to enjoy his need for his Dad. At almost 16 (5 days!), he craves his Dad’s attention. It’s hard, because I still want him to be his Mama’s loving little boy. But it’s also wonderful as I see him relating to a man and becoming more of a man. And I get glimpses, like Shawna is saying, that he does have a future beyond today. But you don’t need to worry about that right now. You need to love him as he is today. And absorb the love he is so wonderfully giving back. And it sounds like he is! Honestly… I think in this way, this concern about what the future will hold for him/her, that we are like all parents. This is a great article, though. Print it to refer to later, for the times when you need reassurance that your child HAS A FUTURE. Hang in there, Becky. One day at a time. Today is enough for now.

  3. “My job is to prepare him for the world he lives in. I don’t like it, and it would be so much easier if I could just shelter him from it. But that is not what he needs. He needs to be the man God designed him to be, in the world He placed him in.”

    YES YES YES!! This is it, Shawna!!

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