Saturday, July 2, 2011

To Infinity and Beyond

Today a stranger heard me mention that I have two children and he asked their ages.

"My son is seven and my daughter is five," I said.

"Oh, so you are practically done with your son! My friends told me that once your kid turns seven, you have taught them all they need to know, and then rest is up to them. Take 'em to school and let them do their thing, but by seven they are ready for the world."

I doubt that works for anyone -- in fact I know it doesn't, because well into her eighties my grandma was still teaching and worrying about my mom -- but clearly my beautiful rooster needs more than being dropped off at school to be ready to tackle the world alone. I write largely about the good things lately, because my boy has a lot to celebrate, and because I am feeling stronger these days, but we have plenty of work cut out for us.

Among many other things, we still need to teach my seven-year-old boy to ride a bike, swim, add, and BE A FRIEND. He needs help with zippers, snaps, utensils, and IMPULSE CONTROL. He has yet to master board games, hopscotch, sports, or CROSSING THE STREET. My husband just remarked to me, "I still yearn for when I can have a conversation with our boy about a non-preferred topic. I know we will get there, but it's taking a lot longer than I had hoped..."

All this flashed in my head in the moment after this stranger told me I was "all done" parenting my oldest child. I thought about just letting it pass but you know I don't roll that way.

"My seven-year-old has autism," I said. "He is a great kid, I'm so proud of him, but I'm pretty sure we are not all done yet."

There are no right answers, but I liked the way this guy handled what could have been a real conversation stopper.

"So you'll give him all he needs to be the most that he can be," he said, not breaking eye contact, not reneging on his persistent smile.

I decided to match him smile for smile, and I said, "Really, that's the best we can hope for anyone."

"Yes," he said, "it certainly is."

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