I don't cry that often any more but sometimes I do.
For a long time I cried daily about the fact that Bright Eyes had autism. Then it moved to weekly, and then monthly. Then it was whenever something really bad happened. And when something really good happened. I didn't discriminate too much.
In the last year I've pretty much only cried every couple of months. From frustration, mostly, or as the after-effect of a particularly challenging meltdown which has taken all my energy and problem-solving skills to deal with. They've been tears of exhaustion rather than tears of sadness.
But today - a day which I expected would be a happy day - I felt the old broken-heartedness all over again. Today was excursion day. Bright Eyes' class is heading, like all upper primary classes in our state do, to Canberra for the Nation's Capital tour. They left at 7 this morning, piling into the bus, excited and happy.
And Bright Eyes was happy too. He really was. He's been looking forward to this for weeks - months, even. He only had one wobble the whole time leading up to it, and that only lasted about an hour. He even packed his own suitcase (I checked, and added the undies) and sorted out what he needed and didn't want. Awesome, right?
And yes, it is. Awesome on many levels.
But I got sad again. Because while we were standing there waiting for the bus, with all the kids arriving, I saw him approach the other boys in his class. He was excited and he wanted to share it, but he just didn't know how to. Instead of a smile and 'isn't this cool?' he listed all the snacks he had in his bag. I watched faces go from polite through to 'okay, I'll listen to you for a while' and then to 'okay, I've had enough. Back off.'
I'm not complaining about the other kids. I know them. They're good kids. And they aren't mean to him, thankfully. The sadness comes from the fact that my guy just isn't connecting. And it breaks my heart.
People say, "I wouldn't want to change my kid with autism. He's perfect the way he/she is." Well, that may be so for them. But, man, I want to change the fact that my son, who wants to be social, who wants to share the excitement of going to Canberra, can only get brush-offs and polite nods from the kids he wants to be friends with, but doesn't know how.
I often try to avoid seeing Bright Eyes interact with his peer group because I find it pretty painful for all those reasons. Perhaps I need to put myself in it more so that I can better help him work on the issues he actually has and help him see (when he wants to) the specific areas where he's falling down.
I've never really articulated this before, and this is a concept I haven't really thought through too well yet, so forgive me if you think I'm way off base, but I think there are two ways people see kids. The first way is as a regular kid. The second way is as a bit of an oddity. "Well, that's just Bright Eyes." I've done it myself. It's a lot easier to celebrate the achievements of a child who's an oddity without having to deal with the areas in which they are falling down. I may be wrong, but perhaps most of the adults in Bright Eyes' life see him as the oddity. Cute, quirky and 'kicking goals' in the things he's achieved. Yay Bright Eyes! And of course, that's a good thing.
But, you see, I see him as a regular kid. A kid who should be part of that peer group that he's struggling so much with. A kid who wants to be loved and enjoyed rather than just tolerated. And that's why I cry when other people might be celebrating.