There is something that I haven’t been completely open with in when writing in this blog. Its not that I haven’t gotten around to writing about it… or that I’ve tried to hide it necessarily… but it is something that I’ve struggled dealing with and accepting. So here it goes…
My perfect, hilarious, beautiful, quirky, intelligent, blessing of a child, Jack, may be on the autism spectrum. I’m sharing this information now because I’ve begun to realize how much this affects my life, my son’s life, my family, etc. I will elaborate more in future posts because if there is anything I hope to convey more than anything else is …I love him EXACTLY the way he is. Every bit of him is perfect to me. He will always be perfect to me. I’ve struggled with expressing it here because the idea of autism physically hurt me. It hurt me because I didn’t want him to suffer at all. I didn’t want life to be hard for him. I didn’t want him to miss out on opportunities. As the days go on I’m starting to realize that autism doesn’t have to mean that Jack’s life will be any less fulfilling than anyone else’s. It doesn’t have to mean the worst. And the reason I say that he “may” have autism is because, well, honestly he acts exactly like I did as a kid. We are very similar in many ways that hurt me because I know the challenges I faced when I was younger. Whether he is or he isn’t… right now, we are chugging along and he is happy. He is in school, he tells jokes and laughs, he loves his sister and is making friends. I am so proud of him.
The reason I’m writing all of this out today is because there was something that happened this week that upset me deeply and without understanding the challenges we face you may not understand why the comments were so upsetting.
When I was a kid I was very shy, much like Jack. I had friends but I was only comfortable in small groups. I was nervous about talking to boys or anyone I decided was “cooler than me.” I could determine who was “cooler than me,” at a very young age also. I remember it happening as early as when I was 5 or so. Jack struggles talking with children his own age. We’re working on it but it is not something that comes naturally to him. As for me, as I grew older I would pretend like I was a famous. Being famous would mean that everyone would just have to like me and I wouldn’t have to figure out how to make them like me. Obviously, the desire to be famous has faded drastically with time but the love of music I developed many years ago when I would sing pop songs in my room for hours at a time has not. It was therapeutic then and it is therapeutic now. It was something that was my own and it helped me get through a lot of hard times.
When I got pregnant I prayed my children would not be like me. I prayed they wouldn’t overthink things… or worry or obsess. I prayed they would be confident and outgoing. Though my kids are not exactly like I am, they do suffer from some of the things that I have suffered with. At 4 years old, Jack is such a deep thinker. He’s hyper aware… and so perceptive. He also struggles with expressing himself and having real conversations at times. A lot of this is because he is …4. But some of this is because the words just don’t come to him. I find it hard to know what he’s thinking sometimes or how he is feeling all the time. Any way I can connect with him each day makes my heart so full. It lets me know that my boy is in there. Even if he’s hidden behind lots of chaotic thoughts, fears and obsessions… he’s there. I can get to him and he can get to me. We can find each other. I’ve found many of these connections take place with music.
Recently, Taylor Swift released, “Look What You Made Me Do.” I turned it on in the car and, on our way to my parent’s house, I turned to Jack in the back seat and sang the entire song to him. Complete with sassy faces and dance moves hahah. He loved it. He tried to sing it back. He danced. We were connecting. In a moment, we were both care free and happy. When you’re a worrier, a constant over thinker, plagued with mental issues… you don’t have many moments of peace. So, seeing my son smile, dance, laugh and perform… for me and with me- was a really beautiful thing to see. We sing and dance to other pop songs too. Britney, Beyoncé, Spice girls… you name it. When Jack was a baby Jeremy and I harmonized “Ghetto Superstar,” and it made him stop crying! Pop music, for Jack, is solace in a very busy, hectic life.
Music is amazing. It is healing and therapeutic. It’s hard for my dad to hold a conversation with Jack at times but when he’s in my dad’s car and he turns on the Bluegrass, Jack slaps his knee and bobs his head to the beat. He takes interest in it and he loves it.
At night, when I’m lying down with my sweet boy to get him to sleep I sometimes sing “Down In The River To Pray.” One night, Jack turned to me and softly said, “Mommy, I like this song.” Again, a connection. My heart felt so full and my eyes teared up. My boy was calm, happy and enjoying the moment.
So, getting to the point of this entire post. Someone criticized my son’s knowledge of pop music the other day. “Why does he even know who Taylor Swift is?” “He shouldn’t know who the Spice girls are.” “You don’t want your kids dressing like ho’s.” “Let him be a kid.”
The words cut deep. I thought to myself that this sort of thing happens… ALL the time. People are so quick to throw their judgments at others. They don’t think about what others are going through. The person who said these things compared me to another mother. They implied that this other person was raising their kid’s right when I was raising mine poorly. Maybe they didn’t think through what they were saying. Maybe they stand by it. I don’t know… and I don’t care really. I’ve never written anything more true than what I am about to write:
I absolutely adore my son. I will do ANYTHING to help him. ANYTHING. I will constantly look for ways to connect with him, console him, heal him, make him laugh, keep him healthy and keep him safe. I don’t care if it makes me look like the worst person or mother in existence. If it is helping my son…I don’t care what anyone thinks. The same goes for my daughter. No one knows my children better than I know my children. No one knows our struggles, our day to day lives, our family… more than us.
If pop music, hell, any music… makes my son smile– we’ll listen to it all day. If a Taylor Swift song gives him a few carefree, fun minutes… we’ll listen to Taylor Swift. I have sat in my room for hours practicing to Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton, Dixie Chicks, Janis Joplin, Gwen Stefani, Joni Mitchell, Alison Krauss, etc. etc. etc. As recently as a few months ago I spent an entire night with one of my best friends doing NOTHING but singing for hours on end. It was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time.
So… to those of you that want to judge me… or anyone else. Just don’t. Keep it to yourself. The way I raise my children may not be your style… but it is what works for us. The 3 minutes we get to perform our favorite songs… is 3 minutes we’re connecting, smiling, loving and feeling peace.