Sometimes I keep Owen hidden – or at least I worry that I do.
Sometimes I feel like I’m parading him around – or at least I’m concerned that I do.
It is hard to know the reasons or motives or emotions behind so many of the choices I make these days. There are so many layers, so many choices, people impacted in every moment of every day.
Sometimes I feel like I need to keep him away from it all – for him? For me? For them? I know he doesn’t understand it – he isn’t even close to being perceptive like that – when people stare at him with empathy, or at me with sympathy, or at both of us with annoyance at his outbursts, disturbances, grunting and crying and incoherent babbling.
But I am. And I know that sometimes my perceptive little girl is. And it hurts. And sometimes I’m embarrassed. And it’s hard to say that – even here. I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I’m embarrassed by my boy. As I should be. Because that’s a horrible thing to admit. And an even worse thing to feel.
And sometimes, sometimes it’s something of a relief to prove to people just how hard this is. To show them that I’m not just over-dramatically whining, that I’m not unnecessarily all “woe is me” or “woe is he” about all of this that we have going on – that this is all real, and complex, and not at all what people expect it to be – what they expect him to be.
But still – who is embarrassed by their child? What kind of mother feels that way?
Sometimes, this kind.
Sometimes I want to make him wear a shirt that says “Give me a break – I had a stroke.”
Sometimes I want to make him wear a shirt that says “Give me (and my mom) a break – I had a stroke.”
Like on one of those (few) occasions that I built up the courage to take him to music class and that mother hopefully questioned whether or not he was “usually like that”… Lady – you spent 45 precious minutes with him. I get him the other six days, 23 hours and fifteen minutes each week. You’ll be okay. Thank your lucky stars.
But maybe I should thank mine.
Because I have him to teach me these lessons that she has not had to learn. Lessons that are incredibly hard and make me go on soul-search expeditions like this, but allow me to find places within myself that I never knew existed. Owen has made me tap into depths of myself – of my heart – that took me from that intolerant woman who could barely make it through under an hour merely in the same room with a child like him, to the person who was responsible for him 24 hours a day for the past three and a half years. I can’t pretend that I have been tolerant for all of it, but I won’t pretend that I ever wished for a different child.
He has changed me. Perhaps this is all part of the circuitous route that we find throughout our lives. We begin and end in diapers. We begin and end with needing people to help us walk, bathe us, feed us, take care of us… Having Owen taught me – is still teaching me – to be a better person, to be a more whole person. To be patient, and tolerant, and to love unconditionally.
These are lessons I desperately needed to learn – that I am still learning – so I can pass them onto him.
I am learning from him so that I can teach to him.
And maybe the fact that he’s not embarrassed by his grunting, by his screaming out in frustration when we don’t understand him, by him always being “like that” – is where I need to begin. His lack of perception is a weakness, but also something of a gift. Because he is who he is. And he has no choice but to present himself to us “as-is” and hope that we will hold his hand, teach him, accept him and love him.
And I do.
And I am still learning how to do it with grace. And he is teaching me.