January 22, 2010

One more thing to expect

For parents of a child with autism, the one thing I don't have to tell them to expect are looks and stares from strangers. They have been getting those long before a diagnosis. So this post is for everyone else out there...

Yesterday I was laughing about something that happened with Will (our son that has autism) when he was about to turn 3. We were in Dallas for the wedding of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law on the weekend of Mother's Day. That Sunday after the wedding, our little family went out to eat with Kyle's mom and his cousin's family for a special Mother's Day brunch. It was a pretty nice place, the kind with fabric napkins and where they automatically put lemon slices on the side of your stemmed water glass. Kyle and I always put lemon in our water and this had turned into a fascination of Will's. Every time we went out to eat, he wanted to put a lemon in his drink too (even if it was milk).

During brunch, Kyle took Will to the bathroom. As they returned and approached our table, I saw Will's focus turn to a lemon resting on a glass at the table next to us. In a split-second, I knew what he was going to do, but before I could even stand up, he had already taken the lemon and dropped it in the glass of an unassuming person at the table. I was mortified and apologized profusely to the woman, who just glared at me as if I was the worst mom in the world.

I laugh now, but at the time it was humiliating.

OK, I know if some strange kid came up to my table and used his grubby hands to drop a lemon in my water, I would not be amused. So why am I telling you this story? Because I hope that, having experienced what I have, I would respond with grace.

I am speaking for moms of autistic children everywhere...... please extend grace to us! Our children may do or say odd things, throw major tantrums at an age you might think is too old, have obsessions that control our lives, or respond to you in a strange way. A child you encounter in the grocery store may appear like any other kid, but you never know what is happening with that child or his family (I'm kinda getting on a soapbox here b/c this can go for anyone). Please offer grace. Instead of staring, offer a silent prayer for that mom or extend a helping hand. Don't grunt in condemnation, jerk your kids away, or (please, please, please definitely do not) offer advice!! I've had people tell me what to do, tell me in so many words that I was a bad mom, and, of course, stare at me or my child.

What a refreshing blessing it has been when people have loved my son for who he is, who have pursued a relationship with him even though he has made it hard, and who have spoken words of encouragement over me! On hard days, I still call to mind specific words people have said concerning Will. If you know someone walking this road, offer them grace in your interactions with them. Oh, and today might be a good day to offer them a word of encouragement.