Saturday, November 21, 2009

Behind the lines

I feel compelled to share something with you. Something a very dear friend (like one of those people you wonder may have been sharing the same umbilical cord as you because you're so alike or see things so similarly that it's a bit unnerving) is going through with her son.

It pains me to say, I have been the person she is talking about in her post here. I have been that impatient, ignorant tsk-tsker who looks to the parent and wonders where their sense of consideration for others in the general public has led them astray when raising a "good, decent citizen" instead of an "impudent, disruptive little monster."

That was, until my friend began opening my eyes to the hidden underworld of life with a special needs child.

Special needs that are not obvious, for they are deeper than the surface. There is no sign above her son's head, no markings, no deformities, no scars. His is one of the most handsome faces I have ever seen on a child. And because of my friend, I see the boy within - I adore the boy within - instead of writing him off as an inconvenience to society - and it also helps me pull my head in when I am out these days, witnessing a parent struggle to "contain" a child throwing a tantrum. We're not talking your usual, everyday supermarket hissy-fit here. My friend is confronted with the trials and challenges and demands of being a parent to a gifted, highly intelligent, remarkable young man, marked by an invisible rearrangement of his brain wiring that falls on the autism spectrum.

I cannot ever know how deeply affected my friend's life is, but I listen to every word she says about it and read every word she writes. It is the least I can do. And then I take it out in the community with me and it makes me more aware of what I am really seeing.

Put simply, I have been shown yet another book I cannot (and have no right to) judge by its cover. That tolerance for others goes a long way, even if you don't breathe a word or even look in the direction of someone who is having to deal with something tricky out in public. It has made me grow my awareness of just how much I was looking at every person (Parent) I passed and putting a split second summation of their life and circumstances on them - an awfully automatic thing, which many would pass off as "human nature" and yet, it is not our natural state to judge and/or belittle another even if only in your own mind.

My friend is courageous, although she wouldn't think so. My friend puts an extreme amount of pressure on herself to do The Very Best by her son (and her other child and her husband) - her diligence with this puts me to shame. I pull my head in many times in any given week when I think of her and what she goes through daily, how she strives to be on top of the latest research, methods and teachings for nurturing and developing children with this particular syndrome and how she taps in to resources to provide the very best care and enlist professional support services wherever she can.

My days are remarkably tame compared to this, but still, I make more of things than I need to. I stand back and look at things from a different perspective when I read posts like her latest. And I thank my friend and her son for reminding me to grow that compassion towards others.

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