I know that Gavin is different. Hope knows that Gavin is different. Marley knows that Gavin is different. We’re ok with that, and in fact we promote and encourage it. Can your child name all of the different sections of the tongue that correspond to all of the different tastes, then show you, in full detail with tongue out and fingers on tongue, where the taste buds for each are located? I can’t even do that, and I’ve been eating everything in sight for over 30 years. I’ve given those little taste buds a run for it, and he still knows so much more. Sour, sweet, salty, chocolaty, absolutely amazingly. It would be so much more amazing, though, if he wouldn’t use my fingers on his tongue to show everyone. As if I don’t wash my hands enough at work.
What’s going to get me is when Gav figures out that he is different. That is going to break my heart, and I don’t think I will be able to handle it well. He is so carefree, so unaware of what everyone thinks about him. If he is happy, then what everyone else thinks doesn’t really matter. He’s oblivious to what Joe Public thinks about him, his actions, his outbursts, and what he wears. He makes himself happy, tries so hard to make everyone around him laugh, and doesn’t care about who doesn’t like it.
I know that day will come. I know that he will realize someday that those kids aren’t laughing with him, they are laughing at him. Hope and I talked one night about him being the punchline, and although I would have died before I let her see how that affected me, I was raging inside at the thought of his discomfort. It’s hard enough to go through adolescence without the added weight of a developmental disorder. Kids are mean, I know that. But when you are a kid, those kids are your world. For better or for worse, they are your life. They create your Abraham’s Bosom, or your Dante’s Inferno. The one time in life that, along with sticks and stones, words can always hurt you.
So here is my plan, and if you think it’s a bad one, well, just hold your breath till I tell you to stop. I’m going to teach him that he is a square peg. I really hope this works, and that he doesn’t try to break down the word “peg” into it’s Latin roots or try to tell me where the phrase came from. It’s not beneath him to do that. He’s way smarter than me, and he knows it. I am just an amazing bull-umm, what’s the pc word here? Pooper? Not to brag, but I can fool about any 6 year-old out there.
So the theory is that a square peg will not go into a round hole, without considerable effort. If Gav is the square peg, and social acceptance is the round hole, and that by him being himself he just won’t fit. Something needs to give. Now, he could change himself to fit the round hole, and on the outside that would seem to work. But it wouldn’t be fair to him. He’d be changing himself to fit into what society feels he should be. My plan is to teach him that the round hole should change to fit him. He is so amazing and wonderful, straight out of the box. So let everyone else change, Gav, and you stay the way you are. I know that you can convince those people that how you see the world is actually how it is, because you’ve done that for me. My view on the world is now changed, and you are the reason for that. You have shown me that what the neighbors think doesn’t matter, because their kid will still come over to play. You’ve shown me that sometimes a social outburst, although extremely inappropriate and mildly embarrassing, is sometimes needed to move my overloaded Wal-Mart buggy up a few spaces in the check-out line (that one works for Hope more than it works for me. Everyone just shoots me dirty looks and I end up slinging my own social-class slurs at strangers. Maybe he doesn’t have Asperger’s, he’s just an observationist).
My Aspie is so many things, and one of which is not a round peg. I vow to never allow this child to feel that it his he who does not fit into what everyone thinks he should. I will strive daily to show him that he is amazing and wonderful, and that it is the world around us that must change to accept him. All the while I will be working to change the world around him. And in the meantime, we just might tackle that pesky shoe-tying thing.