My son talks with me a lot.

The conversations are often challenging, but words cannot convey the depth of love, pride, and amazement I feel when he asks questions that I doubt many 15-year-olds ask anyone.

And society teaches us that Autism is a disability. Makes you wonder.

Now, he may wish I were dead before this is all over, but I’ve decided to start writing about our conversations.

Some of the topics don’t belong on a blog that’s not rated “mature”, so I’m afraid you won’t hear about those (except in thickly veiled terms). But many of them seem quite universal. And having these conversations with a young adult who looks from a very a-typical point of view sheds a sometimes poignant perspective on the topics.

“Mom, am I a bad person?”

My heart wrenches, just remembering those words.

This question arose in the car on the way to school one morning, the day after he had told me about three incidents at school.

Incident 1:

“I kinda got in trouble today because I threw fluffy seeds on a kid when we were outside.”

Oh, he didn’t like it, huh?

“No, I guess not.”

Well, it might help to remember that, just like you can’t stand it when other people sing, other kids at school have their things that they can’t stand. So maybe this kid doesn’t like fluffy things.

“Yeah, maybe.”

So, why did you do it, anyway? Did you mean to upset him, or were you teasing him? Or you just wanted to see what he’d do?

“Well, I was doing this story in my head where this other guy and I were doing a joke to throw fluffy seeds on him, and see if it made him turn fluffy… And that kid just happened to be there.”

Oh, so you were doing a story, and it wasn’t even about the kid you threw the seeds at?

“Right.”

Oh, okay. Well, just try to remember that you don’t like people singing around you, so it’s nice to be considerate of others when you do things to them, and ask yourself if you think they’d really like it. Okay?

“Okay.”

Incident 2:

“Well, there was this other thing that happened…”

Yeah? What was that?

“Well, I kinda went ‘Arrghhh’ (gesticulating a lunge) at SingerBoy today because he was singing and I didn’t want him to.”

Ooooh… Wow, that’s pretty agressive! So this is back to having consideration for others, isn’t it?

“Yeah…”

So, what did SingerBoy do when you did that?

“Well, he kicked me in the… you know…”

(I’m sorry – I couldn’t help but laugh…) Gee, I hear that really hurts!

“Yeah…”

So you must have really made him mad. Maybe he thought you were picking a fight. And you know, maybe his Dad has taught him to fight back when someone picks on him…

(silence)

And you know he really loves to sing… Just like you love to do your stuff. You wouldn’t like it if someone lunged at you for leaving bits of sticker paper on the floor, would you?

“Well, no…”

Incident 3:

“This little kid asked me what I was playing on my DS today, and I said, ‘Well, you don’t really need to know; it’s rated Teen’. And then he said, ‘Oh, Ghost Recon. That’s nothing. I play Halo.”

Such confusion. To the literal mind, never in the world would a 10-year-old be playing Halo, of all things! So I focused on the tone of voice.

You know, it sounds like you might have been talking a bit like a Know-It-All… People kinda don’t like Know-It-Alls…

(silence)

Do you know what a Know-It-All is?

“Well, I guess not… Someone who knows everything?”

Explanations ensued. How we make friends. How we think about other people’s feelings. How we try to get along with others (amazingly, he was actually listening).

How, in a school, where EVERYONE has something that drives them nuts (since it’s a school especially for kids with ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s, etc.), it’s especially important to understand that we never know what’s going to push someone’s buttons…

(silence)

Do you know what “Push Someone’s Buttons” means?

“Well, no…”

More explanations.

The things we take for granted, assuming others automatically understand…

All in that 30-minute ride home. It was enough of a dose of parenting to last us both all night. I tend to focus so much on trying to help him understand “appropriate” (read: expected) behavior, hoping he’ll get less-blind-sided by life that way.

Yes, he thought about it, so much so that by the next morning, he was worried that he might be a “bad person”.

Geez, is there any part of parenting that’s not guess-work?

I wonder if priests feel this way when they hear confessions. At least with my son and our long commute, we can spend the aftermath doing damage control.

It’s far more fun spending half an hour telling my kid how awesome he is, and how the other kids might have gotten ‘talks’ too (since in many cases their actions deserve a little discussion, as well), and watching the smile and raised eyebrows of relief spread across his face… than it is to lecture on how we should behave in order to keep out of trouble.

Thank goodness both sink in.

And like magic, the next day is a good day.

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