I’ve seen, or, more to the point, heard him, always at one of the three Dunkin’ Donuts in town. He’s everything you think of when you think of a ten-year-old boy: mop of thick overgrown hair sprouting out from a well-loved Red Sox hat, sparkling eyes and one of those adorable little bubble butts that only little kids can get away with. He is joyfully immersed in a game on his iPad, his mom sitting next to him catching up on her mail or Facebook or something, anything, that allows her just a few moments of “me” time.
He is happy. I can tell when he conquers his game from the rises and dips in his squeals. Glancing over, I catch him jumping up and down while somehow keeping his butt in his seat. Yeah, he’s really happy.
As the stream of those-in-need-of-their-morning-coffee enters Dunks, each and every one of them looks to see where the sounds are coming from. In fairness, it would be impossible not to. I, seated at a nearby table, find myself on alert, just waiting for someone to make a comment (and by comment I mean complaint), give a dirty look or simply shake their heads at what many would consider an irritant. Thankfully no one does. Had they, this mama bear was itching to let them have it…and would have.
This wildly cute little guy is on the very far end of the Autism spectrum.
As I waited for my coffee to cool down a little, I took advantage of not being responsible for anyone but myself and logged onto Facebook. A dear friend’s status:
Looking for something to do today? Why not find a way to make the world a better place. Check in on a neighbor, help the elderly, donate to a charity that you’ve been meaning to do for some time, or just live your best life. If we all do it just imagine the possibilities.
When we have dinner as a family we go around the table, each sharing not only our “highs” and “lows” from the day, but what we did for someone else. The first two are pretty easy. Some days, the “what I did for someone else” is harder to come by. But! It gets everyone thinking and, I’ve noticed, gotten us all to try harder to have something to say, even if it is as simple as holding the door for someone.
It was still early in the day and my caffeine was still in the cup, but I took note of the Facebook challenge.
Despite having seen her many times prior to this morning, I’d never spoken to his mom. Today, as she was gently telling her son (and, I have to surmise, bracing for a battle) that it was time to shut the game and get going, she and I caught eyes. I told her that she is doing a great job. With that, she began to cry. It wasn’t an “Oh my God, I cannot take this for one more second” cry, though. It was a “Thank you, thank you, thank you” cry. It occurred to me that it had been a longggg time – if ever – that anyone had patted her on the back or, worse, noticed her at all over all the ruckus and judgment.
I asked if her if he was completely non-verbal. She replied with something between pride and sadness,
“He has two, no, make that three words.”
I hoped to myself that those words are: I, love and you. In that order.
Accustomed to receiving so much negative feedback, she assumed that my kindness could only mean that I, too, have an autistic child. Initially I said that I did not – a nonverbal child, I say tongue in cheek, is the exact opposite of anything I’ve been up against– but, in fact, I do. One of my stepsons is on the spectrum. If this little guy was on the furthest end, my stepson is on the closest: extremely high functioning, always the smartest person in the room and gloriously sweet. No one stares. No one moves to a different table. No one feels broken-hearted for him or his parents. While my stepson sometimes dances to the beat of his own drum, this little Dunks boy is doing the same, but with an entire orchestra and all day long.
This mom is a complete rockstar. Next time I see her, I am buying her a cup of coffee. And a donut. Because she definitely deserves a donut.
Be generous of spirit.
Try to do something nice for someone else every day. It’ll give you something to talk about at dinner.
And next time I see you at Dunks, I’d love to treat you to a cup of coffee, too.
 The children in my life seldom STOP talking..