A Pathfinder character I am playing.
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I'm a 3D hobbyist who enjoys the craft and is working to improve my skills.
Freelance bacon fanatic. Zombie evangelist. Social media aficionado. Pop culture nerd. Professional troublemaker. Unapologetic Artist. Internet ninja.
Dear teenager at the large fast food chain,
Alex and I see you every Tuesday, during our routine of dinner and adventure night. You greet us with your bright, shining smile and take our order. You know what Alex orders and put in into your register reflexively. You tolerate my indecision because I've eaten at your restaurant chain so many times, that I no longer know what I’m in the mood for. You then take my order and payment, as always.
You watch Alex and I interact with each other. I give him hugs and ask him about his day. The only thing he does is make his usual verbalizations but gives no actual verbal reply to my question. You see us use some sign language to each other to share our thoughts. Visual communication, like this, seems to help with his comprehension of what I’m trying to say. This doesn't strike you as odd or if it does, you never give it away with your face or body language. All you have done is smile at us with a radiance that I can only describe as angelic.
Last Tuesday, you broke our routine. You spoke and said something that while I understood and could translate, it was awkward. It was something like, I love seeing you two come in and interact. You get along so well and always look so happy. I’m not sure I could do that. With his special needs and it just makes me happy.
I don’t fault you for feeling moved to comment on the shenanigans my boy and I engage in. Also, he is pretty darn handsome. That aside, I could translate what you meant.
There is something inside us all, a map of how things are or should be. What life was like for us and everyone we’ve known. We started plotting it out when we were children and built upon it as we get older. It breeds familiarity and comfort. It’s what we need in our lives to keep us moving forward and helps anchor us in reality. You are starting to see that its flawed. That there are people who are not quite like you. They experience joy and other things just like you. They just may experience it differently than you and may express it in a way you may not understand.
What you were trying to say is, “I can’t imagine what it must be like to love someone who is different. What kind of energy it may take to care for someone who may need a lot of care and guidance. I’m not sure I could be that person but I hope that I could be. It makes me happy to know that I can see it is being done and seems to be successful for you. I’m not sure I would be up to that.”
I wanted to answer you at the moment you said what you said. “He’s my son and the best thing ever. Why wouldn’t I be having fun and laughing with him.” Unfortunately, that statement would have made things more awkward between us. You have been the best counter person we’ve ever had and I’d prefer to keep it this way.
I get it. I really do. There are things in this world that you see someone do or experience that causes you to question who you are and if you have what it takes. Your pronouncement comes out of fear and perhaps discomfort. You’re young and haven’t experienced much in this world, yet. Perhaps, you have seen a parent and special needs child before and the parent may have not been playful or outwardly expressing love for their child. Perhaps your parent(s) haven’t been that way with you and you wish that interaction for yourself. Regardless, you are only expressing a deep seeded fear of the unknown. A “how would I respond if what I thought communicating with someone was different that anything I’ve ever experienced” statement. There is a part of you who is afraid that you’d fail at being good to someone that is different than you. You’d make a mistake and do something wrong or hurt their feelings. It’s a fear I know well. That’s where I live some days. Alex can’t always express what he’s feeling or thinking and it can get rough. Sometimes he cries from the frustration or disappointment.
I’m very afraid of screwing things up. That perhaps I won’t understand what he’s attempting to communicate to me. He needs to know that I will be patient and try to help him bridge the gap that can exist between us. That he and I should never give up on each other.
You could never understand how bad I want to be a GREAT parent. I say GREAT because being a good parent isn’t enough. I’ve been through two sets of parents and I swore that I’d be better than them. That I had to be better than them and can settle for nothing less. I lost my parents to apathy, insanity and alcoholism. Over time, fences were mended and things were talked out. That said, that is a life I never want him to know or experience.
There is a part of me that has something to prove and another part that has to keep a promise I made to Alex when he was born. A promise to be the best. To KNOW that hes loved and important in a way I never felt I had when I was his age.
I have translated your statement that shows that you’re human and afraid of what you don’t know. That shows that you are self-aware. The fact that you engaged us shows that you care and love to see people happy. That you are tuned in to the fact that people can experience things differently than you do. I hope that you never lose that. I might even recommend reading The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism to help build on that foundation. It’s helped me better understand where Alex may be coming from and has showed me how I may need to approach things differently when I interact with Alex.
I hope that you take that part of you, that has the capacity to care so much, and share that with the world. That you fine tune it and find a career that allows you to harness your potential and help others feel warm, safe and secure.I hope that we’ve helped you see that there is a bigger world out there. One that you shouldn’t be afraid of.
A Dad of a Wonderful Kid