The chaos and mania of parenting a child on the spectrum

Normal, Typical, or Downright Cool?

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This weekend I had a birthday party for my 9 year old son. It was a magic show. One of the mother’s said, “Oh, a magic show? At 9? Well, that’s ok.”


This same mother once told me that her boys “are just normal” when I politely asked if they had any food allergies. “Just normal boys,” she answered. I wonder if a magic show isn’t normal? I wonder if 9 year olds are somehow beyond magic. And Santa. And imagination. Maybe they are too old for happy?

I suppose this women heard about my abnormal daughter. I don’t’ know….Normal, typical…I’ve always felt the language slightly stilted, laborious and stiff. And when it gets right down to it…meaningless. Though everyone wants to be normal, not everyone is typical. I guess that is the point. In most ways, though, my son is typical. When compared to his sister, he is just a regular run of the mill kid. He usually does his homework. He sometimes says inappropriate things. He is too lazy to tie his shoes, but he knows how to do it. He could be in a higher reading group, but he hates writing his responses. He can play soccer, but would rather turn somersaults in the goal.

He can make friends. He just doesn’t make friends with everyone. His sister…has a hard time making friends with anyone. She is his twin and though they are a different gender, and in different grades, and even now in different schools, I often discount how much her difficulties have impacted his. Or maybe how they have distracted me from his own. However “typical” he may seem, like his sister, he can be rigid. He likes to control games. He is prone to saying things like, “Follow me…,” to his friends. He has even fired a few from some of the secret “Clubs” he has formed. One of his friends from kindergarten tattled on him, telling me, “He is bossy.” I could only nod empathetically. I’ve spoken to him about it many times, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that he is going to have to learn through the school of hard knocks.

He just likes things his own way, and once when I had to stop by the school during midday, I spotted him all alone on the asphalt playground, My heart sunk when I saw him, but when I pulled my car around and rolled down the window, he called out, “Mom, I’m fine. I’m meditating,” and didn’t want to discuss it further. He shies away from the all the boys playing soccer in masse at recess, and the newly built “ga-ga pit,” (the modern form of dodgeball). While he is small, he is, unlike his sister, capable at sports, but he still prefers games of wonder and imagination. Well into third grade, he clings to games of dragons and knights, ninjas, and powerful wizards. I joke that he will become one of those odd Dungeons and Dragons kids. It isn’t just the judgmental mommy at his birthday party…any parent’s comment that their children have “grown out” of imagination games. I wasn’t aware that you could “grow out” of your imagination. What a sad thought. How would they feel if there child “clinically” struggled with imagination. Hmmm….obviously they can’t “imagine.”

In any event, the “Judgmental Mommy” had just moved here recently and she informed me straight off her son had previously played with several other, popular boys. She preceded to name three of the older boys in the grade, all gifted students and travel sports players. She wondered, oh so un-subtly, if my son was the reason for the demise of those friendships. Her son liked playing Ga-ga before meeting mine, she told me. There was a gaga tournament coming up, and wouldn’t you know it, the boy came to school and informed mine that he is mother told him that he needed to find a new best friend. My son had only the one playdate at his house. I wondered, did he curse? (Butt references, and other choice phrases, had become soup dujour with my boys), or had he been plain ol’ bossy? This couldn’t really be all about him not wanting to participate in a child’s Ga-ga tournament, could it? Apparently, the mother had spent the playdate trying to steer them toward sports games, so I had a sneaking suspicion it was.

I know the pain of having a child that does not have the skills to participate in athletics—I feel it acutely for I feel it for my daughter. I can’t imagine how awful if it would be if my son actually was on the spectrum, given that sports, and more generally, size, are given such importance among boys. You are either a Gifted Student or a travel player, or you are someone the other boys have since “Grown past.” Yes, girls have ballet and gymnastics and travel softball, but it is far more acceptable and expected for girls to play imagination games. To play mock social games. To play fairy and princess and Barbie. (My daughter struggles with these as well. For my son to love imagination games? Somehow, it is the kiss of death.

Ironically, my son actually plays hockey, which requires more speed, agility, endurance, and athletic prowess that most of the star soccer players he would ever encounter. It is a fringe sport though, and separates him from the cliques at school. Something I am grateful for at times, as our daughter so often keeps us on the fringe, I have come to embrace it. Not everyone knows that he does this though, so he is ousted. Regarded as one of the “out” boys. I told my son to continue to be nice, but to seek other friends. Through hockey, he has found many friends, and they love his quirky, odd, and outrageous ideas, like wearing a ninja costume under his hockey mask, or singing the words to “I’m so Fancy,” for an entire practice.

It wasn’t long before he and “normal” boy were hanging out again. He was even invited to his Magic Birthday party. The mother seemed shocked when she saw twenty other children there, running around chasing after my “Abnormal” son. It was silly. It was slightly dorky. I’m sure the magician we hired was considered a “dork” as a kid. My own son originally wanted to go dressed in a three piece suit and top hat, but opted to just wear a wand and hat. Hardly typical, but I think it is downright awesome. I wish he had done it. I have to say, there wasn’t one boy there who didn’t want a magic eight ball. And I have a prediction for them.

They might be normal. But not one of them is as cool as mine.


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