Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Not My First Rodeo

I believe that who you are at 10 is basically who you are throughout your life.

Here's the proof:  at 10 I was sensitive.  I was emotional.  I was a good and loyal friend.  I overreacted sometimes and could see situations more clearly in hindsight.  I said what I felt.  I called it like I saw it and would call you out if you were being mean/unfair/obnoxious.

And at 42 I'm basically exactly the same.

The difference is that as I've grown, I've learned how to filter myself.  I've learned that not every situation is an appropriate one to "call someone out".  I've learned to sit with how I feel about something before I react, in case my reaction is an over-reaction.  But I've also learned that people often mistake "sensitive" and "emotional" to mean "doormat".

Make no mistake - I am NO ONE'S doormat.

Why is this important to state here?  Because I have a son with autism.

My amazing son with autism, TJ, has a really hard time figuring out these nuances of human relationships.  Those statements with underlying meaning go right over his head.  His interpretation of things is very literal.

If I say "It's not my first rodeo", he pictures me going to a rodeo, and asks when I've ever been to one before.

Over the years he has learned that there is a lot of slang out there - that a lot of what comes out of people's mouths can not be taken literally.  He's gotten really good at this!  But it's a continuous process - Sean and I interpret people's statements to him all the time, in hopes that he will pick it up in the future.  It's working!  He now says "Do me a solid!" and "Gimme some sugar!" knowing that he won't be given an handful of sugar if he makes this statement.

(He's also learning that it's not appropriate to go up to his friends and say "Gimme some sugar!"  They are so good with him that they laugh, but it's harder for him to understand who he can say these things to and who he can't.)

But, like his Mama, he is sensitive and emotional.  And the LAST thing I want him to be is any one's doormat because of it.

So I am trying to set a good example for my kiddo.  You can be sensitive, emotional, thoughtful, and a good friend, without getting stepped on or taken advantage of by anyone.  It's OK to stand up for what you believe in.

Do you have an issue with a family member or a friend?  Address it.  Are you confused by the way someone is treating you?  Ask them about it.

Actually, this is a good example for my other son, too.  We are not mind readers.  It's OK to ask questions and address issues.  You learn who you can openly address issues with, and who you can't.  Not everyone can "talk things out", and that's OK.  The key is learning who can and who can't, and form your relationships accordingly.  Everyone has limits, including us.

So if you are chatting with TJ and say something like "I've been around the block once or twice" and he looks a little baffled, you may want to explain what you mean.

His "baffled" face is really cute, by the way, so before you explain yourself, enjoy if for a little bit.

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