Thursday, April 30, 2015

Autism Answer: He Told Me I'm His Mentor

After school yesterday my youngest son told me, "I think of you as my mentor."

I was touched! I smiled and said calmly, "Thanks, Declyn."

Now, I didn't want to say it calmly. I'm a bit of an over-reactor when it comes to celebrating stuff. It's always been a funny thing about me. Funny, and kind of annoying. 

So for Declyn's sake (and, honestly, for my sake so I won't scare him away from giving me things to celebrate!) I kept calm. 

He approved of my even tempered gratitude and, as we sat down to the dinner table for an after school snack, he continued. "I think of a mother and son on a busy city street. I imagine the mom giving a homeless man all the money she has with her and when the son asks why she did it her response is 'the only thing I want in return is his gratitude.' I imagine that because I know that's what you'd say. That's why you're my mentor."

Well, that was lovely! Also... it wasn't true. Sure, when I was his age I might have said that. I totally get why he thinks I'd say that. But, I wouldn't. 

So as we sat snacking on guacamole and tortillas I wondered what to say next. I didn't want him to shy away from telling me these things, and I didn't want him to break-up with me as a mentor. 

But that's just it. He told me I'm his mentor, and so I was encouraged to take on the role with purpose and tell him the truth. 

"I love that story!" I admitted honestly as I brushed crumbs off my fingertips. "But you know what I actually would have said? If I had given all of my money to a homeless man, and my son wanted to know why, I'd tell him it was because at that moment I'd be happier and more comfortable with myself if I did. I would point out that I don't often give all of my money to homeless people, and that when I did I didn't require their gratitude. Only my own."

He looked disappointed in me, as I'd feared. "You always want to make everything deep and insightful. It was just a story about gratitude."

"I know! I loved it! There wasn't a hint of judging homeless people or a touch of cruel intentions. It was beautiful! I'm just saying, if we do things for the gratitude we get from others, we're missing out on the more important gift. The gratitude we give ourselves. Sometimes a homeless person will resent you for helping them. Sometimes they'll be so embarrassed that they don't feel comfortable showing their gratitude. Sometimes they'll shower you with thank-yous and kind words only because they think they might get more out of you. It's dangerous to motivate yourself to do kind things just because of the impressed attention you might get from others. That's all I was saying."

My darling boy grabbed a tortilla and tore off a tiny piece. Dipping it in the guacamole he looked at me with raised eyebrows and a cocky grin on his face. "Like I said, you always wanna make things deep and insightful. Maybe I shouldn't have told you you were my mentor."

I shrugged. I know how this works. So even though I wanted to rewind and try again, or keep talking until he agreed with me, or play it off by reminding him that I'm not always deep, that I listen to cool music and take them to rock concerts, I just sat silent. I let the mixed up mood dance a bit, and then settle. 

As I started to put away our snack my son stood up from the table and headed toward his room. Usually at this point I'd just tell him I love him and remind myself that parenting is like this. Our rewards come later. And the ones that come now are generally from work we've done long ago. It's a never ending ride.

But this time there wasn't long to wait. As he headed out the door he turned his head and said over his shoulder, "Ah, don't worry about it. I guess that deep and insightful stuff is why you're my mentor in the first place. Love you, mom."

And then he was gone. 

It's a balancing act, this parenting thing.

I don't always get it right.

But my children give me reason to believe that I don't always get it wrong either. 

He told me I'm his mentor.

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

He told me I'm his mentor.