Monday, December 15, 2014

Autism Answer: Chatting for Change

I was filling up my water bottle outside of the Local Store in town, while chit chatting with someone who works inside and had come out for a smoke break.

Almost immediately she asked how on earth it was that I had shown up alone, without at least one of my children.

"They're growing up," I lamented, "and following mom around isn't exactly 'cool' I guess!"

We had a little laugh.

"Also, my shadow--my son who almost always goes with me everywhere--recently moved to California." I admitted. "Parenting is the craziest thing! Your job is to let them leave you!"

The lady looked at her scuffed shoes and then back up at me, "My son will move on one day I know, but I'm pretty sure my daughter will be with me a loooonnnnggg time, maybe forever. Her mental age is really young and probably always will be."

"They used to say that about my brother!" I contributed, looking over at my half-full water bottle and then back at the lady. "But look at him now. He's got his own place and the job he's working at has lasted quite a while."

"You're right. I have noticed that your brother is getting more and more comfortable when he comes in the store. He doesn't forget to hold the door open for people like he used to!" We giggled as we both thought for a moment about how my brother had once always been so self involved he just wouldn't see others in line or following him into buildings. And because he didn't see them, he didn't hold the door for them and even sometimes stepped in front of them in line. "But I don't think my daughter will ever really be able to keep a good job and get out on her own," the lady added.

"They said that about my brother too! But he gets better because he keeps on trying." I explained. "He's had to have quite a few jobs in order to be able to learn how to handle them, you know? Each job teaches him stuff that he takes with him to the next one. Like any of us, really, it just takes him longer to learn some of this stuff."

The lady took a final drag of her cigarette as I hoisted my now full five gallon water bottle out of the machine and lugged it to my car.

"My daughter's real good at stocking the shelves in the store, and polite to people. She doesn't work with money well, but she's got a lot of skills....." The wheels in her head were turning, and it was familiar.

As I watched her think about possibilities and remembered the feeling, I heard myself add,"You know, my brother has had a bunch of jobs over the years, and he's almost been kicked out of his apartment more than a few times, but always he's been able to get back on track. And some of that has to do with the support he has from family, but most of it has to do with him chasing a dream. He wants to be a man who drives for a living and is successful. So, he mostly is!"

The lady and I smiled at each other and said our goodbyes. I don't know if she started thinking a little bit differently about her daughter or not. In truth, she almost certainly already saw many possible and beautiful futures for her daughter, our chit chatting was just one tiny moment in time. But it was a moment where she chose to voice likely limitations, and I chose to remind her that limitations are imagined.

So the moment was also not tiny, and I enjoyed a good old fashioned brag-about-my-brother dialogue that left me feeling nourished and filled up!

We have no real power over how others choose to see their lives or their children, but we have plenty of power in sharing possibilities!

So this season, while folks are feeling simultaneously giving and overwhelmed, feel free to chat for change!

You might be offering the gift of possibilities!!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

My baby brother, hanging out after work!