Saturday, January 3, 2015

Autism Answer: Ask, Straight Up

Suddenly and randomly, I just had to know.

I phoned my son, who I haven't seen in a while--though I talk to him almost daily--and straight up asked.

"Sweetie, I just want to know. Are you happy?"

"With chocolate milk?" he asked. 

I giggled. "You know what I mean. In general, are you happy?"

"With chocolate milk or without chocolate milk?" he asked.

"With or without it, in general, most days, are you happy?" I reiterated, upbeat and used to these kinds of conversations with this adorably different kid of mine.

"Well, do you want to know if I'm happy when I have chocolate milk or do you want to know if I'm happy when I don't have chocolate milk?" My son was toying with me now, I could hear the fun in his voice and I missed him in that moment more than ever. 

"Okay, are you happy when you have chocolate milk and when you don't have chocolate milk? In general?"

"Boop," he replied. 

We both giggled together and then he answered my question with a delicious sound in his voice. A recipe of gratitude, truth, and love that was so decadent I could taste it all day in my heart from fifteen thousand miles away. "Yes, mom, I'm happy. Generally." 

There are so many ways to check in with and know our kids. There are so many times when we wonder and hope and worry and try to read the movements, tensions, reactions, and tea leaves. This is a very real part of parenting. 

But, also, we can ask. With honest interest, gentle curiosity, and no agenda, we can ask. Straight up. Some of our loved ones aren't the greatest at regular and familiar conversation, but they all love to know that we care about them. That we want to know. 

 "Are you happy?"
"Are you in love?"
"Do you feel overwhelmed?"
"Do you like the direction of your life?"
"What are your fears?"
"What is your hope for today?"
"How do you feel about your friendships?"
"How are you feeling?"
Don't forget to (sometimes) plain and simply and gently and with no strings attached, straight up ask.

Our teenagers might slam the door in our faces, our adult children might huff with annoyance, and our conversationally challenged friends might take us on a strange journey while we search for the answer, and that's okay. 

When we plain and simply ask, they know with potential clarity what we want to know, and that we care enough to ask. 

And, honestly, sometimes the answer is the opposite of "Boop. I'm happy." Sometimes it's stuff that hurts our souls as parents to hear. Stuff that makes us want desperately to crawl inside our children's minds and rearrange things until they know everything will be alright. They are awesome. They are exactly what the world needs right now. 

I've asked my sons, straight up, and had to hear these kinds of answers too. And scary as it was, boy am I glad I asked. Boy... am I glad. 

Most often I get the runaround. Most often they don't really want to talk to me about their feelings. But when I ask, they know I care. And when they do answer, I'm careful to truly listen and love. To truly give the gift of my understanding and allowing. 

And sometimes, when I ask, the answer is surprisingly delightful and delicious!

Boy.... am I glad I asked then too!!

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

He's happy. I know because I asked!