Just a quick trip to the store. It is never just a quick trip to the store when accompanied by the youngling, but not having his favorite cereal to cram in his face by the fistful would ultimately lead to far more drama. So, there we found ourselves at the local Safeway. Luckily, the store was nearly empty that weekday morning. There was, however, a group of rather crusty looking leather clad bikers stocking up on road food and chatting about the long ride to Sturgis.
Let’s grab the dang Cheerios and go before…
Colin: “Hey, Buddies! What are you doing?”
Crustiest Biker trying hard not to crack a smile: “Shopping, little dude.”
Colin: “Ok have a good day, Buddy. Hey, you look like my grandpa. He’s bald too.”
Crusty Biker no longer hiding the smile: “It’s a timeless look. Tell your Momma to buy you a little treat. You made this old man’s morning.”
You don’t have to be the parent of a child with autism to live one of these moments. However, since I happened to be one of those parents, this was especially thought-provoking for a few reasons. First of all, I realized early on that Colin was going struggle socially. The specialists will tell you as much… at length. So, I did what I was supposed to do, and thrust my son into social situations with peers whenever possible. He simply had no interest. Other children were intimidating. Why, then, was he not intimidated but this 6’2’ biker? I could only come to one conclusion. Even the most unpredictable looking adults are predictable. In Colin’s experience, adults always listened. They would never steal his toys or randomly scream in his face. Their rules are inflexible. For the most part, adults are cool to kids. Kids, however, are NOT cool to other kids.
This also made me think about humans and our crazy social guidelines. During my own upbringing, a lie was the biggest offense and Colin most certainly didn’t lie to the man. So, we do require our kids to be honest, but just how honest? I’m going to make a list.
“Even if you get a birthday present that you don’t like, smile anyway.”
“Tell Aunt Ellen that she looks pretty in her wedding dress.”
“Don’t tell your brother that Mommy is the Tooth Fairy.”
“If Tommy strikes out, tell him that he will hit it next time.”
Polite social behavior and dishonesty go hand in hand. I can’t really consider my son flawed simply because dishonesty doesn’t come naturally to him. What a very odd requirement.
I’m not saying that we should throw politeness out the window. I would certainly be mortified if my child told Aunt Ellen that she looked as though it took all seven bridesmaids and several prayers to lace up that bodice. Also, confronting a large biker about his baldness may not come across nearly as endearing when the kid is 17. Yeah, we might want to at least attempt to nip that in the bud.
I am merely suggesting that, during a rough moment, we take time to consider to complexity of the task we are asking our kiddos to master. I’m quite certain that I don’t have it completely figured out. After all, what did I do when I saw the group of sweat caked bandanas stocking up on cheese puffs and Slim Jims? I avoided eye contact. (Another thing we try to shake out of our spectrum kiddos.) Had it not been for my boy, I would have missed this memory, which is one I pull out whenever I need a smile.
Note: The man in the picture above is not the biker from the story. I was at a completely different store shopping, and cursing myself for not getting a picture of the other biker at the time, when I nearly ran this man over with my cart outside. It seemed I found another softy because he agreed to pose for this picture.
*For info on even more “Good Guy” bikers, visit the page below and learn about some special people protecting our most vulnerable children.
My kid will talk to ANY adult, regardless of the crust factor rating – like not just say hi, but actually strike up a conversation and ask what their name is and what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. I’ve let him do that pretty much since he could talk (so, really, only about 2.5 years) and have almost never run into an adult that wouldn’t engage with him on a really open and fun way. Maybe he just knows how to pick them!
Colin is clearly a better judge of character than I am.