Marie Smysor Watson
The Thing About Him...
Whoot-whoot! It's Autism Awareness Month (or as us autism parents call it - April). Mebbe I'm not as vocal of an advocate as I should be - but why start doing what you're supposed to now, Marie? you ask - but as I've said before, Griffin Dennis Watson (aka Finn) deserves a private life, just as you or I do. I'm not one to put my deepest secrets on blast (isn't this what the kids say?) But a couple of conversations this week got me a-thinkin' about what I wish that people knew about my life as a special needs parent. Then I thought, well dang, girl, you got yerself a blog that you can write up a little list. So that's what I did. Keep in mind that these are MY bullet points - my husband may not feel the same way (but he better if he knows what's good for him), nor might other autism parents. All I can speak for is me, and how I feel about this wild, wacky, wonderful life that is mine. So read on, and if you feel so inclined, drop a comment below...
He has autism. He isn’t autistic. Small potatoes, you say, but words matter. Don’t try to argue this with a writer - they do. It’s not all he is, as the latter suggests. It’s only a part of him, as the former does.
He is lazy. Trust me, I know. If I say that to you, don’t squint your eyes and turn down your mouth and get all melty-eyed. He’s a teenage boy. HE. IS. LAZY. He would prefer me to carry him (He’s 5’ 11” and 165 pounds - ain’t happenin’, although I CAN still piggyback him for a block. Ask me how I know…<insert eye roll here>...)
He’s a prolific eater. Lucky, I’m told, as kids with autism usually have picky palates. Finn calls bullshit on that. I have locks on my fridge and cabinets to prove it. It’s not just junk either - I don’t dare eat a salad around him without making him one too. His stare wears me down every time.
He’s wicked funny. He laughs like it’s his job and does things to be a tease (or annoying, as his brothers claim). Good thing - this family takes NOTHING seriously. Listening to him laugh is the closest I get to God on a daily basis.
He’s my easiest child most of the time. Locked cabinets and incontinence aside, he’s mostly content and enjoys his life, ESPECIALLY if he’s not being made to do anything. We go on short walks, we lay outside in the sun, we read books, we sing, we laugh, we eat. His brothers require A LOT more mental energy most of the time. (And in keeping with this theme, my life is probably much easier than yours. SERIOUSLY. I've simplified it to the point where I don't have a crazy amount of crap to fuss and fret over. So don't think I've got it bad and don't feel sorry for me. I'll bet I sleep better than you do).
He has a meaningful life. He enjoys it. Don’t feel bad for him either - we don’t (well, not mostly). He is handsome, funny, wily, joyful, annoying, loud. If anything, I feel sorry for others who don’t get it. It’s 2022, there’s no excuse. You’re on your phone all the damn time anyway - if you don’t “get it”, then look it up, for Godsakes. Better yet, look up, look around. Special needs people are everywhere. We don’t hide them away anymore, folks.
His brothers get irritated with him. They’re allowed. Dammit is often his first name. They don’t allow him in their spaces sometimes, because he messes with things (or eats their snacks). They’re allowed to feel how they feel. But this too - they also hang together, and they talk to him and he listens. They tease each other, they fight. Typical brotherly relationships, with their own language, their own love. I can only stand at the very edge of it and marvel - I can’t breach that circle, no matter how badly I might want to.
Ninety-nine percent of the heartache (frustration, anxiety, and - yes - rage) that stems from being a special needs parent is not due to my child or his disability. It’s due to the people who are supposed to be helping, and don’t. So many excuses - don’t come at me, I’ve heard them all. Just once, I’d love to hear, “Sure I can. It’ll be done tomorrow.” Meanwhile, I do humanity a favor and don’t carry a gun, and I sit on my hands whenever I feel an urge to put them around someone’s neck. See, I’ve learned too.
You can talk to him. Just because he doesn’t talk back doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand what you’re saying. He knows way more than he lets on (hearkening back to the laziness - if he lets you know that he knows, then you might make him do something. Better to play dumb - too bad, GW, I’ve got your number, kid).
We love him because, not despite, of his disability. As Temple Grandin’s mother famously said, he’s “different, not less.” He’s a whole person, thrust into a world that doesn’t understand him, that’s too busy to get to know him. Absolutely their loss - he’s worth every last bit of this measly world’s time, and yours. He’s already got mine wrapped up - and there’s no way I’d rather spend it.
Unless it was on a date with Idris Elba.
(Say hello to my future second husband... and yes, the first one knows)