How My Non-Verbal Son Reminds Me To Be Happy

My son has priorities after he gets off the school bus and they usually don’t include greeting anyone already in the house. Being non-verbal prevents us from having conversations about how his day went, but it’s not just about skipping a chat. When Lucas comes home, you get, at most, a passing wave. He has just one thing in mind and it’s very important.

He rushes in from front door and whips past anything in his way to get to either his iPad or the television. We slow him down to get an obligatory hug but that’s all academic to him. His main focus is on getting his eyes on some form of Sesame Street style entertainment. As soon as his show starts, it’s like Mardi Gras in our living room.

Lucas starts laughing and clapping with a torrential downpour of enthusiasm. With each hit of his hands, he jumps so high that it looks like he’s ready to fly away. The whole scene is right off the Price Is Right.

Instinctively, something inside me says to calm him down. My first thought is to put a hand on his shoulder and say, “Relax there, buddy.”

But why? Why would I tell him to do that? Sadly, I’ve thought about it and there’s only one reason I can even remotely come up with.

It’s because I’ve been telling myself that for my whole life.

happyI mean, let’s be honest here. Who doesn’t want to do that? Who doesn’t want to come back from a long day of shopping or work or party with acquaintances and run into the house with a beeline towards the remote control? I’d love nothing more than to push aside pressing issues and questions about my day in favor of getting to that one thing I had most been thinking about the whole time.

Then, when that TV goes on, I’d love to jump in the air and shout my happiness from the rooftops. I want to squeeze every bit of joy out for all to see and embrace the fact that, after a long time away, I’ve returned to what I wanted to do most of all. I want to scream, laugh, and jump with each clap. Yeah, baby! I’m watching TV! Finally!”

But I don’t. I don’t because people say you’re not supposed to. Sadly, I’m one of those people too. Internally, I tell myself to cool it before anyone else has to. That would be embarrassing or something.

My son doesn’t, though. He gets to react the exact way he wants. His happiness is the purest I’ve ever seen. It’s not a forced smile while unwrapping an As Seen On TV gift you never wanted or a polite grin over an unfunny joke. No. This is jubilation in its purest form.

And my first instinct is to have him tone it down. That says a lot more about me than him.

Lucas does everything I wish I could do. There are no hang-ups about social pleasantries. For instance, while watching a wrestling video, I might want the uninterested others in the room to see my favorite parts. So, I will begin a growing wave of nag that goes something like this:

Hey. Watch this one thing. Are you watching? Hold on. Right here. He’s going to do it. Watch this. Are you watching? You’re not watching. Watch. Look. It’s happening…wait. You missed it. Let me rewind it. Here. Look. Watch this. Are you watching? Look. Look up. Come on! You missed it again!

This happens more times in my life than I’d like to mention. Few things make me feel dumber than moments like that.

Do you know what Lucas does when he wants me to watch a part of his show? He will come over and begin tapping my shoulder. If I fail to look at the screen, he will turn his body towards me until we’re face to face. Then, he will hold his iPad up for me to see. He does this roughly every five minutes throughout some of his favorite videos. Guess what else. I watch every moment that he wants me to.

happy2I get that there are parts of my world that he might not fit into. That’s fine. Honestly, though, I look at the way he sees the world and I wish I could fit into his more easily instead. He might not speak and has struggles that I wish I could take away and put on my own shoulders, but overall his view of the world is so much purer than mine has ever been.

He reminds me what is important. I’ve had times where I was sitting at my desk thinking about something miserable or feeling sorry for myself. Trapped in my own head, I’d mentally beat myself up and do guilt-based gymnastics over whatever was weighing me down. Seeing me there, Lucas will come by and put his hand on mine.

…Then he will lead me from the chair and into the kitchen, where he’ll then place that same hand on a box of Ritz crackers and double tap his chest to ask me to give him some.

This has happened on more than one occasion and it never ceases to knock me for a loop. It’s like, without using words, he’s telling me, “Yo. Stop frowning. Let’s put some crackers in our face. It’ll make us happy”

So we do. And it does.

Sometimes he’s not there for food. Sometimes he makes me get up and dance along to “Shake My Sillies Out” during his eternally playing Raffi concert or something similar. Either way, it’s rare that I leave an interaction with Lucas without smiling a little bit more than when I went in.

The truth is that he is not at a point where he thinks deeply about regrets in life or worries about being reserved over his excitement for TV shows. I’m kind of okay with that, though. In fact, I’m pretty happy about it.

As a parent, my goal isn’t to place my son above or below anyone else in the world. It’s not about speech or getting him into Harvard or marrying him off to a magical princess. My main (and only) goal is to make sure he’s happy. He is. That much I know for sure. So I’m happy too. No matter where he goes from here, as long as he always holds on to that love of life, I’ll know I’ve succeeded.