The Stuff I Make This Kid Wear

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Life is all about focusing on the silver linings. They are the hidden positives obscured in obvious darkness. You can often miss them and, if you listen to those around you, you might believe they don’t exist at all.

When my son was diagnosed with Autism, there was nothing but negatives in all the conversations we had with professionals. At most, the good things were simply bad things that they said “might not happen.” Phrases like, “he might be able to take care of himself one day” or “hopefully he can develop his own relationships as he gets older” were spoken as if they belonged on the “pro” side of an Autism checklist. In reality, they were just potentially crossed out ‘cons”.

One thing that stuck with me in those early days was the fear that Lucas would never be able to take part in the things that I love. At the time, professional wrestling was the easiest example to point to. “Sports Entertainment” had long been a love of mine dating back to Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy in a big blue 1986 cage and it turned from a childhood obsession into an adult career. I wrote books, contributed to magazines, and even introduced my son to some stars when he was still a baby. Although it has been on a steady decline for me, it’s still something that I looked forward to sharing with my children. It made me sad to realize that might never be an option.

If only he didn’t have Autism, I would tell myself. Then he could watch it by my side. That’s the only thing preventing us from being fans together. The one small problem with that thought process? It wasn’t true.

wres.jpgI know this because my daughter, Olivia, doesn’t have Autism and I thrust my WrestleMania upon her at a young age. We poured through classic WWF videos on YouTube and bought figures at the flea market. I introduced her to this magical thing that changed my childhood and wanted to share it with my son too. This was the magic that I blamed Autism for keeping away.

Then, one day, Olivia and I were watching a particularly corny episode of WWE RAW. She was lying on the floor with her eight-year-old head in her eight-year-old hands and her little stockinged feet wagging in the air behind her. At first glance, she appeared so happy to be watching rasslin’ with her dad. It was a happy fatherhood moment. Then she spoke.

Daddy? Can I ask a question?

Yeah, sweetie. What’s up?

Um, wrestling is so boring and stupid. Why would anyone want to watch it?

The air was sucked out of the room immediately. Olivia, undaunted, hadn’t asked it to be rude. I could tell because her stance didn’t change. She remained there, holding her head and staring at the men and women on the screen before turning her neck to look at me for an answer. I felt like I had just taken a Stone Cold Stunner.

Uh, I guess people like the whole story behind it.  You, um…you don’t have to watch it if you don’t want to.

She jumped up with frenzied happiness.

Thanks, Daddy!

And she was gone. And I was a schmuck.

That’s what I forgot in all my sadness over Lucas and his non-verbal Autism. I forgot that kids have opinions and the mere fact that he could speak or was neurotypical wouldn’t guarantee he would like this quirky subculture that I had been tied to. In fact, given Olivia’s reaction, there was a strong chance he wouldn’t.

Today, I don’t know if Lucas likes wrestling, if I’m being honest. He doesn’t seem to care either way. There’s a sense of indifference to it. That’s how he treats most things that aren’t geared towards him though. Unless it’s a kids show, Muppet, or a slice of pizza, he can really take it or leave it.

And that’s why Lucas owns so many wrestling t-shirts.

Yup. You want a silver lining? That’s one. Lucas will literally wear anything that isn’t physically uncomfortable. You buy it, he’ll model it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a shirt with a cat dabbing, obscure pro wrestler, or a picture of a pickle asking, “What’s the Dill?” He protests nothing.

He wears his Brock Lesnar Suplex City shirt to school. There’s a Pete Dunne “Bruiserweight” tee that fits his bruiserweight body to a tee. He has a Revival shirt announcing that he’s a “Top Guy”. Heck, he and I even have matching shirts that declare us to be “The Fashion Police”. It informs those close enough to read it that they “have the right to remain stylish.” You may know some of these wrestlers. You might know none of these wrestlers. It doesn’t matter. He wears them. He wears them all.

He’s cool like that. In my 30 years of wrestling fandom, I’ve never bought as many shirts as I have in the past few years. They are all youth size. Well, most of them are youth size. I buy ‘em. He wears ‘em.

elvisBecause of his easy going fashion sense, this year for Halloween, I bought him the greatest costume of all time. He’s going to be tiny Elvis and while he will almost definitely nibble on those flowing sleeves at some point, he looks fantastic. There’s no complaints or arguments. Just my adorable little Hound Dog. I bought it and, without an ounce of protest, he put it on. When it comes to agreeable attire, they don’t get much cooler than my son.

My daughter, on the other hand, has a closet full of pants we literally bought last week that she now finds “ugly”. There are shirts, still with tags, that she makes throwing-up noises at the sight of. Buying her a outfit without asking first is like taking your life into your own hands. She’s one of my favorite people on Earth, but that aspect of her personality can sometimes be a little grating. Clothing tirades often spring up from nowhere. Suggest she put on the wrong sweatshirt and she acts like you just tried to strangle her with it.

As this goes on, my non-verbal son stands there watching with a shirt that asks the question on everyone’s mind.

“What’s the Dill?”

I don’t know, pickle guy. She’s having a couture conniption.  You, though, are being a model bruiserweight. Silver linings, little Elvis. Silver linings.