A Gentle Soul In An Angry World

When I first wrote my post entitled “I’m Sorry My Son Drank Your Coffee” over two years ago, I never imagined that wide range of reactions it would evoke. From those who can relate to the stories it told to those who were horrified at them, the responses have been across a wide spectrum.

It was about how my non-verbal child with autism, then seven years old, would try to steal drinks or food wherever he could find it. Whether he was lunging for a handmade classroom pancake face or disgustingly chugging down a disregarded Starbucks cup near a pay phone, Lucas didn’t seem to grasp the concept that some foods didn’t belong to him. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean he can have it.

I’m proud to say that since then, he has come so far. Through hard work by us and him, my little man has gained some wonderful self-control. Sure, there are some missteps here and there, but just like so many other behaviors he’s grown out of through the years, his current approach to the world has matured in ways I never dreamed possible.

Of course, people commenting on it through social media don’t always know the age of the post. So, some offer misplaced doom and gloom prophecies about how he will never learn and how terrible a parent must be to allow him to do this. Unbelievably, they think that I am somehow pleased with my loved one putting his lips on the diseased straws of strangers, insisting that I find it “cute”. It can become maddening to have to explain it to them so often and, in most cases, I just don’t. Let ‘em think whatever they want. Honestly, those saying many of those things don’t care about him or me anyway. They’re just venting. You can feel it through the screen.

There is, however, one train of thought that I haven’t really addressed because, in my son’s world, it’s as foreign of a concept as you can get. It’s from the people who misunderstand his very nature. They claim his violent food-taking today will lead to an even more physically aggressive adult future.

He will almost definitely, according to them, grow to be a brute who engages in brutal force in order to get what he wants. He will mangle those before him as I stand powerless to control his actions, crying behind a prison visitor’s window.

Sometimes, they don’t even wait until adulthood to condemn him. They dream up scenarios that could happening right now to them and how he “better never try to take any food from my child’s hands or something will happen to him!” It’s all big talk and pro-wrestling bluster from soccer moms and suburban dads. It amazes me that people think up these things, let alone take the time to type them out.

There’s one main problem with all of that, though. It’s a pretty glaring oversight on their part. Nowhere in my post did I ever say anything about any violence or even Lucas so much as taking something from anyone’s hands. These are all stories of him simply finding forgotten items laying around. The truth is, even at his most Hambuglerish, my little guy has never actually stolen anything from a person. He’s never grabbed. He’s never pushed. He’s never hurt anyone. My son has never showed any violence at all because, well, that’s not who he is.

It’s hard for those people to comprehend that. They read how he doesn’t understand that he can’t have whatever he wants and their minds immediately jump to angry acts of aggression. They put him in the same category of so many others as they assume that he will steamroll people physically to get what these things.

The problem with that is Lucas isn’t in the same category as many others. He’s beautifully unique and, honestly, gentle. In his nine years, he has never hit another child or intentionally caused harm to a person during a fit of anger, even during a meltdown . There has never been a note home from school or a sit-down with a professional. That’s not to say that all people with autism are like that. It’s just to say that my son is like that.

In fact, from reading the comments, the only people who seem to be violent are the ones accusing him of eventual violence. I can’t help but shake my head as I’m lectured that my kid will one day be an angry aggressive adult…by an angry aggressive adult instigating a fictitious confrontation with a seven year old over an assault that will never take place. These are grown men and women threatening to fight a young boy with autism over a stolen cookie they’ve imagined in their minds. That’s who’s lecturing me about violence. Seriously.

I don’t say this kind of thing often, but let’s be frank about one thing. If anyone ever puts their finger on my son, they’re not getting that finger back. That’s a given. So, let’s leave the whole, “he better never” threats in your pocket. It doesn’t matter, though, because he’s doesn’t “never”.  My boy never gives anyone a reason to confront him. He’s a sweet kid and anyone who meets him for one minute can see how laughable the idea of him being in that vicious situation can be.

My boy doesn’t understand the thought of fighting. I can’t even teach him. There would never be lessons about standing up to bullies and I would never be able to tell him to “put up your hands” to throw a punch. He doesn’t get it. Even when I play-fight with him, he giggles and wraps his arms around me for hugs. He never throws a punch or a slap. He’s not that kind of kid.

I don’t wish he was either, although it might give me peace of mind as I leave him surrounded by a world of anger. He’s the most gentle soul I have ever known. That’s the truth. No one even comes close. He doesn’t even understand the concept of violent aggression. He’s not like that. It’s not who he is.

I love that about him. The fact that some in the world can’t fathom a boy like him says more about the world than it does about him. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I wish everyone was more like my Lucas – myself included. We’d all be better off.