When my son first started getting special education services, I was worried. Truthfully, the concerns weren’t just about how he would advance or personal struggles he would face. Most were about the judgmental world around him.
I had lived on this planet for many years and knew the savage nature that some people displayed. People point. People laugh. People will say mean things. Snark was synonymous with humor. It was just what I had been accustomed to.
Now, here I was with my one and only son, vulnerable in this seemingly awful society. I would be tasked with defending him and, knowing myself, could never sit back while someone laughed. Surely, there were going to be some brawls in my future.
Mentally, I prepared for battles that I convinced myself would happen. I itched at the thought of facing down strangers and standing up for my kid. Scenes played out from ninja movies in my mind and it was me, backflipping off of diner tables and throwing roundhouse kicks, saving the day. Talk about my son? How dare they!
They didn’t. Those imagined confrontations never happened and, trust me, I was hyper-sensitive to it for a long time. No stranger ever stepped over the line, laughed, or pointed in his direction. While there were insensitive words from friends and family at times, those were easily brushed off. My little vulnerable man wasn’t in as precarious of a position as I had believed. In perhaps the most unexpected turn of our non-verbal autism journey so far, there has been an absence of cruelty in this cruel world I thought I knew so well.
As the years ticked by and the barbs never came, I accepted that these mean-spirited attacks could still happen at any moment. Yet, I stopped worrying about them every time we stepped out of the house. I saw that most people around us showed love and compassion. So even if there were a few dipsticks dripping with sour oil, what difference do they make? My kid is awesome. I know that. The words anyone could say weren’t real anyway.
But while I could say that with confidence for my kids, I had never said it for myself. Sticks and stones about my wonderful child didn’t break my bones, but the ones about me crushed my spirt every time.
It’s a strange realization to make. Laugh at my kids and, while I will throw down in the streets to defend their honor, I know those opinions aren’t true. My son is perfect. My daughter is too. Haters gonna hate and dipsticks gonna dip. Who cares what they think?
Yet, when I had allowed that same peanut gallery to fire their shells at me, I felt each hit.
Although I seldom heard their discouraging words, my skies clouded up whenever I did. People spoke about my life as if they had been in my home and told others stories based on fiction. I tried to explain my side, but quickly learned that didn’t matter. It takes one attempt to refute a negative to learn that the accuser doesn’t care about truth. They care about causing damage.
My life may have been an open book in some ways, but the attempts made by some to rewrite its words rattled me to the core. Why? These were the same people I would shoo aside if they spoke about my perfect kids. Yet, when they spoke about their seemingly imperfect father, I suddenly believed them to be geniuses. Words only have power if you let them and, when they were pointed at me, I certainly let them.
That statement is written in the past tense. Today is not like yesterday. It’s a new day. Ye,s it is.
The past year has been an eye-opener. I’ve learned to believe in myself and celebrate my achievements. It took a while to get here, but I have pride in the things I’ve done and the person I am. I give love freely to those who deserve it. There are many who do.
Will everyone on Earth love me? No, but that’s cool. I don’t love everyone on Earth. I know that I want to be happy and try to live my best life every day. If someone doesn’t like that or has a bad opinion about it, that speaks more about them than it does about me.
There may be moments that I falter from this enlightened pedestal, but that’s cool too. My life is a journey of self-actualization and when I feel, in my heart, that I’m on the righteous path, that’s all that matters.
Let them talk their trash. Garbage is as garbage does. If it’s about my kids, these people may earn some ninja kicks for their troubles. The words they spew, however, won’t do any damage. I’m too proud of my children and of me to give anyone that power anymore.
LET THEM LOOK
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