Let’s start with some honesty. The world around us isn’t always such a wonderful place. The older we get and the more individuals we meet, the more we see that many people don’t always have our best interests at heart.
You don’t even need to experience these meetings firsthand anymore to get that lesson. All you need to do is log into social media to see tons of posts about cruel caregivers, abusive teachers, and generally awful individuals. You can find it anywhere. Friends share videos designed to turn your stomach, shake you to the core, and entice you to hit the little orange angry-headed emoji response. It’s all about getting a reaction. Click that subscribe button, monkey.
That’s hard enough to deal with for me simply as a human being. As a father to a non-verbal son with autism, though, it is terrifying. It’s a glimpse into a confrontational world that I’m sending my gentle boy into.
Lucas doesn’t do duplicity. I’m not sure if he doesn’t know how or if he chooses not to, but my boy never pretends to be what he’s not. If he wants a cookie, he doesn’t try to cajole you with fake love or pretend caring. If anything, he just lunges for it. With him, what you see is what you get. It’s the most refreshing character trait of one of the most unique people I’ve ever been blessed enough to know.
That said, most of the outside world does do duplicity. Sure, they eventually lunge for that cookie too, but they try to fake you into handing it over first. People will play games and talk smack. They stab you in the back, whistle an innocent tune while you search for the real culprit, and then do it again once you look away. They’ll help you look for things they stole from you and tell stories that contradict reality. They’ll suck out all your passion and energy, before blaming you for never having any to begin with. The world is a vampire. Check your neck.
Is the entire planet like this? Of course not. However, they’re out there and mixed into the general population. The best people I have ever known and the worst people I have ever known all live side-by-side in ticky tacky houses.
When I’m with my eleven-year-old son, I can often forget that. He’s pure in his heart and absent of ego. I’ve spent years writing about him because I know that those without a person like him in their lives don’t understand just how special he is. Calling him “special” is not a meaningless label or a self-deluding statement. My son is special because he is special in all the best ways.
So how do I send him out into that world that I have seen the dirty underbelly of on more than a million occasions? It’s the scariest thought and the reason why so many parents in my situation are dreadful of their own mortality. Holding his hand in a world like this is scary enough. I can’t even fathom him navigating it when I’m gone.
Yet, I know I will be gone one day. The most probable scenario sees my son growing up and me eventually passing on long before he does. The time will come when I’m not here and this untrustful world will be trusted to care for him and accept him as one of their own. The thought can be chilling.
This is the same world that suddenly stopped telling insensitive jokes about special needs children when I had one. It’s strange, right? Growing up, people would tell those off-color jokes all the time. I never really found them funny, but I had heard them plenty of times. Funny enough, though. They stopped when I had a boy of my own. Did the world stop telling them or is it yet another case of that duplicity?
I think about that often because it scares me. It makes me wonder how many of those smiles I see every day are painted on. I try not to imagine the grumbles behind my back or the comments people might make when we walk away. My fear is that it always happens. My hope is that it never happens. In all probability, it sometimes happens.
And that’s life.
I mean, that’s the final word on this. It sounds like such a hard question to answer, but it actually isn’t because life answers it for you. How can I trust my non-verbal son to a world that I don’t often trust? I don’t have a choice. I must, so I just do.
What I can say is that I have been pleasantly surprised during my time as his father. In fact, as it relates to both my children, the world has been accommodating. We have faced very little cruelty or malice. People have been kind and caring. From school to sports to friendship circles, our lives have mostly been surrounded by supportive and loving companions.
Does that mean that all of them are 100 percent genuine in their polite demeanor? Of course not.
The secret? I don’t care.
They can say whatever they want behind closed doors. Roll eyes and grumble under your breath when we’re not around. There’s nothing I can do about it and I would never know if it happens anyway.
To our faces, though, they better keep that smile going. I don’t care if it’s real or fake. As long as you’re good to my loved ones, I’m happy and we have no issues. I may have no choice but to trust this world with my son. But they have no choice but to be good to him as long as I’m looking on.
It doesn’t matter if I’m watching them here on Earth or somewhere beyond. Treat him well. If it’s even remotely possible, I’ll be watching forever. So keep smiling.
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