It’s 8:30 in the morning and I’ve just dropped my son off at school. As I’m driving home, I get an urgent voicemail from someone who just can’t wait. With one hand, I hit my overflowing inbox and put the message on speaker. Apparently, I need to call back right away because there are important things unfolding.
What things are unfolding, you ask? What is do-or-die at 8:30 in the morning?
I don’t know. Some nonsense.
Yeah. No sugar-coating. No filters. Listen to me and listen to me closely. Whatever it is, I don’t care – not even a little bit.
Don’t get me wrong. I will pretend to care. That’s cool. Appointments to schedule, texts to answer, emails to return – I get it. I am not saying they’re not important. To other people they are. I’m just saying like the song says, there’s you and me and all other people. It is what it is.
Having a non-verbal child with autism broke me of that knot-in-the-stomach feeling about, well, most things. That’s not to say that I don’t get things done. I do. I just don’t get them done while wringing my hands and hopping around like a goon. I still see it in others though. You watch them grow red and contort their expressions over the most routine conflicts. Me? I don’t yell or argue with people over their day-to-day frustrations. I don’t fight over parking spaces.
Actually, let me correct that. I might fight over a parking space, but if I do, it’s not really about a parking space. It’s about this person trying to make me fight about a parking space. Does that make sense? Take the spot. I don’t care. I’ll drive around. Hell, I have a handicap placard I can use. The issue isn’t the spot.
The issue is that this person is making it an issue when I don’t care. Again – not even a little bit. I take that personally.
There are many reasons why having a special needs child may affect the way in which I see the world. The obvious one to most people reading this is “how difficult” my special needs parenting homelife is. That’s the milkshake that brings all the pity to the yard. Whoa is me.
Truth be told, yes, it is difficult at times to raise my boy. We have had mornings that were far more catastrophic than any urgent voicemail about the expiring offer on my fictitious car’s warranty. I have stood in line at Starbucks and watched someone go crazy over a late coffee, right after personally dealing with a clean-up situation that no one could ever fully understand. To me, the two aren’t even comparable. Let’s trade. I’d gladly wait ten minutes for a Honey Almond Milk Flatwhite in exchange for the hour-long sanitation project I had at 4AM.
It isn’t just that. As a special needs parent, I am constantly thinking about my son’s place in the world. Whether it’s his long-term or short-term future, Lucas has challenges on the horizon that occupy permanent space in my head. I’d like to say they live there rent-free, but they don’t. The price I pay for those worries is vast and substantial.
To me, that’s what is important. It skews my perception and suddenly, things like a neighbor who gives me “attitude” doesn’t sting the way they used to. Rather, it’s just a minor annoyance in stark contrast to the sometimes terrifying uncertainty about my child’s future. To me, that’s real. The grumpy neighbor might as well be a hologram.
The biggest reason I don’t let the worries of other people get to me? I’ve already lived through many moments that I thought I never would. If I could turn back the clock and tell myself the life that lay ahead of me, I’d have been frozen with fear. A special needs son? Quintuple bypass? Family estrangement? Lost friends? Divorce? Mental health challenges? It seems insurmountable.
Yet, I’ve been surmounting it. The road is long and the bumps vary in size as you go along, but I’ve made it much longer than I ever thought I would, even without knowledge of the difficulties that lay ahead. If I can get through all of these major things, you can get through a long line at the bank. Don’t turn to me and ask if I “can believe this” because we’ve been waiting a few minutes. I can. It’s a line. Wait.
That’s pretty much the extent of it. I don’t care where you park, what you eat, or who you vote for. Enjoy the TV you enjoy. Drink your pumpkin spice. Start decorating for Christmas in August. You do you. Other people care. I don’t.
Not even a little bit.
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