Let Me Tell You About My Son
Let me tell you about my son. His name is Maxim, but sometimes we call him Max. He has light brown hair, chocolate eyes that twinkle with mischief each time he smiles, and a laugh so big and full of joy it fills you up from the top of your head to the tips of your toes when you hear it. He loves jokes, cars and trains, and the smell of hair after it's been shampooed. He will roar like a dinosaur to try and scare you, and call out “Tickle-ish!!!” right before he tries to tickle you. He kisses boo-boos away for anyone who gets hurt, whether he knows them well enough to do that or not. He is our good morning hugs and our snuggles in the quiet moments of life. He is 8 years old, and he has Autism.
When Max was 5 he learned to spit in the sink. This might seem like an odd thing to mention, but I can’t tell you how much that meant to us or what a huge accomplishment it was! This meant he could finally use real toothpaste because now he wouldn’t risk swallowing it too often and getting sick.
I worried. I worried if we couldn’t brush his teeth with real toothpaste he would get cavities, and what would we do with this sweet boy who was afraid to walk into the dentist’s office with the bright lights, and the funny noises, and the uncomfortable dentist’s chair. How would we help him without scaring him beyond words. We would work on going to the dentist, but until then what would we do?
So when he learned to spit in the sink it was a monumental day for us. I could worry a little less and rest in hope a little more. I wanted to shout it from the rooftop! “He did it! He worked, and tried, and worked some more, and he did it! We are SO PROUD of our Max!” But who would I tell?
Other little children were playing T-ball and soccer, taking dance classes and playing with friends. Max was learning to string words together so he could tell us his thoughts, to understand early vocabulary, and to respond to his name. Other kids were learning the basics of team sports, and Max was learning to spit in the sink. There was nothing wrong with that, but who would understand how amazing this was?
Parents huddled at sports practices talking about home runs and making goals. They lamented over too many play dates and not enough time. They spoke of class parties, children who got scolded for talking too much in the classroom, and messy clothes covered in paint and glue.
We were working to tolerate the touch of paint and glue, to find the right program that would support Max’s needs, and hoping one day talking too much in class was a “problem” we would share too.
“Mary scored her first goal at soccer!” “
“Johnny ran around the bases the right way this time!”
“Billy danced in the school talent show.”
“Max spit in the sink!” my heart sang.
Would they understand how special this accomplishment was for our Max, how hard he worked to achieve it? Did they care to hear of his special achievement or other milestones like it?
So who did I tell? No one. It felt lonely and sad. But I didn’t risk sharing something so sweet and so special with anyone who wouldn’t value what it was worth. And to be honest, I was scared. Would they look at me like I was crazy or at Max like he was less? Would they understand this meant he was special and not that he was lacking? I didn’t know the answers, and I didn’t dare chance it.
3 more years of living with this incredible, marvelous, hard working little boy has taught me better. I shouldn’t be afraid to share his success. Not. Ever. If he could work so hard to accomplish so much, then I could overcome fears about what others would think. If they thought he was less, I’d have to work harder to help them see they were wrong. If they didn’t see how amazing he was, I would have to keep sharing his story until they did.
It didn’t matter if they thought my stories about spitting, or learning to straighten his clothes, or put his head in the water of the shower stream were not important. His hard work and accomplishments were amazing, and it wasn't right to hold onto his success all to myself. His light was meant to shine and be shared with the world.
So let me tell you about my son named Max. He can spit in the sink after his teeth are brushed and he is getting closer at being able to brush his teeth by himself. He is starting to tolerate the feel of water and soap on his hands long enough to wash them the right way. His favorite song is We Will Rock You, and he likes to change the words on purpose to make us laugh. He can almost count 10 objects and knows just about all the sounds in the alphabet! He has worked longer and more intensely to achieve each and every skill he has than anyone else I know. Max is amazingly curious and sometimes mischievous. He just picked me these flowers and was so proud to give them to me. And, I am SO PROUD of HIM!