For much of the past few years, my husband was in denial about Peter’s autism diagnosis and hadn’t accepted that Peter behaved unlike other children his age. We're finally to a point where we're both managing his diagnosis and agreeing on the challenges that my husband once refused to acknowledge. As you can imagine or maybe know firsthand like me, there are many drawbacks that come with an autism diagnosis. As I’ve expressed before, I’m continually grateful that our challenges with Peter aren’t as severe as other children on the spectrum. That’s just how my mind works. I’m programmed to find the bright spots in even the direst situations. (Side note: Who knew direst was an optional way of writing most dire? Probably you, mom.) Anyways, I think finding a silver lining has been a coping mechanism to persevere through the last few years that seemed riddled with bad luck. There was a time that I lumped autism with my misfortune; slowly that view is shifting.
One humorous bright spot to life with Peter is his unfiltered verbiage. He’s constantly asking questions and saying things, both hurtful and endearing, which surprise me. On some days he tells me he wants me to die and other days he clasps my hands with his and says that he never wants me to grow old so we can always cuddle together under the warm covers. He also says shocking things that I hope he’ll never act on. I asked him if he was going to have a girlfriend one day, as he’s pointing out his favorite Comic-Con girl, and he tells me that he’s going to get a girlfriend and then beat her up! The following conversation about him getting arrested is cut short when he starts throwing out addition problems and asking me for the answers. Focus son, focus. He can’t because his autistic mind is filled with a flurry of random thoughts.
Peter is also obsessed with telling people they’re ugly. I think he picked up that jab from his older brother. At the carnival a few weeks back, I heard how he told a girl that her boyfriend was ugly. And just yesterday, as we were leaving the parking lot after my older son's football game, he shouted, “Hey! You’re ugly!” out the car window. Thankfully, we knew the player and I made Peter apologize. Then he informed them, “We’ve got a cheerleader in the back!” as if we’d smuggled my daughter’s friend from the field. On the ride home in our packed car permeating with pubescent sweat, he continued to spew embarrassing remarks about his older brother saying that his fat body was covered with zits. This in front of the non-familial cheerleader we had “in the back.” I shudder to think about the hurtful comments he says when I’m not around to mediate. (Note to self: guard those family secrets or Peter will share them all.)
Another bright spot to having a child like Peter, and one I appreciate most, is his enthusiasm for hand-me-downs as the seasons change. Instead of seeing his older brother’s clothes as used, worn, and perhaps stained, he’s thrilled to have a whole new wardrobe. And don't forget the 'new' socks! I can't says he's as happy as I am about not having to take him shopping for winter clothes. There are some hand-me-downs that he won’t wear, like the Gymboree underwear with a critter-filled nature print. He knows the bugs aren’t real, but doesn’t like them covering his crotch. Maybe there’s a false sensation that the bugs will come to life and bite him. Peter has already sorted through the clothes and picked out the plain grey T-shirt with a black collar to match the one his dad wears. I just hope he'll let me put aside the tired baseball shirts he selects whenever they’re clean and replace them with the ‘new’ long-sleeved shirts when his cast comes off tomorrow.