A father’s perspective ~
The other day while mowing the lawn, Sam rode up next to me on his bike and interrupted me with some urgency. “Dad,” he asked earnestly, “do you think I’m extraordinary?”
As his question echoed in my head, I flashed back to when Sam was just a little boy, a boy who could barely run down the hallway without careening into the walls, bouncing from one side to the next like a drunk exaggerating every movement as an overcompensation for the last one. To the little boy who watched one Barney video over and over until one day, suddenly and without any obvious reason, he totally came unhinged as Barney sang Pop Goes the Weasel. To my son who, when desperately out of sorts and unable to control his emotions, would find calm as I struck his back with firm and forceful pats. To my only son who would never be the son I hoped for when the ultrasound revealed he was a boy.
From the moment of his birth I knew something was different about Sam, something not “normal.” I watched him as he lay silently in the clear plastic container they put new babies in, staring into the room as though he could see something the rest of us couldn’t. He simultaneously seemed impervious to the world around him and to absorb it completely. It was a look I would continue to see as he passed from infant to toddler to child to young man. As he grew it was clear that he was not going to develop into what I had expected, but as I watched him mature it became clear to me that this boy – my boy – was something truly special. I had set my sights for a son way too low.
Like most dads, I suppose, my ideal for my son was that he would be a better, faster, stronger version of me. I’d massage out of him all of my shortcomings. He would be all that I had fallen short of, and I could finally realize my true self through him. The son I got was so much more glorious than that. While frequently challenging, Sam is as close to pure as I can imagine. While he is undeniably my son (my quirkiness and his are strikingly similar), his guilelessness, his Kramer-like commitment to doing everything with full-on enthusiasm, and his uncanny sense of humor show him to be so much more than I could ever hope to be.
Sam is a joy factory. He is funny, smart, and has an eye for the world that is truly unique. He is unburdened by self-consciousness, which enables him to observe the world around him rather than being consumed with how the world sees him. His take on the world is often black and white, but his capacity for acceptance of others is awe-inspiring.
A person with autism certainly filters and processes the world differently, but there are times when I think the whole world would benefit from being more like Sam. I know I would.