On the New Year, Autism, and Thanks, Anyway
Dec 31 2016
I gave my nephew, KG, a frog book for Christmas. He did not want a frog book. I knew in advance he didn’t want a frog book. I gave him the frog book anyway (though it was supplementary to another gift I gave him I knew he’d want, so I’m not a total monster).
KG is in second grade, has autism, and also has 100,000 allergies to All the Things, so he’s our bubble boy. He’s not like the kid who gets a tummy ache from dairy. He’s the kid who ends up in the ambulance and the hospital and sometimes the Pediatric ICU because he stops breathing, even though we have a strict NO NOT-BREATHING ALLOWED rule in our family. He’s the kid we wildly celebrate because he’s a survivor and that status can’t be taken for granted for him like we do with the rest of our kids.
We love KG for lots of reasons. Obviously. And I sort of feel like I’m supposed to say we love him in spite of his autism, except I feel like the truth is we love him in part because of it. We love his brain. We love his quirks. We love that he’s inspirationally truthful. We feel on a deep level there are lessons we can learn from him about authenticity, and self-advocacy, and eschewing our collective cultural bullshit, and unapologetic honesty.
KG opened his frog book present at Christmas, and his shoulders slumped in defeat. “NOT A FROG BOOK,” he said, because he detested it.
His daddy, my brother, said, “Nope, KG. What do we say when we get a gift?”
“Oh, yeah,” said KG, as he looked at me with sorrowful eyes, “Thanks, anyway, Auntie Beth.”
Total Eeyore voice. Absolute melancholy. Working to be grateful anyway.
“Thanks, anyway, Auntie Beth.”
I would like to only give gifts to people with autism in the future, please, or to people who have learned from them, because they’re my favorite. They can learn to be polite when necessary, but they’re also not going to pretend a situation, even one requiring gratitude for the sake of social nicety, is OK. Frog books suck. Let’s not pretend otherwise. But thanks, anyway.
This is exactly how I feel about 2016.
2016 sucked, collectively if not personally. Let’s not pretend otherwise. But thanks, anyway.
Thanks, anyway, for the horrible frog book, 2016.
My sister-in-law, KG’s mama, told this story earlier this year when he was on steroids following another spell of Not Breathing:
When a small person is on this amount of steroids, it means more of EVERYTHING.
The day following anaphylaxis, KG and I stopped to get gas on our way to see the doctor, and had the car turned off with the windows down. While we were fueling up, a Beekeeper, wearing full beekeeping gear including the hat/mask, pulled up in the lane right next to us.
Seizing the teaching opportunity, I point out our fuel companion to KG. “Buddy, look over there! A beekeeper! Check it out! Look at the gear he wears to work with bees!” My announcement was met with total silence (which can be a side effect from the massive amounts of medications). Undeterred, I tried again– “KG, did you see? Look over on your side– a beekeeper!”
My inquiry was met with yelling, through the open window, with the power of a thousand fiery suns. “I hate you! I hate YOU! I hate you, BEEKEEPER! I! HATE! YOUUUUU, BEEKEEPER! You steal from BEES! You STEAL! From BEES! THIEF! THIEFFFFFFFFFF! Beekeeper, I. HATE. YOU!!!!!!”
Despite my direct commands to knock off the yelling, it continued. Until the tank was full. (This felt like an eternity, but was likely a minute or two.) Driving away, with the windows safely secured in the upright position, I asked KG what in the world happened back at the gas station. He shared a righteous anger that a person in a position of power would take advantage of the smaller, lesser creature, that the beekeeper would selfishly steal all the hard work of the bees, and explained how this was a justice issue that concerns everyone.
I explained to KG how Beekeepers are actually the biggest advocates and defenders of bees, how bees are rapidly going extinct, and how the efforts of beekeepers are what sustain the bee population. We discussed how the beekeeping/bee relationship is symbiotic, especially considering protections needed/offered during winter and from predators.
He took in all of this new information. Completely unaffected (and unashamed), he replied “Oh. I was not aware of this.”
These adventures brought to you by Autism on steroids.
I don’t know about you, but 2016 has me feeling a little strung out. A little like yelling out the window and lashing out. A little relieved we get to drive away now from 2016 which was a THIEFFFFFFFFFF for so many millions who lost their homes, their countries, their babies, their lives. And from 2016 which may have been good in some ways I’m not yet ready to acknowledge.
May we learn a lesson from my nephew, though, as we head into the New Year; to champion important causes, to understand WE are one of the important causes, to be honest, to be grateful even if we have to do it reluctantly, to give no time to things that don’t matter (like stupid frog books), to be open to new information when we can listen again, and to be unashamed because we are, after all, wildly, wonderfully, weirdly, perfectly made.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful New Year,
P.S. I DID give KG his real gift later — Pokemon plushies — which met with his enthusiastic approval. May 2017 learn THAT’S how it’s done. 😉
(This is the niece and nephews posing with the things I got them that they actually liked. Notice there’s not a frog book to be found. Hehehe. KG is the one pointing to Evie.)
(Also, yes. Yes, I did get that hideous golden lion necklace thing for my oldest nephew. He wanted it, and I’m a sucker.)
P.S.S.My mom left her computer open HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.