Last night, my husband and I got a stern lecture at the dinner table.
“You know, you two,” my nine year-old Aidan began in a serious voice. “In the past few weeks, I’ve heard some words out of you both that we’re not supposed to say. I think that every time you say a curse word, you should pay me a nickel or a quarter.”
I was dumbstruck for a moment. And then I thought…
What the hell are you talking about Aidan? (Damn, that’s a quarter. Shit, that’s another quarter. WTF, now I’m up to 75 cents? A dollar? You gotta be kidding me!)
If you’ve read any of my blog, you’re probably wondering the same thing I am right now.
How is this MY child? Did aliens implant him in my uterus to be born to torture me?
(Oh wait, no, that’s Conor. He tortures me. Aliens must have implanted Aidan to try to keep me on the straight and narrow.)
I often wonder, though, if Conor would still be my “difficult” child, even if he didn’t have autism. Was he just born a challenge, destined to torture me?
After all, the stories of my husband’s older brother are legion. I think my mother-in-law did back flips all the way home after dropping him off at college. He just fought her every step of the way.
Of course, today, Pete is perfectly lovely and an accomplished neurologist, but he certainly gave his parents lots of heartburn getting there.
I wonder… would Conor have been so strong-willed and determined if he didn’t have autism? How much is the disability, and how much is just his natural personality? Does one or the other singularly make him so challenging, or is it the interplay of both?
Does he not understand what we want him to do, is it something his body just can’t tolerate, or does he just not want to do it?
Is he just being persnickety?
Is he just being persnickety?
Sometimes it’s impossible to tell.
Would Aidan be so easy if he hadn’t had to learn to be flexible and subsume his own wants and needs to the demands of a disabled older sibling? Or is being a people pleaser and a nurturer his nature? Is he just hard-wired to be anxious or does the dysfunctional chaos of our family stir up fears and worries? Both? Neither?
I guess it’s pointless to continue questioning the ‘woulds’ and the ‘what –ifs’. It’s truly impossible to tease out where Conor’s autism ends and his nature begins, at least for me. After all, it’s a global disability, affecting every single, even infinitesimal aspect of his life.
He is never free of it. (And in many respects, neither are we.)
It’s a filter for Conor's every interaction with the world, his environment, and our community. It affects his brain, his reasoning and learning, his gastrointestinal system, his immune system, his musculature, fine and gross motor skills, his physical, mental, and emotional development.
Are autism and his nature spliced together at every possible point, or is there some remote part of him that remains true to his born self, free from the disability? Is that even possible, with a disability that affects your brain?
There are many days with Conor that leave me feeling like all I have are questions and very few answers. I can answer you this, though.
I’m not paying Aidan any
damn money. But I’m sure the charity that we’ve chosen to receive funds
from the “swear” jar will be quite happy with the proceeds.