You probably don’t remember me or my family. Your judgement of us was swift and matter-of-fact. “We will never let our kids zone out on electronics while we have a family meal,” you declared to your husband as you nodded in our direction. That was that. You would never allow your future, hypothetical children to be as inconsiderate and rude as mine. I’m sure you went on about your day without a second thought about the kid zoning out on the phone at brunch.
And, I get it. I do. I have said similar things in the past. Back when I also had future, hypothetical children. Back before I had present, real children. Back before I started to notice that one of those children was a little bit different than most kids his age. Back before the doctor mentioned the big, scary word that starts with an A. You see, it’s easy to make judgements when you are not really in the situation, because all you see is a kid zoning out on a phone. But that’s not what I see.
You see a kid ignoring all social interaction at the table. I see a kid who is doing a great job holding it together and not melting down.
You see a kid zoning out on a phone. I see a kid who this morning was spinning himself up in the curtains, as he so often does now, to avoid putting on his clothes. This kid likes to be naked. He finds clothes very uncomfortable and tight, even when they are two sizes too big. Wearing a soft cotton t-shirt can sometimes feel like wearing a straightjacket. So, while you see a kid zoning out, I see a kid with his clothes on.
You see a kid ignoring his family and playing games. I see a kid whose mom dragged him to a local park this morning for family pictures that he didn’t want to do. Getting ready for pictures, that kid found tall bench made of a tree branch that he could climb and jump off of again and again until those few intermittent seconds of free fall could help him forget about his tight shirt. But he couldn’t. He had to sit still, smile, and make eye contact, which is not very comfortable or exciting. But he did it. So, while you see a kid ignoring his parents, I see a kid who cooperated with family pictures for a whole hour.
You see a kid ignoring the food on his plate and watching videos. I see a kid who waited patiently for 30 minutes to be sat at a cramped table and wait for his food, only to be disappointed and unable to eat because the food on his plate was linked sausage and not sausage patties.