I won't like you better than the next person just because you have curly hair like mine.
I won't like you better if you agree with everything I say.
I won't like you just because we come from the same place.
I don't automatically like every family with special needs.
I don’t think my son is perfect just because he’s mine.
But I understand that human nature seeks patterns, feels comfortable with categories, often pairs off by attributes.
I hear so much about bullying these days that it’s ever present in my mind. I worry about my own children becoming victim, targets, as well as bystanders or perpetrators. I take bullying seriously. And yet I worry about the word “bully,” sometimes, too. How it can demonize small children. The behaviors are serious, but the children are works in progress. For a boy like the Rooster, as he navigates his journey with autism -- so easily singled out, so often ridiculed, and lacking in the executive function to respond appropriately -- it’s often easy to be seen by the uninitiated as the bully instead of the bullied. It breaks my heart when all people can see is difference, and all they can do in response is label, demonize, isolate. I want to do all I can to prevent it happening to them, to prevent them from doing that to anyone else, to prevent even the appearance of them doing that to anyone else.
On the 4th of July we wanted to find a way to avoid the crowds, the loud noises, the stares, the potential conflicts and misunderstandings of typical celebrations. The Rooster bought a small remote control airplane at a yard sale, and at dusk we took it to the park to fly it with Peaches and J, imagining we would have the place all to ourselves.
Instead, we stumbled across a family, making their way to their secret spot near the baseball field, carrying the chairs and blankets and snacks they pack every year to watch fireworks at a great distance but in the comfort of their own little clan. The mother was blond, and I am dark, and we didn’t agree about the local school district, but we definitely come from similar places. Her son is autistic, her daughter NT.
Our children ran joyously around the park. They invented games, they took turns flying the remote control plane, until at last the sky filled with an array of distant colors and we settled in to ooh and aah and cheer. Our small crew was alone, but together, on Independence Day.
On the one hand, it can feel hard to choose to celebrate off the beaten path. On the other hand, we often find we are never as alone as we think.
Best. Holiday. Ever.
Rooster's Mom is a parent, educator, wife, mom, and writer. She blogs at roostercalls.blogspot.com.