Childfree… With ONE Exception…
A friend of mine who knows and accepts that I don’t ever want children has a young son who I absolutely adore. The kid is unbearably cute, amazingly intelligent, and has been very well behaved whenever I visited. He also has autism, which is NOT a defect in need of cure, but part of who this precious boy is as a person.
Recently, I made a trip to visit my friend and her kid, bringing along a backpack full of birthday gifts for the boy. Some gifts were things that I purchased, and some were things I just sort of acquired. Even the backpack itself was a gift for the start of his new school year.
The kid was already tugging on his ear, his “tell” that he’s excited, as soon as he came into the room. I first handed him a card in an envelope. He took it, then peeked into the backpack where he knew the toys were. His mom patiently explained to him that cards are a social custom and he was supposed to open in first. He did that and was so interested in the puppy on the cover that he didn’t notice the money drop out. I think that he was more used to receiving money in the form of coins, as that’s how he is often rewarded for good behavior. He wasn’t at all interested in the $20 bill, he wanted the toys in the pack. So adorable!
I gave him the rest of his gifts, which I regret that I could not wrap, one by one. A toy truck, a puzzle, and a Boggle game that I hoped could be used as a teaching tool. I also gave him an art set with a sketch book, as well as some notebooks for school. When we were done, he gave me a big, heart-melting hug, the first I’ve ever gotten from him, and then he ran off to play. I believe that I very well may have smiled all evening.
My friend explained to me that kid, although speech-delayed, was constantly learning new words. For instance, he could tell people which dinosaurs were “carnivorous” and which were “herbivorous,” and was working on words like “quadrupedal” and “bipedal.” Not bad for a 6-year-old. He has delayed speech and has trouble with social skills, but he is very smart. I feel that I have learned a lot about autism that I may not have learned otherwise since I met him.
I was told that the boy learned the spelling of words by memory, rather than by phonetics, because that was just what worked best for him. I was told that he was learning how to spell, but has trouble writing due to double-jointedness. My friend told me that it would take the child more strength in his fingers than it would a normal child just to write. She said that for one hand-strengthening exercise, he was to use a hole-punch on paper, but doing so was boring. I had fun brainstorming solutions. I remember how, when I had occupational therapy for my wrist, the medics were always concocting creative new ways to exercise joints. I suggested printing off a picture of a spotted animal, say, a dalmatian, and having him use the hole-punch to put holes in the spots. My friend seemed to like the idea, and said she could use a picture of a spotted dinosaur, as her boy, like most children, likes dinosaurs.
Although I know I that will never have or want kids, if I did, I’d want one just like him, autism and all. I have no idea if she was being 100% serious or not, but the other day that friend asked me to be Kid’s “godless mother.” (“Godless” because I’m an atheist.) If for any reason I was needed to care for kid, I would, happily. I like Kid very much and I believe that he has a bright future ahead of him. Not despite his autism, but maybe even because of it because it’s part of who he is.
For anyone convinced that childfree necessarily means selfish, child-hating, witch; you’re wrong. Although I don’t like all kids, I don’t dislike all kids either. Kids, like adults, are individuals. And I think this individual, like his mother, is pretty great. And for anyone convinced that children with autism are defective, or stupid; again, you’re wrong. This kid amazes people with his cleverness every day.