Stares

Stares. We eat them for lunch almost literally. On almost every time we take both kids out to lunch, there would be people staring. In a country where staring is almost a hobby and traffic jams can be caused by drivers who slow down just to see and judge who is at fault at a fender bender incident, who wouldn’t stare if a kid makes so much noise while eating French Fries? Or if her parents let out a firm “Sit properly. Use your spoon and fork.”

My wife and I are used to people staring. And it’s nice to know that, these days, there are more people who stare out of surprise and instinct and less out of disbelief and intolerance. There are now more people who are open minded about children with autism. We still get the worse kind every now and then and, even if it ticks me off, I have learned to be more understanding. Funny, I have to be more understanding of regular people than them of my irregular kids.

But recently we had to deal with a different kind of stare; one that I am not ready to understand yet.

Sam and Jared started summer classes at a new school this week. It was just the second day of class when Sam threw a major fit in the school waiting area. But there was nothing unexpected there. These children get challenged with routine changes. We braced ourselves for tantrums. What we did not expect was some of the adults in the school waiting area who were staring. And it was not the good kind.

I may need to tell you that this school specializes on children with autism. All of the children who go there are in the spectrum one way or another. So these people are parents and/or guardians of children with autism. I really don’t understand why I would get that from people who are experiencing, have experienced, or will potentially experience that with their kids. We have been to other schools before and we have not experienced this kind of intolerance. Aren’t these institutions a safe environment for our children? Aren’t we supposed to be on the same team and the same advocacy?

I guess it doesn’t immediately follow.

Advertisements

Commencement, Recognition, Moving Up, Graduation

image

Some schools call it commencement exercises. Funny, it’s the end of the school year and they decide to have a “beginning” exercise. But word play aside, it does make sense in a Semisonic kind of way.

Since it was the end of the school year last week for most students, the social networks were filled with my friends, proudly posting photos with their kids on stage. Some are almost suffering from a neck injury caused by multiple medals while others are just glad that they don’t have to repeat Trigonometry.

While I am sincerely happy for them, human as I am, I sometimes ask myself: when will I ever commence joining these exercises?

I daydream about my kids joining recognition day, while I put a medal on Sam and Jared’s necks like “Best in English”, “Best in Music”, or “Most Friendly”. I imagine the two of them wearing cute little togas, and us taking cliché family photos for me to stitch together then Instagram. Then we would go to a fancy Chinese restaurant and order an entire Lauriat, because it’s a day that calls for celebration, no expense spared.

Then comes summer and Sam would go to cooking class while Jared would go the School of Rock to learn how to shred a guitar. At the end of every day Sam will let us taste her “finished product” and BJ and I would look at each other and agree, without saying a word, that the food lacked pepper and had too much cumin. But she would get all praises. We may need to say “good job” louder though because by then Jared would be making music (read: noise) upstairs with his newly bought starter Stratocaster.

But I wake up and realize that it’s selfish for me to want my children to be like other kids.

My children are not ordinary. They may never get academic awards. And there are days when the only forms of recognition they get are ones like “Most Number of Pee Breaks in a Day”, “Best in Lego-eating”, “Best in Shoelace-playing”, or “Most Number of Heart Attacks Given to Mommy”. There is no annual moving up ceremony, because their learning style and pace is different. There are no grades, just milestones.

These milestones are small and simple to most, but it keeps me sane. Like Sam learning to pee in the toilet and flush, or Jared learning to say “buh-bye” when I leave for work every night. Like learning to hold the spoon and fork to eat, or getting a tumbler from the cabinet then getting water from the water container to drink. These deserve plaques and medals. And I will give everything I have for more, like Jared knowing what his name is and responding to it when it’s called (then keep eye contact for more than 3 seconds); and Sam learning how to be comfortable in jeans, because she’s getting too old for shorts.

It might take months. Years. Decades even. But I know sooner or later my children will put the puzzle pieces together and graduate. Not from the academe, but from their own hurdles. And we’ll be there to put the medals on.