The holidays are always a reminder of those in our lives we cherish, appreciate, and miss. I have felt this more acutely in the last week or two and would be remiss if I did not acknowledge a few folks whose words and actions meant more to me than they could possible know. It’s been weighing on me.
To make a long story short, Will (Tommy’s older brother…by a year chronologically, but socially decades) was interviewed by a Boston news station about his dedication to his brother and others with disabilities. Will has no angle. He genuinely wants to help; he’s an empath. The fact of the matter is, Will has ALWAYS known Tommy for who he is and he sees how the world views both Tommy and those like him. It pains Will. James is different. He doesn’t understand Tommy in many ways. He doesn’t have the history with him like Will does. James is learning, though.
Anyway, few days after the story aired, a stranger reposted the news channel’s link with comment something to the effect of “great job, little dude” on a social media page that is comprised of hundreds of members of the community in which we live. You know the pages, most communities have them. I don’t frequent the social media page nor do I care to; participants can be cruel and brutal.
At work two days later, I was made aware of the thread and some of the ignorant and nasty comments. They were directed at Tommy, me as his mother, and those on the autism spectrum. As I read them and took a quick mental note of how many “likes” or “hearts” those nasty comments garnered, my heart felt like it shattered. I immediately felt pressure in my chest, my face was flush and I was fighting back tears. I don’t know how adults can be so vicious towards any child who genuinely wants to help fellow man. But that’s not what crushed my soul.
One comment in particular was the crux of the matter: “he needs to learn to adapt.” No, actually, Tommy doesn’t need to learn to adapt or live in our world. We need to learn to live in his. He CAN’T live in our world like most others. If he were a double amputee, would you deny him mobility and tell him to adapt? If he were deaf, would you deny him hearing aids and tell him to adapt? There were other comments about me as his mother not living in reality and how parents cause autism….blah, blah, blah, the usual ignorant crap (I genuinely can’t think of a better way to state what it is.).
And there, imbedded in all the hate, the words of a colleague who eloquently, but boldly defended good intentions of children with big hearts and championed those who have different abilities. His words read with such resolve. Immediately, I felt less tormented by the criticisms of my children. I have broad shoulders and I am bothered very little by criticisms of me. My torment and pain was on behalf of anyone who struggles and those who care for them and support them with all they have.
I can’t protect my boys forever from such a cold, ignorant and cruel world. I wish I could. I see it every day. I hear comments, I watch how others interact with those with autism, I see the eye rolls. I am inundated by it from folks you would think know better. I know how people feel, they do not hide it well. I feel it. Tommy may be oblivious, but Will is not. I feel his pain, too. He adores his brother. He would walk through fire for him. At some point, his soul will be crushed like mine had that morning. I can’t stop that.
Within a half hour of reading all of that spewed ignorance, another colleague through one quick action was able to have the entire thread removed from the social media page. I’m not sure this person is aware of how just deeply hurt I was and how vulnerable I felt for my children. I also was so grateful to know there are adults who don’t turn a blind eye, they don’t laugh and move on. They do the right thing.
So, in this holiday season, I need those two individuals to know how much I appreciate and cherish their words and actions; they were my heroes that day as a teacher and more as a mother. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! xo