Last Autism Awareness month found me woefully behind.
The second was the official “Light It Up Blue” day. Everywhere on social media people had on their blue, from shirts to nail polish to even hair, sharing pictures and banners and discussions.
Marches and mantras and mighty movements, oh, my!
And what did I do as mom to two terrific spectrum kiddos?
Umm…well, I got so busy I forgot my blue.
I know, I know, I know!
A blush-worthy moment, to say the least.
To be fair, I juggled reminding Elijah to take his pills and to bear in mind there isn’t time for a long diatribe on his latest song writing when you have like a couple of minutes to get to school, persuading Sarah to zip her own jacket and to stop singing and tap-dancing long enough to watch for her bus.
Insert in there a bookish neurotypical middle son expounding on his latest favorite read, a merry toy-scattering toddler impolitely protesting potty-training, and a dear autistic/OCD hubby just wanting coffee the way I make it because somehow I scoop it out and push the buttons better, and darned if lighting it up blue slipped my mind.
I didn’t have time nor energy to organize a parade in my children’s honor.
I didn’t write a poignant piece on how one day we’ll find some answers, or even on why I think we should be less concerned with cure than with just simply caring.
Because the fact is in the midst of living it there is little time for lip service crusading.
Or patience for it, for that matter.
All that got spent on dealing with kids and hubby who expect a certain order in their day that God help me I just can’t be Super Special Needs Mommy/Wife enough to always achieve.
If I wanted to, that is. Which I don’t.
My crusade — if I had one-would be about understanding, yes, but also about how capable we forget they are of achieving, how much we gyp them when we don’t give them those learning opportunities in the middle of either bend-over-backwards-land or we-can’t-deal-with-this-ville.
Don’t get me wrong.
I love, love, love my family. I want the world to get them for who they are, but, part of what they are is teachable and we are teaching.
And I love, love, love people who take the time to be aware. Every part of my loved ones-not just a label.
They’re teachable, too.
A fabulous quality to possess, whether dealing with special needs or not.
I fully appreciate school workers and therapists and fellow parents that stop long enough and work hard enough to see who they are.
Who they really are.
Beyond the blasted pigeonholes the rest of the world wants to squeeze them in.
You know-the ones that either categorize them as tragically flawed or Rain Men and Women.
Either a handicap to be pitied and pampered or a novelty to be exploited and excessively allowed eccentricity.
Nothing in between.
Nothing that allows for room to grow or room to simply be.
Nothing that looks like real people with real dreams and real thoughts and real hurts.
People like the rest of us.
People sometimes better than the rest of us, truth be known.
And, yes, I know I just got done up there a few paragraphs ago revealing a few choice pieces of frustration in my world.
But, really, where they keep me busy, the beauty of their unique perspective far outweighs any minute hint of struggle.
For, despite the reputation loved ones like mine have for order and rigidity, they would never assume to place us in such pigeonholes.
They wouldn’t know how.
Their generous spirit has been known to shame me, their unadulterated love of their fellow man and their Creator to humble me.
For they get the vast creativity of this old earth in a more intricate way than even I as loving mama could ever fathom.
But, I love to sit down on the rug beside them and try.
And am endlessly grateful to others who do the same-the wonderful folks who are willing to do more than put a little shoe leather and blue clothing, social media clicks or clicking tongue into it all.
Please understand that I don’t wish to disparage anyone who wants to contribute to awareness in whatever way suits them best.
I’d be terribly crass to come down on sincere intentions.
But, for me, to live in their world is more worthwhile than a thousand marches.
To experience the view is more meaningful than any banner waved.
To know these precious people is more powerful than a whole sea of blue.
For only knowing and recognizing the grace with which God made them will ever prevent the problem of pigeonholing them.
Only when we stop getting so blinded by blue that all we see is cure or inability to change will we ever cease to cheat them and start to see the capabilities that have been there all along.
Only when we choose to live in autism’s midst more than we march for it, will we ever comprehend it.
And, to me, that is what counts in this whole matter of awareness. Neither discount the possibilities nor disparage the package they may come in.
Marisa Ulrich is a mother of four, two on the spectrum, wife to one unofficially on the spectrum, and owner of one very helpful, friendly dachshund. She has long tinkered with words, but only recently found the time to pursue her dream full-time. Her fondest hope is to see her words utilized to increase understanding of autism. She makes her home in rural Kansas.
This article was featured in Issue 46 – The Time for Acceptance