snowflakes

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It started with a text from one of my dearest friends.

“Want a story?” she asked.

Truth was, I wasn’t really up for it. I was steeping in a toxic soup of anger and frustration and, worst of all, impotence.

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My girl was curled into me, watching Oobi on her iPad. I was contemplating ways to keep her there – safe in the crook of my arm forever.

I half-heartedly responded to my friend’s text. “Sure.”

Ed note: Since it will get awfully cumbersome If I try to try to add in a whole lot of  “I wrote / she wrote,” what say we just pretend I’m handing you my phone and you are reading the conversation? Good? Good. In a probably vain attempt to make it clearer, I’ll make her purple and me green

Her: Clark and I get into the car this morning. He notices that on his shovel the pictures of snowflakes are all the same. He says, “That’s not right; all snowflakes are different.”

Then he adds, “I notice stuff like that.”

Me: Aw, yes. 

Her: “Yes. You have a brain that sees things like that that other’s don’t.”

Me: Yes! 

Her: “I know,” he says. And names other things.

So I say …

“You know what that gift is called?”

Me: Oh I love this. 

Her: And then I stop to make sure he knows I mean gift as a talent not an actual gift.

Me: Ha. Good point. 

Her: He asks,”What is it called?”

I say, “It’s called autism.”

Me: This might be the best story ever.

Her: “So I have autism?” he asks. 

“Yup,” I say.

Me: This is awesome.

Her: I say, “You know else has a gift for seeing stuff like that?”

“Who?” he says.

Me: Oh, I was hoping.

Her:  “Brooke.”

Me: Yesssssssss!

Yes Yes Yes

Her: “Brooke has autism?” he asked. AND HE SMILED IN THE BACK SEAT.

Me: OMG. Loooooooooooove.

Her: Then asked for the iPad.

Me: Ha! Perfection.

Her: And we were done. The end.

Me: This is the best story ever. You know what makes these conversations so hard? US.

Her: No doubt.

Me: Nothing else. Just us. Love you. You done good, Mama.

Her: It was just so natural as a progression from him seeing something no one else would ever notice.

Me: Yup.

It’s totally natural – until we make it … not. 

Her: I figured it was a good moment to call it and not a challenging moment. 

Me: Yes! Totally. So happy for you both. And so glad you had B to bring into the conversation. 

Her: Thank you for that. And for letting me know it was an okay thing to do.

Me: As Brooke would say, “Duh.” lol 

I can’t stop smiling. This is such good stuff.

Her: I know, but still … private life. And yup. Good, good stuff. 

Me: Nothing private about awesomeness. Or something like that. 

Her: Just don’t say “Amazeballs.” That should be private.

Me: Ha. You know I’m going to ask if I can share this on Diary, right? Cause I am. Gonna ask.

Her: Go ahead.

Me: You sure?

Her: Nothing private about awesomeness. 

Me: Ha! Yes!!!!

Her: I wouldn’t have gotten to this without you.

Me: What a great way to start a day. I’ve been struggling with what happened at the party. I need this — the beauty of our kids getting it — getting that they’re not alone. Ya know? It’s everything.

Her: Sniff.

Me: Sniff back. Love you. So happy for our kids — that they have each other. Just knowing that someone else sees the snowflakes. It’s life-changing. Kinda how I feel about you too. And now I’m crying. Damn it. I was so close to making it through this.

Her: No no no. No!

Sniff.

My snotty kids used up all the tissues!!

I feel the same. I really don’t want to think about how or where I would be without having met you.

Me: We’d both be where so many people still are — feeling alone and thinking no one else sees the snowflakes.

Her: Ack. Waterworks.

Me: Sorry. 🙂

Hey, can you ask Clark if it’s okay to tell my friends the story about how he’s like B?

Her: He said, “You tell her it’s okay.”

Me: Excellent. Please tell him that I appreciate it very much. And then tell him I said …. BUTT!! 

Ed note: He’s 7, people. This is our thing. 

Her: Gales of laughter.

After I hit publish on the Facebook post above …

Her: That was beautiful. I’m now tearing up while trying to work.

Me: Sorry.

(Not!)

Her: Ha

Ed note: She’s working on a project that will connect autistic people and their families in their own communities. 

Me: You know that’s what you’re doing right now, right? Giving these people what we have. And that’s one hell of a gift.

Her: Oh no. Stop.

Me: Okay, wait. Here …

Brooke is singing, “It isn’t fun to sit in your own pile of $%#&.”

Her: I TOTALLY needed that. Thank you.

Me: Your welcome.

*You’re

Her: *You’re

Me: Thank God I beat you. Saved my dignity.

She’s now making Maxwell (the dude in Scibblenauts) a sticker chart.

Her: Hahahaha. That’s perfect.

Me: And a “huge head teacher” — Clark would love this. 

Her: He would!

And there you have it. The conversation. Organically grown from a small moment in time which might otherwise have passed unnoticed. A moment that wasn’t about challenges or deficits or can’ts or won’ts, but about a unique and wonderful and, yes, shared, perspective. A moment to say, “You’re a really neat kid and you see things in a way that not everyone does, and that’s pretty darn cool.” A moment to say, “You’re not the only one.”

There are plenty of times that it’s hard. Really hard. But if we start with the positive, we help to build a line of defense for the hard. Defense built with pride — pride in who they are, not despite their differences, but because of, or at the very least, including them.

Whether they can tell us about them or not, our kids see the snowflakes. And they know, long before we find the words to tell them why, that making them all the same is an egregious error.

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Ed note: Huge thanks to my friend and Clark for sharing their story. Along with his name, some minor details have been edited for privacy, but the story remains intact. 

21 thoughts on “snowflakes

  1. And once again, thank you, thank you, thank you!35 years (ugh, is it really that long?) of working in SpEd and you have brought a true paradigm shift for me (and I’m sure others). It’s not about “normalizing” the system. It is giving kids the tools to conquer the world they live in – really what education does (or should do) for all children.

  2. What a beautiful beginning to so much. What a gift to Clark to not only know himself further but to know from so early he has a community.

    I am not sure if I ever shared this post with you.

    http://autistwriter.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/cara/

    It’s a very different version of this same story. It’s one of those ‘moved me to my core’ things I read and I think of these words every time I read a story like Clark’s.

    “This is how it starts. One by one, like exhausted swimmers, we pull them to safety. They sit in the boat, confused and scared, afraid to wonder if things might finally get better. And the pilots of the boats signal to one another. I’ve found one more. They’re safe. I’m bringing them home.”

  3. I thought this post would be about Frozen (maybe because of the snowflake picture, maybe because I’ve just seen it and it’s fresh in my mind). On Saturday I sat trough the famous “Let it go!” scene and couldn’t stop crying. I thought of you and of Diary, and I wondered if all other moms of “special power kids” saw their kid in Elsa, and hoped for the “Let it go” moment for their kid – the moment when the kid is happy to be who he is, sees his difference as unique and lovely. You have changed my world outlook, and I will never be the same person I was before reading the Diary.
    I am glad you have RL (real life) friend to share all the “awesomeness” of your kids, ups and downs. I am still looking for a friend like that, as all my friends are just stuck in a pile of normalcy. Having a community is very important. You have built an online community that helps so many of us not feel alone. Everyday when we read your posts, we feel connected and have the moment like the one you just described. Thank you.

    • We took our 4 year old autistic daughter to her first movie this weekend and it was Frozen. She loves music, so this “musical” was perfect. My husband and I both thought that Elsa’s gift /powers and subsequent hiding away had a tonne of parallels with special needs and especially autism.

      I remember a troll at the begining asking “was she born with it or is it the curse?”. Oh, how this made me think of autism. You know, because if you’re born with something somewhat “naturally”, well okay then. That’s not so bad. But something that comes later in life? Something aquired? Heavens, that’s a curse.

      I hope you find your community, May. RL and on the same journey can be hard to find. Best wishes.

  4. Sadly and frustratingly I often find it is the adults like teachers/medical professionals etc who refuse to accept that different is ok.
    Then the children have no role models to teach them that we are unique and sometimes people need things/accomodations/ assistance etc to help them.
    This may not fit well with this post but it has been our experience..
    I am so tired of hearing: kids don’t want to be different or you don’t want him to be different.
    For us it came down to difficulty with writing and using a chunky pencil!!!
    If the adults can’t accept it then what hope is there…
    I am sorry the party was tough on you and her..
    Peace

  5. Thank you to you both for sharing this. We are still being told it is not necessary to tell Bells her “diagnosis.” She hasn’t asked or noticed her differences yet as far as we can tell so I guess it is not needed as yet. I get confused…

  6. Pingback: Born This Way (part two) | Try Defying Gravity

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