Let me state at the start here: I don't REALLY mean failure in the headline. Failure has a negative connotation, the bad end of a binary set: succeed v. fail; do v. don't; get a bonus in your allowance v. being grounded; stay another semester in college v. call mom and dad and ask if your room is still available. I don't mean that. But it DOES apply to my new way of thinking. Because while I was dreaming up this article the first thing that came in my head was Mythbuster's slogan: Failure is ALWAYS an option!
One of my biggest problems as the dad of an autistic, yet brilliant, son is that after several attempts in several areas, I have generally pulled back from social gatherings and outside activities involving my son, choosing instead to live the life of a hermit in many ways. There are probably neighbors on my street who would be shocked to see Xander, since he doesn't go out too much. One of my friends who happens to be my tae kwon do instructor - who I've been with for three or four years - once joked he wondered if I actually had a son or wife, since he's never seen them. People at stores know Xander more than our close friends do, because we HAVE to take him shopping with us - remember, babysitting is not an option, so if we go somewhere he has to go somewhere, and no matter how much weight loss I would enjoy, eating is kinda mandatory. But other stuff, like parties and gatherings - not so much.
My unwillingness to try new things with Xan is both due to unselfish and selfish fear. I don't want to place him in situations where he'll be uncomfortable or bothered by some environmental issue. I don't want him to feel different from others and have his nose shoved in it. I don't want him to be in a place where he has to do things 1-2-3 and a-b-c (like a team, say) and when he can't be singled out for it. I still don't really know if my son knows he's different (or, knowing my child and my attitudes, cares one whit that he is) but should he know and care, I don't want it driven into him when it doesn't have to be.
But, then again, honesty makes me confess (good Catholic word, huh?) that a LOT of my decisions here come from the memories of what happened during failed excursions and how we had to deal with it. It can range from us being exhausted at keeping a weather eye on him in outside areas, for fear he may wander or get into something he shouldn't, and his frustration at his being corralled like that, to his actually having a problem that we have to deal with - loud music, not liking the food, being bored and demanding his usual toys that he doesn't have access to, and the all-too-common meltdowns from known and unknown factors that result hours of screaming, late nights in the living room with him decompressing in a long drawn out process on the couch and me trying to catch what sleep I can on the rocking chair, and the lack of sleep that leads to a bad morning and a bad day and quite probably a bad night in a vicious cycle like the pit and the pendulum. The exhausting aftereffects have been a large part in my pulling away.
This came to a little head yesterday when my tae kwon do group made plans to have a Halloween party and, of course, invited Xan - perhaps to actually see him and convince themselves I'm not suffering from a complex and ongoing hallucination. (BUT - a lot of my fellow TKD takers did see my little guy at a separate function we did bring him to! I'm not crazy - in this area at least!) The kids were happy and chatty and excited and as sometimes happen, the gulf between Xander and other 'normal' kids was driven into me like a stake in a vampire. In keeping with the Halloween theme.
Sometimes I can shrug this off. This time I couldn't. It dwelled in me and I came home quite down and depressed. Tracy, of course, noticed this and got me to talk. (Therapists must REALLY hate her, since I could keep more than a few of them in yachts and Ferrari's if she wasn't there to listen to me and, as will be seen, make suggestions.) And then said "Why don't we try more things? I mean, that big day (which I wrote a whole entry about
) was one we rolled the dice on and look how it turned out."
So we're starting to get ready to try things. Deal with what bad may happen, see if something good can happen. And yes, be ready to deal with the bad days and suchlike that will happen - but will hopefully be balanced out by good days and new findings of our mysterious and miraculous child.
I may have failed him in pulling away from things - but now we're going to try some new things and be willing to deal with failure.