Four backs all turned to me, are sitting happily on the blacktop of the driveway. They are noticeably minus one. That one is facing me. Facing the others, too. It struck me afresh that “one of these kids is not like the other.”
Three siblings sit next to each other, enjoying the cool of the shade. My own two children are in the mix, too, but I can’t help but notice how different Sweetboy can look from other kids, just by his choice of seating position.
It’s in these moments that I feel lonely.
Watching him play.
Realizing that he always manages to find a way to separate himself from the crowd. Albeit unintentionally.
Even a crowd of well-loved friends.
I listen to chatter about water balloons, all spent and shriveled up in their burst state – a million little shards of latex balloon peppering the driveway. Much like the shards of my heart in this moment.
Their conversation is like popcorn kernels exploding in the air.
“I so won that round!”
“My baby water balloon never popped. Look, I’ve still got it!”
“Maybe we can fill up more after we take a snack break?”
“That was fun!”
And then, his own comment. Different.
“Do you want to swing now?”
I forget sometimes. I forget that this child, this Sweetboy, he marches to the beat of his own drum. It is not the music that other kids his age often hear.
This melody is an awesome and awful tribute to how differently my child’s mind processes activities that he participates in. Conversations that he carries on with friends often reveal more about what he’s not into than what he is. It’s a stark reminder that the music he hears has strains running through it that others cannot.
I hear it, though.
In these moments, I do.
And I see it.
And I still, nine years after that first Autism diagnosis, I still rail against what I see. And, what I hear.
My heart reminds me that he does, indeed, have friends to have conversations with. There are activities he participates in.
Until I listen a little longer to hear, “No, we still want to play with water balloons, Sweetboy.”
Until I get to hear him answer back, “Okay. They are fun!”
And I feel okay again.
Watching them play, watching him play, the music carries on. I feel sure that he’s going to be okay.