Monday, November 14, 2011

Lessons learned from the island...

This has been an extraordinary weekend.

In a beautiful misty beachside town, just south of San Francisco, I have learned a bunch of stuff about life and autism and life with autism. I'm taking these things away with the intention of using them as life principles, or t-shirt slogans, or both.

I'm going to try and summarise. Apologies if I make no sense. I will try and substitute with jokes. I'll fill in the chapters over the next couple of days, but for now, here's a beginning.

1.  I Do Not Wrestle with People I Have Just Met
Billy met his twin. Actually, he met brothers who are his twin, if you were able to morph them both into one human (which would, just for the record, be an irresponsible misuse of excellentness... but I digress).

They look alike, they walk alike, they think alike, they create alike. They are not the same. They are kindred spirits. So much so, that as we mothers were talking, we would randomly drape a hand on the head of the child we believed to be our own, and have to do a double take to clock that we were patting someone else's child.

Within nano-seconds of meeting, the boys were playing like they'd known each other all their lives, and were completely neuro-typical. OK, so they were pelting each other with Angry Birds and Mario toys and making forts in the hotel beds... but it was energetic reciprocal play. Billy, being Billy was keen to move the play to some good old fashioned World Championship Wrestling. His twins were interested, but some boundaries were required. And these are they.

'I do not wrestle with people I have just met' said Billy's twin. 'I need to get to know you first. Do you play Mario?'

Can you conceive of a better way for children on the spectrum to approach new friendships?

Rule. Qualification. Strategy.

It's so perfect, it's got that iPod kind of feel to it. Be clear, be pleasant, be inclusive. Work within your realm of comfort. Do what you can to connect. Understand your boundaries. Read the room and work from there. Build a bridge, walk tentatively over it.

Needless to say, after a quick but detailed discussion of Mario, African animals and why we can hear a foghorn sound every 10-15 seconds... the boys were wrestling like champions. Then they shared movie projects and flip notes. They remained firm friends for the weekend. They vowed to stay in touch (though in their eight year old cuteness they had actually fallen asleep/stayed asleep and were unable to say goodbye in person).

They haven't questioned each other's differences. They only remember their connections.

I'll get on to the extraordinary mothers and grandmothers, the unspeakably beautiful adventuring, the wine, the police presence in the hay maze... all in the next few posts, whose working titles lurk below.

2. For the Love of Pixar
2. Banana Slugs Drink Water
3. The Choking Man
4. Hold My Jacket So I Can Wrestle
5. It's Never Over, Even When It's Over

But now, I need a quiet moment to dry my tears. I know, just like him, I have the ongoing support of my autism buddies... but saying goodbye to them this weekend has been a little more than my heart wants to take.

This weekend reminded me I am not alone, and yet it also showed me what I am missing by being so far away from these women. It's bittersweet. It's a gift. It's going to make me incredibly grateful for my friends at home, when I get back.

Also, probably a little more annoyingly needy than usual for a while. I apologise in advance, for the fact I may need to wrestle you or throw a couple of Angry Birds at you. I warned you, right?


Di said...

WOW Valerie, HUGE smile on my face. How truly awesome that you got to meet your friends and their kids in the flesh (so to speak!). You will just have to take another trip.... or they must visit Aussie!!

Jenni said...

Hugs! But remember, you haven't said good-bye to all of us ... not yet!

Kerry said...

Oh dear God. I made the mistake of reading this post in public and now I am publically displaying many emotions. I may look a bit manic. I love this. You should move ;)