To the dad standing next to us at basketball practice, who grabbed his son, exclaiming firmly, “Whatever you do, just stay away from him,” pointing directly at my son, sir, I wish you knew.
To the mom who once invited all our friends but my son to a birthday party, calling me later in tears just to apologize, “but I just can’t handle your son in a group,” I wish you knew.
To another mom, who offered to help me when my father died but had one stipulation. “I will keep the other boys, but I don’t have room for him,” if only you knew.
To the teacher, who upon learning that my son wrote only one sentence on an in-class essay and did not want to give him time to finish, who explained that she just could not extend him a privilege that she could not give to all of her students, I wish you understood.
To myself, who spanked him when he refused to get on a two-wheel bike, despite his continued falling and yelling and throwing of the bike, what on earth were you thinking?
To myself, who insisted he work on his homework while watching his brother’s soccer game, who let him scream for 30 minutes in front of all the other parents and disciplined him because of his refusal to write, you can bet I wish I’d handled that one differently.
You see, that competitive father didn’t know that that boy’s eccentric waiving and bouncing was his way of coping with the assault his whole body was feeling. His sweet little body was just overwhelmed with the loud noise and chaos of that basketball gym. He couldn’t take it, so as a way of coping, he bounced and waved his arms.
That convicted mama knew in her heart that that sweet little boy would feel the exclusion, but she simply didn’t know why he acted so loud in groups and didn’t realize that with just a simple conversation and a plan, he might have been just fine.
That loving teacher simply didn’t understand that sometimes anxiety takes over the whole brain, and it just shuts down. But there is so much in that beautiful mind begging to come out, it just sometimes takes time and less pressure.
This frustrated mother insisted on disciplining and negotiating and demanding without realizing that the ear-numbing cries were not out of rebellion, but out of desperation. She now knows that with a lot of practice and preparation and a lot of listening he will grow great lengths and walk his own path.
To the teachers, friends, family and strangers who understood, understand, and who still teach us along the way with patience and understanding, THANK YOU.