Tired of Cultural Norms
Tonight Theo was throwing a tantrum in the kitchen. I was laying down in my bed listening to Tibetan Healing music trying to relax. Theo’s stomping brought me out of my relaxation. I went in to see if I could help in any way. I walked into the room and Angela (my wife, Theo’s mom) handed me a bag of brown sugar. I started to ask why are you handing me brown sugar. But I stopped myself because it registered and I knew. Theo wanted the brown sugar. He continued to point to the bag with his big wide open eyes screaming and stomping his feet.
You see Theo is still non-verbal. Non-verbal does not mean that he doesn’t communicate. He communicates through different means. He points, or grabs your hand and throws it in the direction of something that he wants or needs. Sometimes it is a guessing game from there of what he is trying to tell you. But it is a game that I am called to play daily. Most days I am game to communicate in his style. Other days it is completely exhausting and tiring. I think, no I know, that Theo appreciates all efforts to be seen and heard.
But back to the story. Theo kept screaming and pointing at the bag, while stomping his feet. I sat on the kitchen floor with him and put him in my lap and held the bag in my other hand until his eyes met mine. I saw his big beautiful sobbing green eyes and I said: “I know Theo. You want to eat the brown sugar.” He stopped pointing at the bag and as his eyes were fixed on mine he made the sign to eat. I said again: “I know Theo. You want to eat the brown sugar. But you can’t. It’s not good for you.” After that he was done with the exchange. He got up, stopped crying, and went to explore the other food and goodies that were on the counter.
I went back to my room and laid in bed with my Tibetan Healing Music and let the thought unravel in my mind. Theo thinks in terms of needs and wants. He doesn’t like clothes. If we let him, he would run around naked and pee and poop all over the house. We know because there have been times that we have let that happen. But how long can we let a 6 year old do that?
Our cultural norms have taught us what to wear, what to eat, what to think. I think what Theo is trying to teach me is that we all have these primal cravings inside of us that have their place as well. If we are really going to let our kids explore, really explore… we have to learn to let go a little bit. Let your kid be a little different. Let your kid be a little messy. Give your kid courage to be a little weird and stand out. We were never designed to conform to the same mold.
Autism is at an all time high. But I think that diagnosis is tired. It’s western medicines way of saying I have no idea what is going on with you but you don’t fit the mold of normal. So I am going to give you a diagnosis.
I feel like these diagnoses can be enabling and crippling. We need these diagnoses so that we can get insurance to pay for certain care. But we don’t need these diagnoses to put limitations on our kids. I know we all had huge expectations for our kids when we found out we were going to be parents. But how many of us have disappointed our own parents and fallen short of our parents expectations anyway.
Maybe we need to let go of expectations and just love them where they are. Even if that is them throwing a tantrum because you wouldn’t let them eat brown sugar by the handful.