Thursday, September 8, 2016

When Your Kids Become Actual People

I don't write on this blog as often as I used to, and for that there are many reasons. We are no longer in the early days when things were changing so constantly for Ethan. There was always a new challenge, a new milestone, even a new therapy technique or idea. Now we're kind of staying the course, slow and steady, and while it's not all rainbows and butterflies, he's certainly doing very well. For that I am very thankful.

There's always just, well, life...and I guess I'd say priorities. I do my best writing in the early morning. But I like to save my devotional time for the early morning. And if I have freelance work, I often write then. Add that to the everyday business of marriage, three kids, and trying to connect with friends and fit in a few other hobbies when I can, and yeah, the blog gets pushed aside.

But the biggest reason ironically is one I never considered, when I started this blog. How I wish I did. When I began writing about Ethan's experiences almost seven years ago, I have to admit I was still very na├»ve about the internet, security, privacy, and sharing personal information online. Social media was just becoming a part of my life. I didn't even get a smart phone until about three or four years ago, and that was only because my other one died.

I would have done this all differently. I would have given Ethan an alias. You know, the whole "names have been changed to protect the innocent" deal. Or I wouldn't have shared publicly. I would have kept a journal just for me, for my family, to look back at sometime down the road. I guess what happened is that I stumbled upon some other autism blogs that I found to be very moving, and helpful. And I thought -- I'm a writer. Why don't I blog, too? It'll be a great outlet. Maybe I'll help someone else, or help someone else better understand Ethan.

And as with most human endeavors, there was that mixture of pure vs. more self-seeking motives. Who doesn't like to receive good feedback and validation?

For the longest time, I swept all of these feelings about what I was actually doing with my blog a little bit under the rug, but then something happened. My kids grew older. Anna started voicing clear opinions about, for example, not wanting me sharing most pictures of her on Facebook, and not wanting me broadcasting things she was going through to the unseen world. I do my best to respect that. Usually.

And now Ethan has started to do the same thing. Not only that, but Ethan now understands that he is a person with autism. He may not quite grasp all that entails, he may not see himself as someone who technically has "special needs," but still: he knows. And just as kids as they get older get more private about their own bodies ("Stay out! I'm changing!"), he has become a little more private about the quirky things that make him, him. They are not something he hides. But some are more like familiar jokes or discussions within our family. It's almost as if we have our own language, sometimes.

I know the "scripts" he likes to run through with Chloe, for example. He knows they are scripts but can't always explain why he likes them. He's not embarrassed about them -- yet more and more I'm feeling he IS wary of many people he doesn't know reading about them.

The time has come to tread more lightly.

I think I will continue to blog. I don't always write about Ethan, after all. There are more than enough mom-failures to share. And I think there is a way to continue writing about Ethan in a way that helps people to understand him and autism in general. It's just that I have to be more mindful. We all do. He is a person. He has feelings. He is never a punchline or a freak of nature. The same goes for living with a middle schooler! They may befuddle us sometimes, or humble us, or teach us, or frustrate us, but they are people who someday will be adults. They don't need their lives laid out for the world to see. It's hard to believe sometimes in the culture we live in, but some things truly are better left unsaid. Or unpublished.

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