My son is going through some incredible changes, and I’m reminded of one of our “stuck places” from previous times. It was all about having unwrapped presents.
“Mommy, I’d rather not get a gift if it’s wrapped. The anticipation is just too much for me.” Literally, it looked painful for him. He would share this request/sentiment/need with red, stinging eyes.
Me? I LOVE getting gifts. I love them wrapped with gorgeous bows and shiny paper*. My other son loves wrapped gifts as well. The anticipation is a blast for us and we want them wrapped as soon as they’re bought.
But this is not the experience at all for Michael.
Let’s look at that difference
My son has a different need/want than I do. He has a different threshold for receiving gifts.
So here’s the question that plagues my brain so often–why do we think what is right for us is also right for others? Why can’t we accept that we are different?
Again–why do we so often believe that what is right for us is right for others?
Can you hear the question?
I’ll ask it a different way because I think it is so critical to understand: Can you see the difference in your needs compared to the needs of other people that you interact with?
An example of opposing needs/wants
The Aspie hates to go out to eat. The food might be yuck for them, but more so, the atmosphere might smell wrong; there might be loud noises that are painful (or even intolerable); there might be too many requirements to “look them in the eye” or “speak louder so the server can take your order” or whatever. It might totally suck for the Aspie.
Now insert the “neurotypical” or the “cray-cray therapist” and whammo! We must teach them to go out to dinner and force on them the expectations of what we believe is the right behavior. The belief being that they must learn to conform to society’s demands!
For the love of humanity, don’t take that beautiful human being out to dinner unless it is absolutely necessary. Accept that they are not ready. Hopefully, with enough positive therapy, meds, love, acceptance, etc., they’ll be able to go out to dinner at some point. But let’s not torture everyone involved with the screaming, crying, and threatening when we could have had ham sandwiches at home. Gheesh–just sayin’.
I’ll insert a plug here for Asperger’s Experts. I don’t love their sales funnel (understatement), but they are doing great work from what I can tell with helping our Asperger’s friends and their caregivers. It seems they are teaching us to help anyone with Asperger’s feel calmer so they can ultimately be able to do the things that we deem necessary as a society (feel free to insert an eyeroll here on my behalf).
What’s the point, Mica?
OK, so here’s my point. I accept my child exactly where he is. When Michael has a birthday party, guess what I do? I write on the invitation, “Special Request! Please do not wrap the gifts.” If anyone asks, I make sure they know that he doesn’t like that as kindly and respectfully as I can.
And what about the people who scoff? (Because we all know that wrapped gifts make us better human beings, right?) I say to those people, “He’d rather not have a gift if you feel insistent about wrapping it. The choice is yours. He’d love an unwrapped gift or no gift at all. If you do either of those two things, that will be a wonderful present to him.”
And yes, I have had to say those sentences before. Yes, people have forgotten and he has cried. And in fact, we lived through all of those times. But we lived most joyfully with unwrapped gifts.
And guess what else?
Nobody even blinks an eye anymore because it is just part of the birthday/gift-giving process. No family members wrap his gifts anymore and no friends wrap his gifts if they’ve known us for years. My presents still get wrapped. Mason still gets wrapped gifts. Michael doesn’t. And then we have dinner because it doesn’t matter!
It’s as if it were never a thing and the world is still turning and we still get to meet up with the sun each 24-hour period and all is well in the world. Seriously.
Who gives a rat’s patooty if you don’t get to wrap a gift for a kid? But this really bothers some people. I am baffled by them. And so I must share because I can’t not share.
I’m simply here reminding all of us that we have different thresholds, even those of us with a “neurotypical” label. We all make accommodations for ourselves, and why wouldn’t we?
We want to feel safe.
We want to feel happy.
Making small adjustments in our daily activities is what creates better lives for ourselves and everyone we interact with, and probably even the ones we don’t interact with. Feeling safe and happy, I believe, makes our world a much greater place to live.
With loving acceptance,
Woo-Hoo! Celebrate with me? I’m super proud to be featured on www.crisisprevention.com. Here is my post with a free empathy pledge for autism families and schools: http://www.crisisprevention.com/Blog/March-2016/Open-Letter-From-an-Aspergers-Mom-to-a-Teacher
And always come hang out with me on Facebook. I’d love to see what you’d like to share, ask, or rant about. 🙂
*Note: we are strong advocates for recycling wrapping materials and we use fun materials that were going to the trash anyway.