Thursday, March 11, 2010

Be Not Afraid, Gentle Reader!

Alas, I imagine many of you have long feared the Kitchen Pirate hath succumbed to smallpox or consumption. Be not afraid, gentle Reader, the Kitchen Pirate still walks the earth!

This entry won't contain much food talk, but I promise I'll get back to that soon. These last two months have been a crazy blur. In case any of you out there don't know, we got the news (or non-news) in January that our little dude, Ry, is a tad bit unusual. I wish I could be more specific, but that's all the info we have right now! The most likely candidates at the moment are autism or sensory processing disorder or a combination of both.

The last two months have been jam-packed with specialist appointments, therapy consultations, and many, many attempts at socializing the little dude all of which he looks upon as varying degrees of torture (Little Gym seems to be akin to the Iron Maiden, whereas playdates fall somewhere under the category of minor water-boarding).

Dylan and I actually have very calm attitudes towards all this madness. We were both pretty stunned at first, but after much reflection (and a much needed change of perspective thanks to the fabulous Kristina, whom I have never met, but who remains, nevertheless, an inspiration - another blog shot-out for you, super-mom!), we realized that Rylan is still Rylan. He is still the beautiful, funny, quirky little guy we've had the privilege and pleasure of being parents to since October 2008. No label can change that.

There is also no reason to suppose that he can't achieve the dreams that we have for him (which, for the record, are merely to be a happy and productive member of society...and a Nobel-prize winning scientist...and genius novelist...but I digress). It occurred to me when reading Good Housekeeping of all things (a relative buys me a subscription...sometimes it's nice to know how I'm supposed to clean things, though I usually still resort to the whole paper towel + vinegar-water + cursing thing followed closely by the stashing dirty item in the closet + forgetting about it thing), that we were never wishing for an "ordinary" child in any case.

GH had a book excerpt from a football player (former football player? GH gets a skim at best) whose son is autistic and he was talking about his massive denial and his incredible grief that his son wasn't interested in stereotypical "man" activities like sports and fishing. Passing these things down to his son was incredibly important to him and not being able to share these interests with his son was completely breaking his heart.

While I can certainly sympathize with his pain...Dylan and I had often groaned about the possibility that we would end up with the star quarterback or the head cheerleader. We have never wanted a son who would follow the stereotypical "man" path and we are certainly ill-equipped to raise one (Mr. I-wore-sweat-pants-to-school-until-I-was-16 and Miss I-re-read-Louisa-May-Alcott-novels-at-lunch-to-avoid-socializing). If we had a child with a passion for football, we would, of course, have done some research (like figuring out what "scrimmage" means), and supported his interest. However, we were both secretly dreaming of having that nerdy, quirky kid who knows every single fact about dinosaurs or who has read all of Jane Austen's novels by the age of 10, the kid who's a little off, the kid who marches to the beat of his own drummer, the kid who is authentically himself regardless of how cool or uncool that makes him.

While I don't want my son to absorb my plans for his life, but rather to make his own plans, that last one is particularly important to me. I want Rylan to be Rylan, a happy version of Rylan, but not anyone else's version of Rylan, not even mine. Whatever diagnosis we eventually end up with will have no effect on Rylan's ability to be Rylan, and so, we have lost nothing from our dreams for his life. We have put him in various forms of therapy to enable him to connect with his world and explore it and be better able to decide how he wants to shape it, but I have no other hopes regarding his therapies. I never wanted him to be the star quarterback and so I have less to get over than a parent with those expectations would.

Now, if he comes to me at 10 and says, "Mom, this Jane Austen chick is boring. I'd much rather read Hemingway,", well then I'll probably need some therapy sessions of a different kind, but until then I remain optimistic for his future and excited to see where he takes us.

And hey, maybe he'll still be that star quarterback, in which case you will find Dylan and I in the Sports section of Barnes and Noble before every game frantically memorizing football terms we can scream out at him while we eat the vegan nachos I've prepared and snuck into the stadium.

Full circle, people, maybe I'll talk about vegan nachos tomorrow.


  1. What a beautiful post Meg. I think your attitude is great and I am sure Rylan is thrilled to have parents who want him to be him:) I love the idea that any diagnosis doesn't change who he is, if I ever deal with something similar I hope I remember that.

  2. I don't know if I told you this, Megan, but the no-longer-little guy that I babysat for entirely of my teenage years (who has autism) is going to college in the fall for music!!! I am so proud of him, and yet I always knew he could do it.

    I'm sure there are great things out there for Rylan, and you are right, he is beautiful and amazing in every way. :-)

  3. I lost count of how many times you made me smile as I read this entry. I think the world would be a happier place if every parent could adopt your attitude and encourage their kids to be themselves. Lucky kid, Rylan.

  4. Oh man! I laughed AND cried when I read this! It's beautiful and Rylan is so lucky to have great parents like you two.

  5. What a great perspective to have on this 'diagnosis' and a very great piece of writing as well. Rylan is a very lucky kiddo to have such open-minded and accepting parents.