I had the opportunity to have a conversation with a 14 year-old on Sunday. He lives in our complex and came to our door, asking to speak to me. I went out on the porch and he and I had a little chit-chat. This young man, who is a good kid, had been talking poorly about me and Jamari's mama in front of Colton and Jamari. He had been saying that I am a bad mom because I am at work everyday and I must not love my boys because I am at work all the time. "She must not even miss you," he noted to Colton.
It is important here, to remember that Colton's Autistic (and awesome) mind don't have the ability to divide fact from fiction, or truth from garbage, when things like this are said to him. So, in his mind, Mama must not want to be with him or brothers. His mama must not love him like moms who stay home love their kids. In his mind, other kids see that too and that is embarrassing and hurtful. In his mind, if I loved him, I would be home with them when they get home from school. In his mind, this is troubling and so hurtful.
I explained to this 14 year-old boy that I HAVE to work, that I am the support for my family, that while his mom is at home cleaning and taking care of children and cooking and running errands, his dad goes to work to support their family. I explained to him that in my home, there is only one parent. I have to do all of those things by myself. I told him that the fact that I go to work everyday and then come home and do all of the things that his mom has done all day proves that I love my boys more than anything on this planet. Then, I explained to him that all families look different:
This is our family:
Some families have two parents, a mom and a dad. Some families have two parents, a mom and a mom or a dad and a dad. Some families have one mom or have one dad or have grandparents. Some families just have brothers and sisters (like P's family). But, all of these are families.
Then, we talked about Autism. He told me that his parents have told him not to be around Colton because Colton is "special." They don't want him to "catch" what Colton "has." I explained to him that he needs to obey his parents, but that maybe I could educate them on Colton. I told him that we are blessed to learn from Colton every day. I agreed with him that Colton can be challenging, but no more challenging than a kid who talks badly about someone's mother. He told me that at school, he'll tell Colton to "not act a certain way," or to "not say certain things because kids will think he's weird." I told him that first of all, Colton is Colton. We teach him and train him and direct him, but Colton is NOT at a 14 year old level. He is at a seven year old level. Deal with it! Then, I told him that if he feels that he needs to change Colton, then Colton doesn't need him as a friend. Period.
Finally, we discussed "safe places." I told him that "this place" (the complex) is our home, and his home, and the home of everyone who lives in it. For that reason, it is also a safe place. I told him that I will not tolerate him or anyone else coming in to our complex and talking badly about any of us. I told him that when he has friends over at the complex and they begin talking poorly about anyone who lives here, that he should protect his complex and, thus his home.
All families look different. All families have different struggles. Do I wish I was a stay-at-home mom? It was my greatest desire my whole life. Does the fact that I work a lot of hours mean that I love my children any less? Hell no. And this mama bear will come out every single time I hear someone say it. I work my booty off for my boys. All families matter. All families are just as important, and matter just as much.
It's so important for me to teach my kids this message, and to help others understand it as well. We need to educate ourselves on people so that we can be less judgemental, more accepting, and more protective of our families. All of them.