I got to hang out alone with Child 1 today; hubs was working and Child 2 had a playdate, and I was once again struck at how different these two children of mine are, and what a completely different experience it is to just hang out with the one. And I have marveled hundreds of times at the irony that my child with autism is so much easier than my child without, especially now that he's getting older. He's completely lost that autistic rigidity he used to have; it used to be that he would freak out if I so much as pulled out of the driveway and turned a different direction than he was expecting, but now he just asks "why did you turn right instead of left?" and will accept my answer and move on. Child 2 would argue, loudly, with me about it until I screamed at him to shut up (I don't really do that. Or do I?) But Child 1 talks so softly, I'm always having to tell him to speak louder because I can't hear him. And although he spends a good deal of his "off time" making noises that sound like a BART train, accompanied by various other vocal stims, he's really very quiet. And so mellow, and timid, and sweet, and of course insanely beautiful and awesome.
I used to think that his mellowness was a result of the autism, which causes him to withdraw to block out the external stimuli that his brain has trouble processing, but now I'm not so convinced of that. He's getting older, he's obviously having an easier time with the sensory issues, but he's still so quiet and calm all the time, so now I'm pretty sure that's just how he is; he's a calm and mellow little dude, a lot like his Dad, actually. So, I was pondering this issue earlier and, for the zillionth time I wondered what kind of adult he would be. How would he make his way in the world? He has obvious differences, he's super calm and mellow and sweet and the world is a cruel, harsh place. How will he be as a teenager? As an adult? Will he be able to figure it out? Will he be happy?
I've always said that all I ever wanted for my kids was for them to be happy, and adding this idea to my ponderings, I was reminded of something my brother once asked me. A toddling pre-walking Child 1 and I were hanging out at his house in the city a few months before he died, and I mentioned this idea, and my brother asked "what if what really made him happy was to be a janitor? Would you be okay with that?" Damn with the hard questions, dude. My honest answer was no, because I think he could do better, and how could being a janitor make you happy? (apologies to all the janitors and janitor's families that I'm currently insulting) to which my brother responded that if I really wanted him to be happy I would need to get rid of my preconceived ideas about what makes a person happy and be prepared to accept that my child might have his own ideas about happiness, even if it meant something I didn't agree with.
And, I thought about this while I watched Child 1 watching his beloved YouTube videos of BART trains and I thought: running back and forth flapping his hands, whispering about BART trains and making noises that sound like BART trains are what make him happy; as odd as that sounds to somebody without autism, it's just how it is. And he's going to carry these preferences with him into adulthood, and I need to be prepared to reject my own ideas about what makes for happiness and accept whatever he comes up with, because, more than anything, I want my kids to be happy.