“Don’t worry, I shall change the world. Hopefully for the better. If I change it for the worse, it was an accident.” Alex LaCroix
As a parent, we plan to teach our children the way of the world. However, I think our children end up teaching us more about life. This is especially true when you have a child who processes life differently.
We always knew my son, Alex, was different. At the age of three, he was interested in science and history. People, not so much. He was also a lot more stubborn than most kids. But he was creative and full of imagination. He could be very social if you were willing to listen to the latest scientific principle he was studying. But he didn’t “fit in”. In preschool he was diagnosed as PPD-NOS (basically another way of saying Autism without saying Autism). What it meant to us is that Alex experiences the world through a different lens.
Once my mind shifted into acceptance, I began to try and see things through Alex’s eyes. My perspective on what is important in life changed. I had no idea how much my son would change me. Alex never really cared what other people thought, so he never made decisions based on those consequences.
When Alex got his first participation trophy, he wanted to toss it. This plastic trophy that said “…congrats, you showed up…” meant nothing to him because he knew he really didn’t do much. If Alex earned an award, he wanted to earn it. He didn’t understand the justification to being rewarded for acting your best or doing your work.
The first time he was excited about a medal was when he placed 2nd in weapons at a Taekwondo tournament. He glowed. I’ll never forget his words, “This is the first medal that I felt like I deserved getting.” He practiced. He worked hard. He knew it was something earned.
But the most important lesson Alex has taught me is that what matters most is what you think of you. If someone needed help, Alex is right there, be it helping another student pick up his books he dropped or opening doors for someone who has their hands full. He also has the gift of honesty. If you ask him if he likes your new sweater, and he thinks it is ugly, he’ll tell you. And if you ask, he’ll give you reasons why. He’s great to take shopping with, except he finds it boring and frivolous.
He never does things to impress others. He wants success in life, but because he earns it. Alex has taught me that our expectations of the world are focused on the wrong thing. We should be more worried about the environment, being the best we can be, and letting go of our need to impress others with a superficial reality.
Alex has taught me life is not about fitting in, it’s about being you. If someone is going to judge you on the way you dress, what you do, or dissect everything you say, they are not worth your time. If you did something stupid, own up to it. If something isn’t working, change the way you are doing it.
We’ve taught him too. The first thing we focused on was people have feelings, so be careful on the words you choose, no matter how honest. We have also taught him to expand his palette for life. It’s important to push yourself and try new things. It’s been hard, but he has learned to stretch himself.
When you have a child with Autism, things you might take for granted are a really big deal. Our family is blessed that we’ve all grown together.
This article is Alex approved. When I ran it by him, his response was:
“My examination of the document is to my liking. I feel that it sums up my early years and experiences nicely, though your interpretation of course.”
Debbie LaCroix is a mother to two, freelance writer, children’s book author, and owner of Just Because. D