I am proud that my son can think of others. It is difficult for him. He has to learn things differently. Explicitly.
This is a challenge. For him mostly, but, also, it is a responsibility.
How can a child get to five , and then, the person who spends every day with them eventually work out that they don’t know what any of the facial expressions mean. A smile does not indicate that someone is happy, nothing means “sad” Even stick smileys mean nothing. How could I have failed to notice this complete absence of connection? And yet I did.
So, fast forward to now, one week off 8 yrs old. Today. Today he has won his victory at school over unfairness. And, he has literally cried at me, because I laughed at someone on television. Someone, who was doing something badly, and knew they would be laughed at. But, it s not nice to laugh at someone when they are not good at something, therefore, I had been unkind. And this was upsetting.
And maybe this is indicative of his rigidity in applying rules. Social, as well as any other. But maybe it is because I have a need to bring him up to be better than I am. TO be better than many of those he has seen around him. But maybe I don’t really understand that.
I have unrealistic hopes and dreams, not so much for him, but for the way people interact. It is comforting to me to imagine a world out there where people connect, and pick up the detail, and think about each other with some degree, not only of care, but also of carefulness. Would this hurt that person, would that be unkind, would that be unfair? But, in reality, there is no need to put SO much thought into a mythical other person. Don’t get me wrong, it is valuable to invest such into immediates. Intimate acquaintances. But, not everyone.
It comforts me, because, then I can picture the world as NOT being full of people who feel the way I usually do. There is no point in complaining. When you are this much alone, there are reasons that mean you must only look to yourself. When people won’t come out and share your joys, even your joy in knowing them, then, you know, it is definitely you.
But, he doesn’t need to be so careful. He can be free to express himself. He doesn’t need to worry about impacts, and great swathes of subtext and thoughtfulness. He hasn’t done anything to alienate and disgust the world. He CAN have confidence in himself. As long as he is simply taught to be kind. The rest, the bit that is just him, that’s going to shine out beautifully anyway.
Some of us are NOT kind, and so we have the worry, and the concern, and we end up with lives such as this. But, with that comes the responsibility NOT to pass that lack of kindness on. This is different from passing on the need to compensate for such a lack.
And, I have to find that balance.
I suppose, it is hard to teach social norms, when you inhabit something that most certainly is not. And when you have no way out of that. And no real guide as to what you should be teaching. Trust me, the handouts on this stuff are sketchy at best.
It’s not enough to believe, “if I *knew* someone existed in this way, this one, right here, I would wish x to happen, so I teach my son to do x to be a good friend” because x is the social norm that I*dream*. It is not the social norm that exists. That which exists is completely different. And, if I don’t want to trap him in a social norm that is *this*. This silence. I need to learn how to teach him better. Even though I cannot BE any better.
It was John Lewis that taught me, because, if my son understood that advert, it would make him so unbelievably sad, that I know I cannot bring my reality into his life. So I need to teach him something better.