A friend’s son recently asked me a question. Like what the other young fella said to me, our conversation stayed with me long after it was over. We were out to dinner the night this kiddo and I got a chance to talk. After getting Ronan settled in a seat next to my husband, the only other available chair was at the other end of the table with all the kids. I’d miss out on the adult conversation but was happy to catch up with the kids. I’ve known them for years, and they’re really fun to be around.
Plus, I was happy for a tiny break from keeping constant eyes on Ronan.
While eating my fajita, the friend’s son and I started talking. He’d watched me make sure Ronan had everything he needed before I sat down. He’d watched Ronan get settled in and also watched my husband get Ronan fed. I like to see typical kids quietly observing Ronan. I can always tell when they are genuinely curious and politely thinking about Ronan and what’s happened to him. I like it when they later ask questions that are thoughtful, too.
“Do you like taking care of Ronan?” the six-year old asked.
Instant guilt hit me as I took a bite of my dinner. I thought he was going to ask what apps Ronan had on his iPad, or why was Ronan wearing his yellow headphones in the loud restaurant. Chewing slowly on that bite gave me a minute to formulate an acceptable answer to his weighty question.
“You know what, buddy? It’s a lot of work to take care of him, and I always hope that I’m doing it well.” He nodded his head, but I could tell he wanted a more precise answer. He wanted a Yes, I do like taking care of Ronan, or a No, I don’t like it kind of answer. He did not want a vague holy moley, I’ve never been asked that question before kind of answer that I’d just given him. Read more below the jump.
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Since I do know him and his family pretty well, I added, “Well, I don’t know if I like taking care of Ronan like how I like something yummy, let’s say, like chocolate. I really, really like chocolate, but I do like that I get to be the one who helps keep Ronan healthy and safe. It’s hard work to do that.” He nodded as I continued, “…and God must’ve known that Mr. Jameson and I would be the best parents for Ronan.” Very satisfied with my answer this time, the boy looked at my son and looked back at me. He then smiled and said, “I think you’re right.”
Smiling back at him, I tried not to cry as I took another bite of my fajita.
Over the next few minutes, he asked more direct questions. I gave more honest answers. Because of his age, and because his parents were not part of our conversation, I did guard some of the information I shared. He didn’t need to know that it was certain vaccines that turned my son’s life around. He didn’t need to know other details, like how seizures have scared us or that diaper changes are still part of our daily routine. But I could tell him that some days are tough for Ronan, and that sometimes, I do get tired because of how very hard those very tough days are. I can’t share that with every child who asks about Ronan, like the boy I’d met at the picnic.
I know this family well, though, so I did offer more personal information.
Even so, I know not to share everything, like that I never had one when my children were younger but that I just bought a diaper genie for those adult diapers we’re still changing. And that I teared up filing important guardianship renewal paperwork last week. And that I still sometimes get nervous when I schedule appointments with Ronan’s specialists at the children’s hospital, including the ones he has next month.
Not that I’m hiding anything from him, but this little kid would benefit from seeing a confident me when our families are together. Right now, he is positively curious and genuinely concerned, and at such a young age, too! I’d love for him to always be positive and genuine when he thinks about Ronan. I’d love it if everyone we encounter could be like that also.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.
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"I still sometimes get nervous when I schedule appointments with Ronan’s specialists at the children’s hospital"
So much invisible, unspoken anxiety in our lives. It's ok to feel our feelings ...cry in the fajitas... but I often hold it in too.
I am extremely anxious as we begin to transition out of pediatric care. Hoping to find some positively curious doctors (a rare breed) who ask direct questions and really think about my honest answers.
Thank you again for sharing.
Posted by: sarah i | November 25, 2022 at 09:53 AM
It is rough Cathy, the whole thing is rough, heart breaking and scary
Posted by: Benedetta | October 23, 2022 at 10:44 PM
Cathy-you have given us another beautiful story about your interaction with another compassionate very young boy. I am so impressed with the level of maturity that these boys have shown and also the obvious empathy and concern they have far beyond their young years. It is a true inspiration to all of us who have children or adults with developmental disabilities to know that these wonderful young people truly understand our challenging way of life. God Bless them.
Posted by: Gayle | October 23, 2022 at 03:58 PM
Posted by: 4Bobby | October 23, 2022 at 10:45 AM