Friday, February 7, 2014


Before I had children, I always promised myself I would not discriminate between my sons and daughters when it came to helping around the house.  My sons would do the dishes, washing, vacuuming, ironing, cleaning the bathroom and toilet, and so on, just as much as the girls.  You see, my bloodlines come from a culture where traditionally, the females do the housework, and the men, well, they don't.  I always hated this.  So I promised I would not pass this particular cultural thing on to my children.  We all live here, and everyone helps.  End of story.

Then my only son came along, with autism in the picture.  And all my resolute promises went out the window.

Not because I wanted them to, you understand, but because as I got to know his abilities (or lack, thereof), I just thought he would not be able to care for himself, much less do any household chores.  But I didn't think this at first - on the contrary.  During early diagnosis days, I was absolutely dead set that we would just work hard with him and get him all the help he needs.  And by the time he was school age, oh, he'd be able to speak and use the toilet and so on.  He might just have a few cute quirks, that's all.  Our dedication and hard work would simply overcome the challenges he faced with autism and everything would be ok.  Simple as that.  

...How naive' I was.

Obviously, this didn't happen.  Oh, we did everything right.  We worked with him.  We got help very early - we were consistent, positive, prayerful, persevering.  But at six years old, he still can't communicate effectively, still can't use the toilet, is still a danger to himself (more than ever), still needs to be physically cared for much like a baby.  And so, after some time, I resigned myself to the notion that Erik would never be able to help around the house.

This rankled me so much.  It really did.  Because after everything, the girls still do all the work and the boy doesn't have to.  Even with the very valid excuse of a disability, it still annoyed me so much.

Then one day, something amazing happened....

I found him doing this.

And what is even more amazing (and rather hilarious), is that when I walked into the kitchen to see what the noise was about, he became very vocal and began pushing me away.  Even though I hadn't touched him!  He was just worried that I was going to try to stop him.

Wowweeee!  I mean; far out!  I was totally gobsmacked!

Instantly, I seized the opportunity and tried to encourage him, and help with some of the dishes he didn't know what to do with.  He still didn't want my help, but smiled and settle down at words of encouragement.  But I was so worried he was going to drop a glass or a plate and shatter it everywhere, so instead, I called the girls to come and help him.  This help, he delightfully accepted.

I never realised that all this time, he had been observing and noticing when the girls would unload the dishwasher.  I never once thought that he might like to join in, that this might be a really good chore for him.  After all, every dish has it's place, all stacked in their respective groups, always put away in the same cupboards, and this should appeal to him enormously.  Why did I not think of this before?  And look at how delighted he is with this task!  He is even saying a new word in relation to it; "cups".  He puts away the cups, and says "cups" with a little lisp on the end.  Tooooo sweet!

Suddenly my mind was reeling with the possibilities.  I really felt like the sun had just come up in my brain - I guess it was a classic 'light bulb' moment.  Never had one like that before, no jokes.

The dishwasher!  Of course!  Now I am teaching him to put away his pyjamas and make his bed in the morning too.  Later on, I may show him how to clear the dinner table with the girls, and wipe it down.  Oh, the amazing possibilities!  And I can tell you without hesitation, that this is the most wonderful thing that has happened in a long time.  Probably as good as the first time he began echoing words.  I am so blown away and so happy.  

You see, this was a shattered dream once.  A small one - chores around the house - but still, a shattered dream nonetheless.  And there are so many of those little shattered dreams that pepper our lives once we received that diagnosis.  But now, this little shattered dream looks like it can be functional once again, and it's the most beautiful thing to me.  It's rather like Kintsugi, where the repaired vase is all the more beautiful for having been broken in the first place.

I am learning to let go of my negative expectations.  It's hard, but this is part of the journey.  I am learning to leave the door of hope and possibility open.  It's not that I ever gave up on him, it's more that I just kind of stopped hoping for the best.  But who knows what the future holds;  Who knows?!  Maybe my little man is struggling with so many things at the moment, but maybe he will be able to do everything!  After all, with God, nothing is impossible!

In the meantime, I just have to watch out for dirty dishes in among the clean ones in the cupboards.


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