I’m a fixer. My playa* name is Ratchet and not because I’m a tool (or maybe I am a tool but that’s a tangent I’m not wanting to get into now.) My fixing skills are usually more of the interpersonal kind. My handyman skills are a mix between MacGyver and the Red Green Show so I usually leave the mechanical stuff to the professionals. My main goal in life is to attempt to leave things better than I found them. If someone is feeling low, I will do what I can to lift their spirits. If someone feels unappreciated, I will try to find a way to show them how valued they are to those around them. I give hugs to strangers if it looks like they need one. I will feed people, lend a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and an extra set of hands to pitch in where ever needed. In the case of Mr. T, I get to act as a mediator and translator on a regular basis. As his mother, I am honored to play this role.
T speaks a language that is so far out from the mainstream that there is a constant stream of misunderstandings that can be devastating to a little person. All of the unwritten rules most people intrinsically know are so foreign to him. When I am with him I am able to translate. I can guide him around all the ins and outs of social interactions because I had to learn all of these rules myself. I can mediate arguments between peers or family, most of which are caused by a series of misunderstanding and misreading situations. I have 25 years on him so I’m a bit more fluent in NT talk (even if I miss the mark at times). I cannot always be there to translate the unspoken words so I have to hope T will remember the scripts and take deep breathes when he gets frustrated. T is a 9 year old boy. He doesn’t always remember to change his underwear so remembering coping skills may be asking a lot and remembering social nuance may be too hard right now.
Yesterday went off script for T and he didn’t have the necessary skills needed to improvise. It didn’t end well.
I found him clutching a chain link fence with his filthy fingers, tears and snot running down his face. His eyes were wild. There was a goose egg forming on his forehead. His shoes tossed to the side, his socks soaked in mud and covered in pine needles, and his favorite pants streaked with dirt and grass stains. There were two police cruisers with their lights on and a troupe of five concerned adults talking about him like he wasn’t there. My boy was lost in translation.
T works tirelessly to fit in with his peers. He is desperate for friendship and acceptance. When a child in his class proclaimed that she isn’t his friend and never was, T felt betrayed. I’m not blaming his classmate. How is she supposed to know that one cruel remark could set of a chain of events that would lead to T streaked with mud and clutching for dear life onto cold links of a fence? She’s just a child doing childish things and reacting to T’s attempts at mimicking “normal” peer interactions. I can’t really blame the well-meaning adults for attempting to calm him down by a soothing touch to his arm or back. Many children love this touch. T isn’t one of them. He needs to prepare for touch so he’s not stimulated in a way that’s uncomfortable or painful for him. I can’t really blame anyone at the school at all. They are all doing their best and they truly care about my son.
If anyone is to blame, it’s me. I blame myself for not being able to fix this for him. Maybe the countless hours of practice using coping skills and rehearsing what to do with various possible scenarios wasn’t enough. I need to prepare him for the heartbreak that has recently become a daily occurrence. I feel like I’m constantly hitting that proverbial wall and I can’t seem to get around this.
I can’t fix this for him. I can’t stop children behaving like children. I can’t step in each time and remind T to take deep breathes and ask for help. I can’t block the school doors when he gets so overstimulated he runs for the nearest escape hatch. I can’t keep him from hitting his head against the pavement in anger and embarrassment. I can’t stop the hushed tones as strangers point and stare.
All I can do is give T the dignity of asking permission for a hug. I can ask the police to turn off their lights and take a few steps away. I can talk to the teachers and principal who are scared and worried for T’s safety. I can hold T in my arms, pick up his shoes and walk him to the car. I can put ice on his bump, get him clean clothes and wash the dirty ones. I can listen to T as he cries out at the unfairness of the world. I can remind him that he is worthwhile and loved. I can reassure him that things will get easier (even if I don’t always believe this myself). I can do all of this but I cannot fix the world for him.
As a fixer, this is so impossibly hard to accept.
I cannot fix the world for T and T doesn’t need fixing for the world. He is perfect the way he is. He is generous and kind. He is loving. He is artistic. He is so. incredibly. smart. He is also struggling through a world that doesn’t understand his language. This world expects him to change to fit into the NT expectations of him, instead of trying to understand him allowing some grace when he doesn’t get it right. I can mediate, advocate, and translate until I’m blue in the face. I just can’t fix it…
…but I’ll do my best to patch up the holes.
*This is part of the Burner scene to have a name used during events or with other Burners that isn’t a legal or given name. It’s like a nickname but shinier.