I am neurotypical. I am not autistic. I may have an understanding of what it means to accept and love a different view of the world but I am not, nor will I ever be, a real part of that world. I will always be an outsider looking in. Just like my son will never quite fully be a natural born citizen of the neurotypical world.
But that doesn't mean we will ever give up trying to understand each other's unique view of the world we both were born into.
For hours leading up to Ryan heading out the door to attend his 8th grade graduation dance, I was an anxious hot mess. He was going by himself, not with a date, not with a group. He was walking into a gymnasium full of pubescent turmoil alone. He is braver than any 14 year old boy (or girl) I know.
My mind and my heart raced all day. Would he spend all night alone? Would kids talk to him? Would he feel lonely? My husband told me I needed to "let out Ryan's leash" and I knew he was right. After I watched my teenage boy walk into his 8th grade graduation dance alone, high fiving kids and smiling as he was greeted by classmates, I was relieved that my anxiety was all for nothing. He was fine.
Until hours later when he was not fine and I wanted to hang myself with that leash I let out.
Just minutes after Ryan exited the car for the dance, I sent the above picture of my handsome boy to a girlfriend who knew I was a hot mess all day. Along with the photo, I actually texted these words to her, "My alone is not his alone".
I could not have ever texted more ignorant, careless words.
Autism does not make lonely suck any less. Lonely still hurts. Dancing with yourself is still terribly painful. Wanting to fit in and not having the tools to do that is catastrophic for a teenager, autism or no autism.
As much as I love sharing the details of our journey with you, some things I must keep private out of respect for my boy. Suffice it to say, after he returned home from the dance I was proven wrong with my ignorant words, "My alone is not his alone."
Alone is alone. Lonely is lonely. Heartache is heartache. Period.
And when you want a friend, when you need a friend and you find yourself alone on the dance floor, it hurts like hell. Autism is not a buffer for that pain or any pain.
So, to my beautiful boy, I am terribly sorry for my ignorance. I am sorry that I was so wrong. And like I promised you, as I held all 125 pounds of you in my arms, I will do everything in my power to help others see who they are missing. To help them understand your world all while trying to help you understand theirs.
I hope some day there will be enough acceptance and understanding, enough education and kindness that in time our worlds will be one and we can celebrate all the beautiful differences that make this one world so absolutely perfect.