They were, all five of them, created by our then-8-year-old son.
There was nothing convenient about the placement of the cups that held his treasures. Dangerously tipped to one side or the other, they threatened to fall with even the slightest movement from any one of the other items on those shelves. I was unable to get to anything without risking the entire effort.
And so, in the middle of my day, with an impossibly long list of things to do, these ill-placed experiments stopped me along my path, forcing me to live in the moment.
I blinked and looked at the cups.
Filled to varying degrees with orange juice, water, and milk, some thickened with different kinds of flavored syrup, they were each so carefully constructed. I peeked over the edge of them all and found that just beneath the thin layer of ice on their surfaces was an array of marbles, Legos, chocolate chips and fruit--things so different in size, scale and density that they provided absolutely perfect
I took a step back, looked to the counter that stood across from the items in the freezer and smiled. There, ready for duty, sat a digital timer and a hand made log which our Little Scientist planned to use in order to collect his findings.
Which cup's contents would freeze faster and why?
I turned again to gaze at the cups in the freezer and realized that they did have one thing in common.
Planted in the center of each experiment was one of his favorite Lego men, his special toys, their presence putting into perspective for me the entire scene.
This was his play.
He was a kid just being a kid...the only way that he knew how. This is what his brain naturally liked to do when left to its own devices. In many ways, he was so far ahead of his peers. In other ways, he struggled more than his outward appearance showed.
He was the child who, at four years old, told me that my dangling, wet strands of hair looked like cirrus stratus clouds.
He was our expert on natural disasters by the age of five.
He was someone who could tell you everything there was to know about the mating habits of leopard geckos.
He was the boy who said this week that his jar of slime looked like ectoplasm.
At his age, I'm pretty sure that I compared my jar of slime to snot.
This child was a child unlike any I had ever known. Yet, as with many children diagnosed with developmental delays and disorders, much of his life until that point had been focused on what was going 'wrong' with him.
We needed to know this. I don't deny that.
However, why there exists some mental shift in those who approach children with needs--why the forefront becomes clouded by the problems and not the positives--I do not know.
I am guilty of it.
"Hey, Buddy," I called out to him. "This is some very impressive work here!"
"Yeah," he said as he casually shrugged his shoulders, "I just wondered what would happen to the liquid molecules if manipulated and then all put in the same temperature below freezing."
But, of course.
Wanting to talk to him about how brilliant I thought he was, I gingerly asked him, "If you were to explain to the world what autism was, what would you say?"
"Autism is like a remote control for the brain," he responded thoughtfully. "It disables a lot of things--like scissors cutting a wire." I found it interesting that his definition of autism explained how it prevented people from doing things.
Both practically and clinically speaking, yes, we also needed to know this. However, as impressive as I found his answer to be, I also wished that his life had shown him more of the positive things that can accompany autism.
"Very true," I told him in affirmation of his words. I knew that he was thinking of his older brother who was low-verbal had faced many challenges due to his autism. "And, did you know that autism can also enable you to some really cool stuff?"
He shook his head.
"The way that you can learn every single fact about any topic that interests you?" I suggested. "That is likely a trait of your autism. Heck, let's also remember that you know everything about the Japanese railway system. What kid knows that?!"
"And, the way that you can look at something,take a mental image of it and store that exact image in your brain as it was the first time you saw it?" I shot him a look of complete admiration. "How about how you remember the day and the date of just about practically everything?!" I reminded him. "Very impressive, my friend. That, too, is all likely due to autism. It is your autism. This is how autism looks in you. Pretty cool, huh?"
That day I realized that I had an obligation to our children to not only continue to shape the way that society viewed autism but to also shape the way that the boys viewed themselves. I guessed that, because life often seemed to be thrown to me at warp speed, I wasn't so great at taking a step back and planning a more deliberate attack.
It often seems that I am flying by the seat of my pants.
I do not have autism, and I do not have to function in society with that label attached to me for the rest of my life. However, our boys do. What mother would want to send her children into the world feeling that a label had made them any less important than any one else?
I leaned down and planted a kiss on our Little Scientist's head.
"Wow," he said to me. "I didn't know all of that. I wonder if anyone wishes that they had my kind of autism?"
Right there. Right then, in that very moment and in our little world, everything with this child seemed at peace.
This entry was written and submitted LATE in response to last week's writing prompt from the Group Blogging Experience 2 (GBE2): "In My Freezer". Let's hope I don't earn detention for my late submission.