Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blood Moon

Blood Moon
My son, who is 11, heard there was to be a blood moon and a lunar eclipse this morning.  He asked me to wake him up early so we could watch it.  Normally, we wake up at 6:20 A.M.  The eclipse starts at 5:27 A.M.  For some reason, I snapped wide awake at 3:27 A.M.  Now I'm staring into the internet in a daze.

My eyes are blood moons.  What do we see?

When I look at my son, I see me.  My wife often hears my concerns about how he will experience school and bullies and humiliations and responds with with "he's not you."  Okay, my son is not me, but he's a lot like me.  A lot.  And he won't have all the same experiences, but he'll experience some of them as a consequence of the character we both share: he prefers solitary activities to group, he's not an assertive speaker, he's well-mannered and wants to entertain but isn't especially charismatic, he's smart enough but doesn't have natural talents.  

To her point, at 11, my son is already better-adjusted than I was.  11 was the age at which I shut down and put shields up.  It was 5th grade and I gave a girl a Valentine, and she openly mocked me about it with her friend.  That was the moment.

I had been dumped on my grandmother by parents who didn't especially want to raise me, and she did her best, but that included sending me to school in thick plastic glasses and hand-me downs, white shoes with brown socks.  She'd grown up poor and done with good-enough, and wasn't really in touch with social climbing in the 80s.   I was a little fat kid who was bullied and there was no male in my life to help me handle it -- when I'd report it to my grandmother, she'd blame me: "What did you DO that they picked on you?"  When our yard got rolled with toiler-paper one year, I was blamed, as though it was revenge for something I'd done.

Anyway, prior to the Valentine, I was already beginning to understand my place at the bottom of every pecking order.  But that was the specific event that shut me down.  I shrunk inside myself like a turtle into a shell for years.  I didn't speak to a girl my own age apart from family until 11th grade.  And I was scared all the time of the boys.  I missed a lot of social development.  No one at home or school seemed to notice this was happening.

I was never diagnosed with autism, but like everyone else, I'm SOMEWHERE on the spectrum (I actually think Avoidant Personality Disorder is the closest diagnosis).  My son was diagnosed with autism pretty early, but he's very high-functioning.  In fact, compared to me at the same age, he's -- well, not a social butterfly, but as far as I can tell, and I've probed, and interrogated his teachers, he's friendly and well-liked by his classmates.  I really haven't seen anything that's got me worried, that would indicate that my child's school and social experience is like mine: suffering, endless anxiety, ultimately avoidance and loathing...    

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think part of the reason my son is doing better than I did is the presence of a dad in his life.  Early on, I got primary custody of him and raised him for several years by myself.  His mother didn't want the job and I did.  I was determined that he was not going to grow up without a male to show him approaches to how to live.

Sometimes I go too far -- I lay out a path for him and guide him along it, rather than letting him find his own way -- but I'm getting better about pointing him at a problem and kicking him in the pants to go figure it out himself.  He'll be a teen soon enough and wanting to do his things his way on his time-table, so I'm working on giving him room and encouraging responsible independence.

But for now, even at 11, when he reaches for my hand in a parking lot or walking home from school, I take it.  I think when other parents see that, some of them may wonder if that's "sissy" or something, and I think "you know, I never in my life have looked back and thought 'I wish my dad had held my hand less'.  I don't care what people think."

So when he asks me if we can wake up early and go watch a big red moon together, of course I will.  I'll set my alarm for 5:20 and be wide awake two hours early so there's no chance I'll oversleep.  I wouldn't miss it.

***Mister Mirror*** Please link to us on your blog or website. @JPSterling