Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Duck's Face

The other day, Richie came running up to me asking for crayons, paper, and his "kid" scissors.  It was clear that he was on a mission.  Seeing as this isn't my first day as the mama, I asked what his plans were.

"I'm gonna make a Duck face for dis coach! Ryan wants a Duck!"

He held, in his sweet little brother hand, a black Trackmaster coach.  One of Ryan's train toys, though not one of his beloved engines.  Through much explaining that this was Ryan's toy and he should be careful with it and that maybe Ryan wouldn't be so thrilled about this gift, I tried to save him from the disappointment... but I stopped. 

He was just too excited.  He was so serious about doing this for his brother.  Since his plans for his brother's toy wouldn't actually be damaging to the toy itself, I let him go.  

Here's what he came up with. 

Sweet, right?  He knew his brother wanted Duck the engine.  He wanted to give it to him.  He worked hard on it, starting over a couple times to get it just the way he wanted it.  To the naked eye, it was a piece of yellowish construction paper taped to what was clearly a black coach.  But to Richie, it was a green, squareish engine with a pleasant countenance... just the thing his hero had been asking for. 

I have to admit I felt a bit guilty knowing that as soon as Ryan got home he'd discover this and rip it straight off... or worse, completely melt down.  Honestly I hoped Richie would forget.  

Nothing doing. 

Soon as his brother came home, Richie ran and delivered the gift personally.  

It wasn't as bad as I'd feared, Ryan just said nothing and promptly ripped the carefully fashioned face from his black coach.  

Richie was no less crushed, unfortunately.  He came to me in tears, telling me what just happened.  He wasn't just sad, he was a little angry that his brother hadn't appreciated his gift.   

This kind of thing has happened so many times with these two.  Richie pours his love for his brother into something.  Lacking social understanding in so many ways, Ryan rips it apart and or has a complete fit because something in his ordered comfort changed.  

This time, Richie's disappointment was less.  He was less upset, less angry.  While it still obviously hurt him just as deeply, he's learning to navigate the pain of that disappointment. Through these dealings with his brother, comfort from us, and being reminded gently that brother's just that way, but we're proud of Richie for trying to love his brother in that way, we're hoping a couple of things.  

One, that Ryan will learn empathy.  As these things happen, we talk to Ryan too.  We let him know that Richie loves him and wanted to give him this gift (whatever it is).  Once he's calm, if that's a factor, we can generally get an "I'm sorry Richie" and a "Thank you" from him.  

At the other end, we're praying that Richie will learn that gifts are just that.  They're gifts.  True gifts come with no price tag, whether the price be a future gift, favor, or reciprocation in any way.  As we give gifts, we must remember to hand over a gift, with the idea that the gift is to bless the recipient more than the giver.  Those invisible price tags, over time, quickly become millstones slung around the neck of the recipient.  If we choose to give gifts as gifts and not purchases on credit, the recipient is free to enjoy the gift, free to be grateful, and free to use it in the way that brings them the most help and enjoyment.  

Giving a true gift can be hard to do.  We expect a certain response, if we consider it.  We all hope the person will be super excited, right?  

As we enter the edge of the season of so much gift-receiving and giving, remember on both ends to consider the heart behind the gift.  And if you have a friend, child, grandchild, or friend's child who is on the autism spectrum, as you begin to plan for them,  keep in mind that this is all terribly confusing and sometimes scary for them.  Do reach out and invite; try not to be too upset if they're just not up to the challenge.  Do keep in mind, also, that a gift for an autistic child must be given... truly given... and not with an invisible price tag.  We are thankful and blessed to have every person who has given to Ryan to be exactly that way; giving because they love him, not because they desire a certain response.

As for Duck's face?  I taped him to the wall beside my stove.  He's treasured, though not by the one intended, for the beautiful expression of love that he is. 

Thanks be to God for kids who love... and for his being with them as they learn the hard lessons.

1 comment:

  1. Awww, this hurts. I know because we have been there. These are tricky waters to navigate, but it will get better in time, especially as he gets a little older and can understand more about his brother.


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