Bald Spots and Overgrowth

Ahh… the crunch of the lawnmower as I cut what’s left of my grass in the current drought – is there any better feeling than knowing you just cut grass for the last time for perhaps six months? I know I’m waxing poetic here, but I truly, truly hate cutting grass. After I win the lottery, I’ll never again touch a blade of grass, except to walk barefoot across it. I’ll never sit on a lawnmower again, and I’ll never experience weed eating in jeans in July (or October) to avoid the bloody shins from such a heinous act.  

Cutting grass for the last time of the season is one of the great “last times” for me, and plenty of others who can’t afford or don’t want to hire out a lawn service, but as I rode around the yard on my father-in-law’s Craftsmen (my own machine bit the dust recently and I’m trying to avoid buying another just to sit up for six months), I got to thinking – cutting grass gives you nothing but time to think – cutting grass in October in Alabama is a pretty good metaphor for raising a child on the Autism Spectrum. There are bald spots from the dry weather, and areas of overgrowth from our field lines. 

There are many “last times” that we experience in our lives, and not all of them are very good. As parents, we never know when the last time we will hold our child in our lap will occur, or when the last time our child will want to put his arms around our necks and be picked up. Or maybe the last time he’ll willingly hug or kiss us in public without fear of embarrassment. If we did know of such times, we would be sure to pay more attention to them, to remember them better. I think that may be one of the positives of Autism Spectrum Disorder. One of the areas of overgrowth.  

So many times people write about the negatives of the disorder, or bald spots in the lawn, and there are many. My child can’t do this or that. He needs help in this area, help in that area. Can’t we make an accommodation for that to help him succeed? Is there any other supplement we can try to cut down on his self-stimming behavior? What other therapy can we try? Will my insurance over that? You get the idea. There are plenty of bald spots. But there are also lush areas of the disorder as well – positives that can’t be measured with test scores, personality battery tests and the like.  

We get to hold on to some things a little longer. 

Yes, there are notions that we will get to hang on to longer that aren’t so good – like the possibility of them never leaving our house, but there are also positive things we will get to hang on to. I wrote previously about how Collier still believes in the tooth fairy and Santa and old EB, that long-eared purveyor of chocolate eggs. But what else? I started thinking about these as I cut grass. 

Collier is not ashamed of me. I mean if I dropped him off somewhere, he’d still give me a hug and a kiss as I left, without any embarrassment. He still likes to be tickled. He still likes to spend time with us and his grandparents. He still likes to be picked up and to wrap his legs around us. And he still believes with a child-like innocence. How many other twelve-year olds do you know like that? I know the trade off is steep to gain such things, but it’s one that was given to me, whether I chose it or not. Another area of overgrowth.  

As with others, there is an ebb and flow of life with Autism. Bald spots and overgrowth. I may complain about the bald spots – I may thrash around and write blog posts about them – but I hope that I’m not so bull headed and ornery that I don’t occasionally stop and appreciate the lush areas of overgrowth. After all, at one point, Collier used to like riding on the lawnmower with me as I cut, but that stopped a few years ago when he got too big.  

I don’t even remember the last time.  

–Brian  

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