I know Bobby because my brother-in-law used to do respite care with him.
He often brought him to brunch at our house on Sundays. Bobby was eternally grateful for the food I cooked. He would play with my son, games most kids his age would have scoffed at.
Bobby would hug us so tight when he left. He had a sweet side for sure.
Bobby’s not his real name.
Bobby must be in his early twenties by now.
He’s sitting on his front porch most days when I drive by on my way to town.
He’s trying to quit smoking.
He’s gaining weight.
Sometimes I see him in town with a “helper.” I say “Hi” and check in on whether he’s quit smoking yet.
I never see him with anyone else.
My daughter—when she sees me tear up when we drive past him—says, “Mom, that’s not going to happen to [G], he has you and he has me and you’re a good mom.”
Bobby’s mom is probably a good mom too. (Or his parent/guardian[s] is [are] good, in their own way[s].)
Do any parents not love their kids and want the best for them?
Is every life not a worthwhile life?
What can young adults DO in this small town with few young people and fewer opportunities?…And if they are on the spectrum?
Bobby’s on the spectrum.
Even in bigger cities, with more opportunities, more diversity—are human beings with differences getting lost in the mix? I’m betting they are.
What are the components of a decent life? From my perspective, they would include community (however that is defined, in a way that makes sense for each individual), meaningful work or some sort of activity that contributes, health, the freedom and opportunity to pursue one’s interests and goals.
From my perspective, Bobby’s life seems terribly lonely and sad.
But it’s unfair to make assumptions about someone else’s life. And maybe he wouldn’t agree.
I think he deserves better.
Maybe he wouldn’t agree. There are certainly many things I don’t know about Bobby’s life.
I do know that I don’t want a life like his for my son.
Maybe my son wouldn’t agree.
Soon, the time will come for that conversation. I will help him in any way I can to make his dreams come true, but at a certain point* he will become more and more—or even entirely—responsible for his own life.
I hope he’s seen and understood enough of the world by then to make healthy, positive, proactive choices, both in terms of how he wants to live and as far as what he needs to do to live that life.
Full Spectrum Mama
* When will that be, dear fellow parents of children with differences? A tough question, with as many answers as there are children…
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