Have you ever been in a conversation where you don’t feel heard or valued? A conversation where you put your heart on a velvet pillow and then the listener comes back with, um, a self-centered or “I’m so sorry,” response? The kind of response where you leave the conversation wondering what just happened and why or how it shifted away from your story to something completely different.
Here is a scenario: Let’s imagine you work hard every day at your job and there is finally an opportunity for a promotion. So, of course, you interview for the position because you deeply believe you are a qualified candidate. And, then, you receive the phone call that you’re not the person for the job. Suddenly, you are embarrassed and you doubt your (amazing!) abilities at work. Anything like this ever happened to you?
Now, let’s imagine you are sharing this story with your friend or loved one. You say something like, “I can’t believe I didn’t get the job. I am stuck in this position forever. I work so hard and no one sees it!” And then you hear one of these responses from your friend or loved one (the listener):
- The I Can Do It Better response: “Oh, come on! That is nothing! Before I landed this job, I had to interview about 12 times and I was in my third trimester of pregnancy.”
- The Advice Columnist response: “You know what you should do is …”
- The I Feel Sorry for You Response: “OMG! I’m so, so sorry to hear this! I just want to cry for you!”
- The Girl, You Have NO Idea! response: “Look on the bright side, at least YOU have a job. I’ve been jobless for 6 months now and my dog just … “
- The Eye for an Eye Response: “Those [insert profanity], let’s scour them on social media right now.”
- The Supreme Court Response: “You are just not prepared for this position. I’m sure I can help you through this.”
For me, these statements would be completely meaningless to me – and some even hurtful. In fact, I would question whether the listener even heard what I shared with them. I would wonder if they even cared. And, I would likely retreat into myself, trying desperately to process not only my interaction with the listener but also my experience with the job interview. Instead, what I’d rather hear is something like this:
“Amanda, I hear that you are extremely disappointed with not getting this job. If you are comfortable, I would love to hear more. …”
Right there … that is what opens my mind and my heart to the listener. This also helps me to build trust with them because I know that I’m in a safe place and there will be no judgment, no advice, no stories that are better than mine, etc. This is where the magic of empathy begins to take place.
Now, I want you to feel this same experience as it applies to your child on the autism spectrum. Think about the moments when your child is stuck in a sensory meltdown, the world whirling around him and the sensation of a scratch on the finger overwhelming all thoughts. Or the moments when the chicken nuggets and apple slices just all tastes “horrible” and he is hungry, but he can’t verbalize what it is he wants to eat for dinner because he is so overwhelmed with the horrible taste of the chicken nuggets and apple slices.
So much of parenting a child on the autism spectrum is about being an empathic witness. The term sounds a bit more complex then it really is. I like to think of this badge of honor as the person who hears your story with love and understanding. This is very different than being a compassionate witness, someone who gives sympathy or pity to your journey as a human.
It is about responding with love, even when you don’t totally understand. Being an empathic witness is when your child is hurt and upset and confused about the new routine. Listening with empathy is putting aside the judgment and allowing your child’s story and feelings to just flow and spill to the floor. It is hearing the cries and holding your child’s hand when he feels the hurt of someone’s words. It is saying to your child, “I hear you are sad (angry, upset, confused). I’m here to listen to you right now.”
I also like to think about an empathic witness as the person who holds sacred a moment on my journey – and listens to and tries to understand my perspective. In a moment of complete despair or confusion, I want to be heard. And, in these moments, I firmly believe our children on the autism spectrum need us, the parents and the care partners, to be empathic witnesses to their journeys.
Do you find this valuable? Do you know someone who might also enjoy this? Please share so we can collaboratively create a more empathic understanding of autism.
Hans Asperger once said,
The good and bad in a person, their potential for success or failure, their aptitudes and deficits – they are mutually conditional, arising from the same source. Our therapeutic goal must be to teach the person how to bear their difficulties. Not to eliminate them for him [or her], but to train the person to cope with special challenges with special strategies; to make the person aware not that they are ill, but that they are responsible for their lives.
Isn’t so much of life about bearing witness to our difficulties and working through the murky waters? And then to celebrate the good moments? There is nothing to eliminate in life, because in all honesty, life gives us difficult situations so that we can learn and grow into our best selves.
This quote is my reminder that all is well. This quote helps me to breath – and to remember that Autism isn’t an illness. Rather, Autism is our teacher of responsibility, social interactions, accepting noises, and recognizing that sometimes we need a break when things are too much. Lea
This quote is my reminder that we cannot control what life brings to us. Rather, we can only control how we respond and how we teach our children to respond. We can control how we love and how we show love to our children.
One of the toughest parts of parenting a child on the spectrum, is allowing my child to fail and to feel the raw emotions. The protector in me wants to blow a huge bubble around my children , protecting them from the mean words, the stares, the confusion. However, the educator in me knows that these experiences are really our teachers … they are vital experiences in teaching our children about how to live in, our often non-friendly sensory, world.
Cleaning out the car is just one of the many opportunities during the novel COVID-19. Ridding the trunk of the sleeping bag, stashed in the trunk corner for an emergency, an extra crockpot for who knows what, empty granola bar wrappers during the after-school feeding frenzy, and other miscellaneous items actually feel good. There is a sense of “awe” and a deep breath you can take when your car feels a bit lighter.
And yet, all of that supposed junk in the car is like finding a Black Opal for Buddy and Sissy – who have now lived, learned, and breathed in the walls of our home for 10 weeks. So, the cleaning of the car is a welcome adventure filled with new capes for the princess, giant blocks for stacking, and a long, lonely metal cable lock in need of a friend.
Yes, you read these words correctly. The long, lonely metal cable lock in need of a friend and Buddy immediately recognized this. At first, glance, when Buddy ran through the back yard with the cable, I used my Momma-Bear voice, shouting, “What are you doing, Buddy? You might get hurt with that cable.”
“No, Mom, don’t worry, I’m just going for a ride and I’m totally safe!” shouted Buddy as he zipped passed me and then over the slip-n-slide engulfed in green grass and mud. Buddy continued to zip, run, jump and vroom around the backyard with this cable until finally, his belly started to rumble and his mind shifted its focus to food. He left the cable in a parallel form on the grass next to the slip-n-slide. And, I sighed a sense of relief, believing the cable intrigue found a final period.
And when the long, metal cable lock didn’t appear in our yard, again, for about two days, I made the general assumption that my significant other picked it up – and stowed it away somewhere. I’m sure that assumption was also made about me. Life continued with walks to the creek, making popcorn for snacks, meltdowns every day around 3 PM and feeding the birds every morning. We sounded out letters and practiced our multiplication tables. We baked cookies and failed at a new dinner recipe.
Yet, as anticipated, the cable reappeared one morning while I was enjoying my earl gray tea on our porch. “Hey, Mom! I want you to meet my friend!” shouted Buddy from inside the house.
With a dust of sleep still in my voice, I echoed, “Okay, Buddy,” as I indulged in the very last sip of tea. And, just as I put my feet the ground, Buddy appeared with the long, lonely metal cable lock from two days prior.
“Buddy, please don’t play with that cable. It could hurt you. And, it is going to hurt my wood floors.” I touted as soon as Buddy appeared in the doorway to our patio.
“Mom, I want you to meet Mr. Snake,” said Buddy with excitement and a tone of prowess. His eyes, an intent hazel brown and his mouth brimming with a genuine smile told me that this moment was real.
I found the playful, non-judgment part of myself and said, “Okay, it’s nice to meet you Mr. Snake.” Smiling, I reached out to touch him and then became afraid because, alas, some snakes have venom.
“”Don’t worry Mom. His venom is only for the villains. And, Mr. Snake is my friend. He plays with me. He goes on adventures with me. I’ve been keeping him in the garage because it is so nice and cool in there.” exclaimed Buddy.
And I listened as Buddy shared everything about Mr. Snake: he is a rare species, what he eats, how long he sleeps, the best climate for him to survive in. … The part that struck me the most, that splintered my heart, were the words, “he is lonely Mom.” Hum, I said out loud to my son. “Can you tell me why he is lonely?” I prodded.
“Sure. He is lonely because he has no one to play with. But, not anymore because now he has me.”
At that moment, I canceled my scheduled Zoom meetings, texted my colleagues that I was unavailable, and found some much-needed time to play with my son. No guilt. No apologies. There wasn’t, and still isn’t, anything more important than togetherness and love. We spent the morning dancing to Taylor Swift and Michael Jackson. We jumped on our trampolines and then we rolled in the grass. We ate loads of popsicles – perhaps an entire box (but I wasn’t paying attention).
All the while, Mr. Snake, stayed on the patio, right where Buddy left him.
It is rather commonplace for some children on the autism spectrum to create friendships with inanimate objects. In fact, it is also commonplace for neurotypical developing children to do the same. The beauty at this moment is recognizing my son’s creative spirit and mind – and listening to his words. The beautiful side at this moment is not dwelling on the fact that perhaps, during COVID-19 coupled with a boy on the autism spectrum, that my son truly is isolated; rather, his beautiful mind is able to find the joy and the beauty in a lonely, long metal cable lock. I don’t know about you, but there is a need for more love in our world and I’m thrilled to share it with Mr. Snake.
Standing in line to come back inside from the fall afternoon, Buddy felt restless waiting for his peers to line-up. It was 3:45 PM and the day of school had already filled his mind with reading group, drawing a map of South America, and processing the sounds of the lights and low hum of the fans. And in this particular moment, he saw a mound of curly hairs, streaming from a peer’s head in front of him. The curls looked soft and smooth, like his sister and mom’s hair. It was the type of hair that you could run your hands through and instantly feel a sigh of calm inside your body. It was the type of hair that Buddy often played with when his own mother read him books at night. So, Buddy reached out with his small hands, and gently rubbed a few small strands between his thumb and index finger. Ooooh, he thought to himself. I like this hair. I like how it feels.
Let’s pause here because this is the first of many signs that a child is sensory seeking. A person who is sensory seeking, for example, cannot tolerate tags inside their tee-shirts and pants. These individuals sometimes have a difficult time dressing themselves and have an oversensitive to loud sounds (and low hums). These human beings can detest being squeezed too hard, yet they find great satisfaction in the way a fabric or material or items feels in their hand.
And this was also the moment when the peer with the mound of curly hair yelled, “stop, stop!” Yet, Buddy continued to gently rub those few strands of hair between his thumb and index fingers, ignoring or not hearing or not recognizing the firm commands from the now frazzled peer in front of Buddy. And all of his classmates continued to squirm and wiggle and giggle in the (not so) straight line. And the teacher raised her hand, saying “one, two, three, eyes on me!” attempting to get all of her students’ attention. And the sun beamed down on Buddy’s face and it felt hot, hot, hot. His throat was itchy and needed water. The cars zoomed by and one of them puffed some exhaust, making Buddy think of the Ram truck that he one day wants to drive. And the sounds and the heat and wiggles and the giggles were just so intense, so Buddy continued to rub those few strands of hair between his thumb and index fingers.
That’s when it happened. All of a sudden Buddy was on the pavement with his face looking up at the boy with the mound of curly hair. He felt the sharp ping of pain when the kick jabbed him into his thigh. He wailed when the the closed-fist came pummeling to his right eye.
And then it was over. The boy with the mound of curly hair yelled, “He wouldn’t leave me alone!” and the teacher screamed, “that never makes it okay to punch someone.” The wiggles and the giggles stopped and students now circled around Buddy, reaching small hands to help up him from the hard pavement. And Buddy cried. His tears just spilled from his eyes. What happened? What did I do wrong? Why do I hurt?
Before Buddy had time to think to much, his younger sister came running from across the field where her class was still playing. She’d watched everything that happened from one of the many protective corners of her eyes. She always had an eye on her brother – even from a distance and while in a different class. Hi Buddy. It’s okay. It’s okay. I’ll take care of you. Then his sister took his hand and walked him away from the hard pavement and the hot, hot sun and to the doors leading back into school. She opened them with the help of a teacher and a friend and then walked her brother to the nurses’ office.
After the ice-pack, Buddy and Sissy returned to aftercare together. Sissy a constant protector, not allowing anyone to bother her brother or ask his questions. Sissy the sibling who took charge of situations and always, always did what was best for the other person.
I would have known something was wrong from the moment I saw my son walk out of the school doors. I could see it in his eyes. There was a fleeting sigh and then tears. He snuggled his face into my tummy and dropped his backpack to the ground. Questions began to spew from my mouth: what’s wrong? what’s going on? why are you sad? And then the teacher walked out of the front doors, walking with haste to meet me.
It wasn’t his fault. The other boy went home. I am so sorry. She shared these words with me as I signed the head-injury paperwork. And, then I stood there with my son’s face, snuggled into my tummy and his sister gently rubbing his back. I stood there because I wasn’t sure what else to do. Should I be angry? Do I ask more questions? It wasn’t his fault? Will he be safe?
The words, “It wasn’t his fault,” continued to resonate with me during our car-ride home that evening. The words sat with me as I prepared a dinner of chicken nuggets and apple slices. I continued to think about those words, “It wasn’t his fault,” as Buddy and Sissy played with our dog, Aussie. And, then I found the courage to sit with my son and share these words with him:
You are strong. You are brave. You can be anyone you want to be in this world. What happened today wasn’t okay. The boy shouldn’t have punched and kicked it.
And then I breathe deeply and exhaled completely.
Buddy, why do you think this kid hurt you? What were you doing before the punch and the kick happened?
I didn’t hear Buddy’s answer for about four days. It took him four days and our child psychologist digging into the timeline with Buddy for him to process what happened that day on the pavement in the hot, hot sun. He’d heard the words, “it wasn’t his fault,” from his teacher and didn’t forget them. He repeated those words over and over to everyone. He believed, because his teacher believed, that the punch truly wasn’t his fault.
It is here that parents can go one of two ways. The easiest way is to hide in the shadow of “it wasn’t his fault,” and pretend that my son truly did nothing wrong. This is the route where I fall into protection mode, and I defend every action and word that my son ever made because he did nothing wrong. And, one day, my son may or may not be faced with the same situation. And he will probably respond the same way he did on that hot, hot day on the pavement. Or, I can take a different path. The path where I help my son to acknowledge his role in what happened. Where I help him to see that in our society it isn’t okay to touch others that we don’t know. Where I begin to coach him in various settings and situations, bringing awareness to his own actions. And, my hope is that if there is a next time, he will find another way to soothe his sensory seeking needs.
I share this with you not for sympathy, but to empower you to have a conversation with your own children or neighbor or friend about perceptions and assumptions. I challenge you to consider the many, various roles that a person can hold in any situation and the great power there is from learning from a mistake. Because if we allow our children, especially those on the autism spectrum, to be victims in every sour situation, then we are allowing life to happen to them, rather than for the child to take the reins of their own life.
A pair of red noise-cancelling headphones roll around the floor of my car. A pink and brown leopard print blanket and brilliant blue blanket are folded in the seat next to my daughter. Tucked into the side of car door cubby is small journal and two markers: a hot pink Sharpie and purple Crayola marker. The small backpack on the floor of the car, below where my daughter’s feet brush the floor, is filled with rocks, a magnifying glass, a turquoise hair bow, and chocolate-chip granola bar (smooshed, of course). And her seat is positioned directly behind me. I can look into her eyes and see her. Her. My girl.
And these are her tools for coping during car rides.
And in the third row sits my son. He is adjacent to her because directly behind her is an invitation for hair pulling, kicking, and pushing against the seat. Instead, his steadying service dog, Aussie, sits next to him. Her soft ears resting on his arm. Her overstuffed pillow bed a place for my son to also rest his head during our car rides. And in his place, tucked into the back corner of third row, is where he watches the world outside his window. He often perches himself on the arm rests, examining the cars on the road, the people on their bikes, the clouds floating above, and the moon that follows us. And during his examination of the world that surrounds him, he moves his torso, very slowly, back-and-forth and back-and-forth. It is a gentle movement. There are also times when he will feel the clouds by creating a sound with his mouth or his hands. The sounds change depending upon what he is trying to explore. The cloud sound sometimes sound like a low zzzz-buzzzz-zzzz-sssshhh-shhoooowsh . And when he feels excitement about his sounds, he will follow-up with a siren noise, blaring loudly into the corners of the car.
And then, reeee-roooo, ree-rooo-OOOOO.
It isn’t until the siren noises begin, the Sis begins to also scream at her brother. With frustration in her voice, she screeches, “Buddy, be quiet, please!” I look at her eyes through my driver’s rearview window. I see the exhaustion in her eyes. The bubbles of anxiety getting bigger with each breath. And then she will yell, again, “Be quiet! I need peace right now!” And the quintessential remark from Buddy in the third row is, “I’m not doing anything! I’m listening to the clouds Sissy!”
And then, reeee-roooo, ree-rooo-OOOOO.
“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” she screams, again! Looking, again, at her eyes through my mirror, I offer my only words of advice during a car ride on the interstate. “Sissy, why don’t you put on your red headphones and take out your journal?” I offer. I also want to scream. I want to pull over the car and open the door and throw a catastrophic screaming fit. I want peace and quiet, also. I just want to get from point A to point B. Seriously, why must the clouds follow us on this particular car ride? Why must my daughter screech and scream? Why must the siren noise in my car escalate after each cloud’s noise?
Yet, I say none of this. It stays permanently tucked away in a small corner of my brain. It knows better than to emerge.
And, so I offer Sissy another nudge. “Sis, you know you always feel better with the headphones on. And I really need a new picture to keep in my billfold,” I encourage with a soft voice.
“Ugh, this is ridiculous!” she responds. And then I watch her put the red headphones over her small ears. She picks up her markers and flips through her journal of letters and mermaids and cupcakes. “Okay, what should I draw you, Mom?” she asks with a tone of annoyance.
I smile at her in the mirror. “Why don’t you draw me a picture that makes you happy,” I say in response. “Alright, fine” I hear from her small voice.
Beep Beep Beep … BEE!
“Bee! Bee!” I hear from the third row of the car. And suddenly I watch as my son unbuckles his seatbelt and climbs into the second row in the seat next to his sisters. “Mom, you have to stop the car,” he cries in terror! “There is a bee! A bee!” he continues to cry.
“Brother, it’s okay,” offers Sister’s reassuring voice. I watch as my daughter takes her headphones off her small head. She carefully places them on the floor. “Here, is a blanket. This will protect you.” she offers. My son wraps himself into the warmth of the pink and brown leopard print blanket. His head is covered. His knees are tucked in tight to his chest.
“Mom, you need to unlock the windows,” says the now firm voice of my daughter. I oblige and quickly unlock the windows. “Brother, the bee is going to fly away now. He hates it in this car, too.” she says with great wisdom and compassion.
The intensity of this moment is filled with panic. A true sense of fear wraps tightly around my son and add a quickness to his breathing. His body becomes stiff because any movement may result in that bite, that sting.
And the windows roll down. And the bee flies out. And the windows come back up.
“Okay, Brother. It’s over. You are okay now.” she says.
Small whimpers reveal come through the corners of the blanket. Buddy unveils his face and looks at his sister. He smiles. He unbuckles his seatbelt, again, and crawls into the third row. Tucking his head into Aussie’s soft neck – the place between her ears and her snout, he closes his eyes.
“Mom, I think we need some calm-down music now,” says Sis.
And, like I’m listening to the cues of a pro, a true guru in the world of empathy and compassion, I follow her directions. I cue up my Pandora station to a Meditation and Mantras channel.
I breathe in deeply.
I exhale completely.
And, I smile, with gratitude at my little girl who is now coloring in her journal. She is a champion of love in more ways than she will ever comprehend at the small age of 6.
The car ride continues down the interstate. The clouds continue to follow us. My son drifts into a deep sleep. My daughter colors and smiles and makes small talk with me. And, I reminded that these cloud-chasing moments are filled with love.
It was a Thursday evening. That day that is sandwiched between almost Friday and the days that lingered before it. It is the waiting period after landing on the tar mat after your 4-hour flight, anticipating the waves and the sand on your toes, and the 20-minutes it takes for all the passengers to GET. OFF. THE. PLANE. Yes, it is that 20-minute period where we are so close to Friday, which leads us to the next day, Saturday, that is filled with the pool and riding our bikes. It is the 20-minute period where we feel the tension and the stress from the week. We are tired. Yes, we still have 20-minutes to go.
On this Thursday evening, I picked-up my kids from school and rushed them to our dinner spot. We had a quick 58 minutes to eat dinner and then buzz to soccer practice. And soccer practice would be a catastrophe if there wasn’t something in those bellies. Buddy and Sissy argued over who had the worst snacks in their backpacks (yep, good work Mom). Sissy threw her smelly socks at Buddy, and Buddy immediately wailed a loud scream, “Don’t do that! It isn’t nice!”
I turned on the “Sleep Time” music from my Pandora account. The soothing tones drifted into the car and then harnessed some of the built-up tension in the back part of SUV I chauffeured. I watched my son rest his head next to Aussie’s soft ears and her deep brown eyes. He picked-up his small hand and began to stroke the tip of her ear. And before I knew it, he was ignoring the world around him and focused on his best friend: his dog.
I say a small prayer of gratitude. I look into my driver’s mirror and into my daughter’s eyes in the reflection. She rolls her eyes at me and then says, “I hate sleep time music mom. It isn’t even night-night time yet!” she says with a tone of authority. I smile and I keep driving.
We pull into our dinner place. It is one of three spots where we can eat together as a family. There are not a lot of humans (a big deal). The food is simple and always the same (rice and edamame). We always sit in a booth toward the back of the restaurant. The only new part of our experience at our place is the integration of miso soup – a warm broth with seaweed in it. The seaweed always gets pulled out immediately, so the broth can be enjoyed in small sips from the bowl. This is our place.
And then I hear Buddy’s voice in the back seat, “Mom, I don’t want to go out for dinner tonight.” I’ve heard these words before – many, even countless times. However, I’ve never heard these words at our place – his favorite place.
“Why not, Buddy?” I probe.
“I’m just don’t feel like it,” he protests and then squirms in his seat into a small ball.
“Well, I want to eat here,” wails Sissy, as she unbuckles her seatbelt and opens the chauffeur door.
“No, not tonight mom. I’m not hungry,” I hear from his small voice.
I continue to probe for a few more minutes. He is used to this and so am I. It sometimes takes time to get into a restaurant – to prepare oneself for unexpected humans and loud, clingy sounds. And then he says to me, “I’m embarrassed.”
Embarrassed. Fifty-two scenarios play through my head. Is he suddenly self-conscious of his 9-year old sweaty body odor? Is he concerned about what he is wearing? Did someone say something to him at school? And on …
“Mom, I’m embarrassed because now people will know I’m different. Really.”
I pause. I look my son in the eyes. It never occurred to me that during this 20-minute period of time between Thursday and Friday, and soccer practice, and driving to our place for dinner, that my son was growing aware of his new best friend’s presence.
“Mom, what if people look at me? What if people say things because of Aussie? They will know that something is wrong with me.” he says with his head still buried in his neck and his small hand rubbing the tip of Aussie’s soft, black ear.
“No one is going to judge you,” a small 6-years young voice chimes in from outside the car door.
“That’s right, Buddy. Be proud. Not everyone gets to bring a dog to dinner with them. And, not everyone has an Aussie dog. In fact, I bet people will be excited to have a four-legged friend in the restaurant.” I add to my daughter’s already profound statement.
“Come on Brother. It’s okay.” says Sissy. “I can hold your hand.” as she gestures her small hand toward his.
Buddy emerges from the car with his Aussie dog. Aussie’s big paws hit the pavement and she pushes her wet nose into Buddy’s elbow. He grins and then rubs her head. He says, “Okay. I’ll try this. But I’m scared and I’m embarrassed.”
“I know,” I respond. I hold his small hand and pull Aussie’s hand-less leash over shoulder. Sissy walks to the door, opens it, and then holds it for her brother. She smiles at him. I smile at him and I blow Sissy a kiss. And we walk in, as a family: Buddy, Sissy, Aussie dog, and me. And we feel the struggle and the curious eyes that follow us through the restaurant. We find our booth in the back and Aussie crawls under the table and sits next to Buddies’ feet. He strokes her head and says, “It’s okay, baby girl.” And he repeats it, as if reassuring not just his dog, but himself, that he can do this.
It’s okay, baby girl.
It’s okay, baby girl.
It’s okay, baby girl.
And then we eat our sticky rice. And no one asks us any questions.
We sip our soup. And no one asks us any questions.
We ask for chop sticks. And no one asks us any questions.
And we giggle about some small detail from the school day.
And then we leave our eating place. Just like any other family.
And, when we pile into the car, with the soccer ball rolling into the street, and then buckle up Aussie girl with her dog seat-belt, and close the hatch, and find our water bottles because we all of sudden parched … I watch my son nestle his head into Aussie’s neck and say, “we did, baby girl.”
I pause in this instant – in this 20-minute waiting period before Friday. I pause to soak this in. This is life. This is the rumble we must all live in (as author Brené Brown would say). This is the place in life where we have to feel so that when we do move forward, we know what that moment felt like. I’m grateful my son felt embarrassment and also expressed it. His emotion gave my daughter the strength to lift him up and for me, his mom, to dig a bit deeper. His emotion allowed him to feel something and then recognize that it really wasn’t so bad. His emotion allowed him to understand that nothing is wrong with him. And as he continues to grow and flourish, I hope he begins to understand the perceptions of our world just need some more nurturing about accepting all individuals for who they are.