I have been so proud of my son as he is learning such great manners and it is truly music to this Mom’s ears when I hear, “Yes, ma’am”, “No sir”, and so forth. I can stand a little taller knowing my constant efforts for good manners are paying off. The other thing that I have been so proud to hear my children say is “elderly” instead of saying “old”. I remind my children that no one wants to be called “old” and how the word “elderly” is much politer and it shows they are respecting someone older than them. I may be old-fashioned, but I feel great manners never go out of style.
Since my son has mild autism, he has more difficulty expressing his frustration with “I just want to be left alone right now” and rather sometimes lashes out because, like many children, he is still learning how to use appropriate behavior to let someone know he is upset at the moment. Our family understands his body language well enough to know when it is best to leave him alone because he really needs his space, or so I thought.
One evening, not to long ago, my mother had come by for a visit and the kids were swimming in the pool. My son became upset about something so I tried to ask him a few questions, but soon realized, his body language was telling me, “Just give him some space.” My Mom was sitting with me on the back porch and she started asking my son, Ethan, what was wrong with him. I saw the angry look he gave, but he kept his mouth shut. I whispered toward her, “Just ignore him right now. He needs his space.” Well, she decided to ignore me and continued with, “Honey, why don’t you come sit by Grandma and I will love on you.” All of a sudden, my once very polite son, blurted out, “Shut up old lady!”
I was stunned and numb all at the same time. My Mom, his sweet elderly grandmother, looked shocked, but ignored the remark and then realized she should have taken my cue to leave him alone. I almost pretended like I didn’t hear him because I literally could not believe my ears. We all tried to act like he didn’t say anything mean and ignored him. (I said a little prayer of thanksgiving that no guests were in attendance too). Finally, I started bragging on my daughter about how great she was acting as he watched. In time, after he calmed down, he asked, “Mom, am I acting good too?” I ignored him a few times and then told him his unkind words hurt his grandmother’s feelings. He apologized and we moved on. Later, when my Mom and I were alone, we laughed and laughed together because we were both in shock that my sweet little angel was acting much more like a little devil as he lashed out.
Weeks passed and for Labor Day, we went to my sister’s house for a cookout which is approximately 45 minutes from my home. My son wanted to take his dictionary along for the trip and I thought it was a great idea. It was a great idea until five minutes before we arrived, my son asked, “Mom where is my dictionary?” I knew this was not going to be good if it was still at home. After searching, he realized his dictionary still waited for him back home so he said, “Mom can we turn around and go get my dictionary?” I kindly replied, “No son, I am sorry we cannot.” He became upset with me as I began to visit with my Mom, his grandmother, who was beside me in the SUV. Then out of the blue, he announced, “Shut up old lady!” My daughter said, “Ethan, do not say things like that to your grandmother. She is elderly, not old!” I thought to myself, “How sweet of her to remind him.” My son replied, “I am not talking to grandma, I am talking to Mom!”
My mother, his grandmother, ducked down in her front seat and covered her mouth to do her best to refrain from laughing. These are not a good choice of words, but you know what? My son makes me laugh even when I want to cry sometimes. Years ago, in the early days of his diagnosis with autism, I would have loved to have these moments where I could “just roll with it” and laugh knowing he is not perfect and that is just fine, because as his Mom, I lack perfection in parenting every day. My heavenly Father loves me even when I choose the wrong choice of words too and reminds me, “Welcome to the world of normal”…