Many of my friends know my son personally. They know he's quirky, silly, and a bit immature for his age. They also know that he deals with living with Asperger's Syndrome every single day of his life. They know that he is a sweet kid (most of the time, he's certainly not perfect), he's creative, and determined when he wants something. He struggles socially and academically, but his creativity is off the chain! Musically, he is an excellent double bass player, he taught himself how to drum, can beatbox into a mic like it's nobody's business, and is now becoming obsessed with teaching himself the piano. He has taught himself how to sketch some of his favorite characters in great detail. He becomes a modern-day MacGyver when he wants something to work; piecing random objects together to make whatever has been stirred up in his mind. He's a daredevil with no fear to try adrenaline-inducing stunts. He amazes me.
However, he struggles immensely. I have seen it get worse as he gets older and especially now that he is weeks away from turning 13. When he was little, his little quirks were endearing to his peers and they easily overlooked it. Now...not so much. He feels abandoned by nearly everyone he ever befriended except for a select few who have stuck by him, quirks and all. One girl he has been friends with since kindergarten has said she will always have his back, and boy does she ever! She's amazing. Gotta love an Italian girl who isn't afraid to tell off her peers for making fun of him. He likes the same things that kids his age like. He enjoys video games and all the "in" things. However, his mind is still childlike (thank goodness, kids are growing up WAY too fast) and he's also happy to play make-believe outside.
As he once explained to me when I asked him what it was like inside his mind, he said, "It's like I want to be normal and I can't do it. I'm normal inside my brain, but it doesn't let me be normal on the outside." It's exhausting for both him and his dad and me. He doesn't have much of a filter around people he trusts, so he says exactly what's on his mind, which leads to a lot of facepalm moments in public! When he becomes interested in something, it consumes him; a certain toy, movie, object, or game. The kid can probably tell you the model numbers of the John Deere fleet of tractors, but can't remember the last paragraph he read in a book. He can tell you the characteristics of prehistoric dinosaurs, but can't do simple multiplication. Whatever he's interested in, he excels at.
I felt compelled to write this today because it was yet another day that I heard, "I'm stupid. Everyone hates me because I'm so dumb. I'm an idiot" come out of his mouth. I hate hearing those words because I know for a fact that he's not stupid. He has bouts of depression and anxiety from time-to-time, and it's heart-wrenching because I deal with that too. There were a couple of occasions when he said he wanted to die because he couldn't take it anymore. It's terrifying. He is so full of life and adventure, it's horrible for us to hear how much he hates himself because he can't be "normal". Because really, what the hell is "normal"? I know for a fact that I'm not normal (I drive a hearse, for crying out loud). His dad certainly isn't normal! I try to tell him that everyone is weird, normal is boring, and being quirky (like us) is WAY more interesting. I know at that age, you just want to fit in, I get it. But, I explain that once school is over (in just 5 years), none of that will matter anymore. Screw the people who don't want to hang out with you because you're not "normal". They're boring. I'd rather be quirky and stand out than normal and blend in - I pray one day he embraces his traits rather than curse them because I know he will truly excel if he follows what he's good at.
Asperger's sucks, but the boy living with it is amazing.