We were at a community square dance. Isaac loves it...though like most activities...Isaac has his own spin on the traditional activity. Isaac has coined the art of mosh pit square dancing. His particular rendition of dancing requires a good deal of space so I abandoned the rest of the family and took him to the far side of the bleachers near the exit of the building. The inside of the building was a gym. Isaac kept commenting on the basketball goals that hung on either end of the great room. Tonight the balls were put away and the stage was set with a talented set of old men in overalls playing bluegrass. Those brave and adventurous enough were coaxed into the dance. The participants were brave but they still sought the guidance and conformity of those who knew the dance. The art of it was beautiful and most caught on very well.
Isaac makes his own rules. We don't fight silly fights. We recognize Isaac's love for his individuality and celebrate that. So Isaac and I were at the end of the gym by the door. On our other side was a set of bleachers reserved for those not physically or emotionally able to brave the dance floor. Tonight, the bleachers held a group of beautiful young teenagers. Many were Isaac's age or perhaps a little older. They had coupled up and were doing their best to look cool and flirt inconspicuously. Oh...I remember that age...I do not envy them in the slightest.
Isaac was mosh pit square dancing beside them. He held my hands, stood on the balls of his feet and jumped and jumped and jumped and jumped and jumped. I don't understand exactly how but the boy can clear two to three feet off the ground jumping just that way. When he got tired of jumping, he pulled my hands and we whirled around and around. Isaac was ecstatic. He personified joy. A smile claimed his entire face and he shouted, "Weeeee" (No, that is not poetic license...that is what the boy really yelled). We jumped and whirled and twirled and jumped some more.
In some ways I am glad that Isaac's autism is severe and his social awareness is limited. The boy is loud and is not known to be shy. The music covered some of his exuberance but certainly not all. We were off to the side but Lord knows we were still quite a spectacle. We collected stares. Some stared and smiled. Older people mostly...ones who knew....really knew and appreciated what was going on. Some people have lived enough life to understand challenges and celebrate true joy. We got other stares too. The beautiful teenagers took time out of their flirting to steal looks at the boy and his mama. Teens celebrate conformity in as many unique ways as they can...they want to discover who they really are but they secretly hope that who they are is popular. Isaac is the antithesis of conformity. He does not fit nicely in any kind of a socially acceptable box. Some of the stares were far from gentle or encouraging. Isaac was unaware but sadly I was not.
I was not angry. I was sad. I was sad for those children because I know the conformist popularity they seek is a mirage and a lie. I was sad for the inexperienced ones because I know that life will present them with nonconformist realities much as it has for our family. I have learned that those who have the biggest problem with Isaac are those that have not lived enough life yet to have experienced the challenges of special needs close up. I do not wish that experience on anyone....but I know it will come. Perfection is an unattainable illusion. Thank God. Those young ones will learn that truth. I pray they learn it as gently as possible. I hope they choose love and leave off judgement quickly. As Isaac's mama, I have to count on the hope that they will. My son's future will really be in their hands. For our part, we keep exposing Isaac to the community...not just for his sake ....but for theirs.