My son Bruce has been taking swimming lessons these past couple of months, and while Jenna and I splash around in the “leisure pool”, and I try to get a bona fide workout in three feet of water, I have been people-watching. Two mothers in particular have really stood out to me.
One mother is bald and often wears a pink ribbon track suit. Sometimes her husband comes with her, and they sit together on the bleachers and watch their children swim. I’m sure that every other adult in the pavilion had noticed this mom, and probably sent up a private prayer for her. It is readily apparent that she deserves understanding and empathy because she is fighting for her life.
The other mother I have noticed also deserves compassion, but I think I’m probably the only person there who realizes this. Her fifth grader appears to be a total brat. The swimming teachers are really frustrated with this child, and he doesn’t have any friends. Sometimes he won’t even get in the water. When he does get in the water, he plays with the water in a really odd way. Instead of sitting on the bleachers chatting with the other parents or reading a magazine, this boy’s mom sits by herself, tensed up. At times, she has even come in her swimsuit, in case she needs to get in the water with her son if he causes problems. This mom might be worried that the other parents present think she is unfriendly and a bad parent. Probably a lot of the other moms are in fact thinking this. I however, am not. I’m not a Psychologist, but I’m pretty darn sure her son has some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The thing is, he is high functioning enough to seem “normal” to people who are unfamiliar with the many nuances of what ASD can look like. The other adults probably just think this kid is a jerk.
I wonder if the mom with breast cancer and the mom of the child with ASD have ever noticed each other, and if so, what they think of the other person’s circumstances. The mother who is bald might not ever have the chance to see her children grow up, but at least she knows that her children are neurotypical, and will be able to follow an ordinary path in life. The mother of the child with ASD might be with her son every day for the next forty years. She will have to forge ahead, and clear a path for her child through schools, swimming lessons, and ordinary living. But she will see her son grow up.
I wish there was some way I could help both of these mothers, beyond praying for them. I wish there was a way that I could tell both of them that I am noticing them, and I think they are both really brave. I wish I could give them both a shot in the arm of love.