Lots of people think it’s tough raising a kid with autism. And some days, yep, it is. But lots of other times, I seriously cannot believe how amazingly lucky I am. And here are the first five reasons I can think of, why I’m so incredibly lucky. It’s a bit of a love letter to Georgia, and seeing as it’s still February, I think that works.
1. I laugh a lot
Georgia seriously cracks me up on a regular basis. Not many kids watch Wheel of Fortune while wearing a wearing a Mexican Lucha Libre fighting mask. With her iPod on, she sings loudly, just a little off-key and usually phonetically (e.g. she does a great sing-along version of Madonna’s famous song, “Papa Don’t Pinch”).
Her way of being in the world is hilariously funny. Even the things that, as parents, we are not supposed to find funny — they’re funny when she’s involved.
The best example is the first time I heard her swear, quite a few years ago. I was in the living room, on the floor in the middle of dinner and work and a CD player crisis, trying to fix her cheap CD player while she stood over me, watching anxiously. The player was not cooperating and I was, understandably, growling at it. Out of nowhere, I heard a calm and perfectly executed, “Stupid f**king thing.” I froze, eyed wide. I performed a quick mental check to see if I had blurted that out without realizing. I mean, I had thought it!
No. It was Georgia. Little sweet Georgia. Saying exactly what I had been thinking. And despite the fact I knew I had to tell her that wasn’t a good thing to say, I couldn’t stop laughing. That real kind of laughing, where you feel the tears coming. But I took the proper parental actions: I told her she had to go have a “time out” on the couch. She sighed loudly, and pitched herself onto the couch with a resounding, “Ohhhh, f**k”. That was it. I told her sternly I was “coming right back” and left the room to laugh uncontrollably in the hallway. Pure gold.
She hasn’t dropped the F-bomb since so maybe it was a well-timed one-off. However, it’s likely not the last time we’ll hear her swear. Her communication binder came home from school last term with a note from the teacher that we should be prepared as Georgia had been saying 3 swear words at school: “S**t” (well, kids will hear and say that), “penis” (which is actually an anatomical term so I’m not too worried) and an “unknown Portuguese swear word” I have yet to hear. On the whole, this last one rather pleases me, as it appears she is acquiring a new language.
2. She makes people smile
She says hello to most people we pass as we walk along the street. It’s usually a poorly timed (just after they’ve gone by) and overly loud “Hello!” but it makes most people smile. She remembers people by name and makes sure to say hello to them. A few weeks ago at our local Metro, she heard an overhead announcement saying, “Call for Mike, Assistant Manager. Call for Mike.” At the same time, we saw Mike striding through the store to the phone. Like an always-on-duty spy, Georgia remembered that. On our next visit to Metro, Georgia walked in with her Angry Birds hat on, and greeted what ended up being a red-faced, surprised and just slightly confused assistant manager with a “Hi Mike! How are you?!” As she left the store, she yelled out, “Bye Mike, have a good weekend!!” (It was a Tuesday, but she had good intentions).
3. Georgia will eat anything
Unlike many children, little Georgia would eat whatever I gave her. This was not a house in which grilled cheese sandwiches and KD was the only thing eaten; She has strong food likes and few dislikes. The now thirteen-year-old Georgia has a brave, inquisitive and untiring palate. She’s the kid who will try anything and pick up most things on the table, “just to try”. Her desire to try a piece of that “yellow cheese” was not at all derailed when she discovered, upon popping the whole block in her mouth, that it was, in fact, butter.
She enjoys onions (fresh, chopped into large slices to crunch on), loves olives, and makes special requests for a “mayo and mustard” sandwich. No, nothing else. A condiment-only sandwich. She is one of the few kids I know who adores salmon sashimi and eats it the way other kids eat cheesies, in one “gulp”. If we don’t make a salad with dinner, there is always a demand for it, “with dressing and salt and feta cheese”. She loves meat, which in a house of vegetarians, means she’s out of luck most of the time (and knows when we’re giving her the “veggie meat” – she cannot be fooled). If you ask her what she wants Santa to bring her, she’ll very likely say, “HAM.”
She’ll try just about anything you offer. And if you don’t offer, she’ll very likely lean over and ask, “Can I – I – just try a little of that?” Most of the time, this allows her to expand her food repertoire just a bit.
Most recently added? Pickled jalapenos. She went to the sports pub she goes to with the boy (my boy, her father figure-person who I’ll tell you more about soon) and the boy ordered nachos. Georgia, of course, ordered a full adult portion of pasta with a Caesar salad. And she settled in to watch one of the twenty big screen TVs showing a wide range of sports (or as Georgia likes to watch, “guys falling down”).
The boy offered her some nachos and she asked to try one of the pickled jalapenos. Popped it in her mouth. This was followed by a few moments of eye blinking, grimacing and a quiet hiss of “Ohh, too spicyyyyyy” from her with a subsequent fervent gulping of her entire glass of juice and a sigh. The boy’s response – “Want another one?” Short pause. “Yes please!”. She continued to challenge herself with a tasting of pickled jalapenos and all was good. Until, of course, her eyes watered. And, she wiped them with her fingers. That sports bar hasn’t heard crying like that since the Leafs were on the big screen.
4. Georgia likes things I’m technically not supposed to like, but I “barely tolerate them” because, you know, she needs me to go with her
I HAVE to go to the Ex each year, ride the roller coaster and eat cotton candy, balls of deep-fried macaroni, giant dill pickles and corn on the cob. Why? Because she likes it and she needs me to go with her. I HAVE to go see Monsters Inc. in 3D with popcorn with extra butter and salt. Why? Because she likes it and she needs me to go with her. I have to go to Pickle Barrel and eat one of those crazy-good Freddy’s tuna salads and a plate of deep-fried pickles. Why? Because she likes it and she needs me to go with her.
I HAVE to spend a lovely few weeks every summer at the beach just collecting shells, listening to music and splashing in the surf. Why? Because she likes it and she needs me to go with her. You see the emerging pattern here, right?
Last but definitely not least …
5. Georgia will get out of bed in the morning at whatever time we tell her to.
Yes, that is true, folks. It is her mystery talent. If we tell her to get up at 9, she’ll get up at 9. If we tell her to get up at 7:42, you’ll hear her door creak open at, yes, 7:42. I’ve wondered many things – does she wake up before the time and watch the clock, then get up on time or does she wake up just minutes before she’s supposed to be up? It doesn’t matter. It’s a magical skill and we do not question about it, merely accept it, with thanks, as yet another lovely wonderful Georgia gift.