“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother;”
Sometimes I feel like this little bit of King Henry’s St Crispin’s Day Speech (Shakespeare’s Henry V) could be an epigraph for the story of this little Beck family. Not that any of us will ever be household names. Or fight in an epic war front. No one will be revering us for bravery every year. But living with autism has definitely made our family become a “band of brothers.” It really does feel like we’re this small group of people experiencing life in the trenches in a very different way than many families out there. We’re a little bit of an underdog family sometimes, bound together through experiences we want and don’t want.
Autism has made us a pretty tight family.
I thought about this while the four of us were playing Aerobie in the park the other night. It’s our new favourite summer night thing to do. J especially loves it because it’s SO much easier to catch than a regular Frisbee, and it glides so much farther than one too. In reality, it makes us all feel like super Frisbee athletes and I think that’s why we’re loving it so much.
While we were tossing the Aerobie around, I was watching the elementary/almost middle school boys playing on the swings a little ways off from us. They were loud and obnoxious. They had quite the catalogue of male anatomy jokes and thought they were hilarious. They took off on their bikes and chased after girls, who seemed to enjoy their pursuit and I knew those boys had been out there for hours. This is what summer looks like for kids J’s age, I thought to myself. Boys riding from park to park. Socializing and terrorizing. Processing puberty. No parents in sight. Bonding and creating experiences together. And then there was us. A family of four. Who spends almost every moment of free time together.
Frisbee, riding bikes, going for walks in the neighbourhood. These aren’t things most parents and teens do ritualistically together in their downtime. I’m not sure exactly how it got to be that way. I think partly because it’s always been that way. Any event outside our home has been a group effort–a group effort in either supporting J or supporting each other because of J and his autism. And somewhere along the way, it has become W’s experience too. Throughout our family’s existence, this group effort has become a necessity.
J at 14 doesn’t have a lot of friends–he has friends, but not “hang out” friends. He socializes with the kids in XC, and almost everyone in his grade is really great with him at school, but outside of those two environment, J doesn’t really have “friends.” For the most part, I think he’s okay with it. He does have autism. He is an “isolated self.” He really likes the world the way he likes it. Sometimes that involves other people and sometimes it doesn’t. In reality, I’m not even sure what counts as “outside socializing fulfillment” for him. But at every appointment, his psychiatrist is always checking in and asking J about his friends. She emphasizes that family time is good but that he needs friends outside of us too. I’m not exactly sure what that’s supposed to look like. How is that supposed to look like with autism?
Maybe that band of brothers will include others as we start our journey through high school. Maybe his social skills will improve and maybe he’ll get to that “hang out” friends stage. Maybe he won’t. Our little band of brothers won’t always look the same, especially as W gets older. But it’s what we’ve got and right now it works for us. Even though I wish sometimes we could have more social experiences outside our family niche–that the kids would have more social experiences outside of our family, it’s kind of nice to know that we’ve got a little group that knows exactly what each other is going through and a special relationship of togetherness. And that’s kind of a great thing too.