Friday, May 31, 2013

Hey Dude

“Hey, Dude. Hey, Dude. Dude! Hey, Dude. Wait your turn. Don’t cut the line! “

It took a moment for me to realize those words were directed at us, more specifically, Sam. I looked up to see Sam pushing through the crowd to board the Steamship Fast Ferry bound for Nantucket. In Sam’s mind, the only thing between him and his laptop was finding a seat on that boat. Those ahead of us were of no concern.

“Hey, Dude!” I heard again with a sigh of frustration.

“Sam,” I called. “Stop! Get back here. Now!” I turned to the man and said, “Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. Dude over there is autistic and doesn’t know you’re talking to him.” The man instantly apologized, “Oh. I am so sorry! I didn’t know.” 

“How would you?” I countered. “He looks like any other kid."

“Let him go ahead,” he offered. “No, "Dude" here needs to learn to wait and play by the rules. Not everyone will be as patient as you. But thank you. I appreciate your understanding,” I replied.

We all got on the boat without further incident. Sam plugged into his laptop and all was well. Still, it made me think as I looked at the tall young man beside me. So many people we meet are very kind. Even accommodating. I appreciate each and every kindness. But what message I am sending Sam if I take advantage of those kindnesses? I risk destroying the line between entitlement and infringement.

How do we find that elusive balance? It is challenging to teach Sam to respect the rules he is capable of respecting. It is challenging to teach him to be aware of those around him. Still, that day I was reminded of the importance of learning to peacefully coexist. The world needs to bend a little for Sam, true, but Sam needs to bend a little too.

As such we will continue to answer questions other parents have long stopped asking:

How loud is too loud?
How much patience do we have a right to expect?
How much should others bend?
How much should Sam bend?
How much is too much?

And perhaps most important of all: how do we live in this world with everyone and not at the expense of everyone?

You’re turning 18, "Dude". I won't alway be around to help you navigate. There's a lot more to learn. I have faith we'll get there together.


  1. And now you're getting a puppy! I've been wondering my own version of these questions because of Scout. I blogged about it today when I was annoyed--now that I'm over it, I'm seriously wondering how much patience I have a right to expect.

    I do think you're wise to continue teaching Sam the rules because you're completely right, not everyone will be so kind, and he won't be able to judge for himself the breadth or likeliness of someone's kindness.

    Peter has a friend with Asperger's who is on his baseball team. I put donuts on the bench one morning game, and the coach said, "No donuts till after the game!" And this boy said, "But Coach, I want one now." And I thought, oh, those BEAUTIFUL language skills.

  2. Yes. Understanding rules is tricky business. Particularly when body language and words contradict. But that's a chapter for another day, isn't it.