You Just Never Know

I walked into the kitchen the other day, and Jamie handed me a sheet of paper with a weird look on her face. There was no explanation, no words. Just an odd look that I couldn’t interpret. I grabbed the paper, still looking her in the eyes and very curious. I slowly glanced down. It was Max’s school report card.

Let me stop for a second and explain something. At home, Max is allergic to anything that requires effort. When he learned how to drive our zero-turn lawnmower, he absolutely loved it. He even began mowing the lawn every week. This is when he as about seven or eight years old. After a few weeks, he realized that mowing the lawn was a chore, then decided that he never wanted back on the lawnmower again.

Homework is the same way. Getting him to follow through and complete all his homework has always been a huge challenge. It has deeply concerning to Jamie and me. This year has been especially bad. So bad that Jamie and I have actually talked about whether or not school makes any sense for Max. Like I said, it has been that bad. So when Max’s report card came home, I was prepared.

Back to my story. I slowly glanced down and saw all A’s with the exception of two B’s. I went back to the top to make sure it didn’t say Maci Youngquist. Nope, I was definitely reading Max’s report card. So I looked at the grades one more time. They hadn’t changed.

I looked at Jamie and said, “Bunch of liars!” She said, “I know! What the heck?! I think I’m going to schedule a meeting with his teachers. We gotta figure out what’s going on here.”

Yes, I called Max’s teachers a bunch of liars. Hopefully you know me well enough by now to know I was joking. I have the upmost respect for every single one of them. It was just my way of stating my disbelief.

We scheduled the meeting. Almost all of his teachers showed up. And one by one, each of them not only explained how Max puts the effort out in class, but showed us his work, and told us funny stories about his shenanigans. Each of them also explained what a joy he is to have in class. Teacher after teacher, subject after subject, they all explained to us that even though he is on an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), he’s still earning the grades on his report card.

I looked over at Jamie at one point and said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Are they talking about our kid?” As soon as I said it though, I had about three simultaneous flashbacks. I remember having said that before in almost the exact same scenario. It was a few times in elementary school that Max had blown us away with the effort he was putting out at school. I should have known. But I was in disbelief.

When I write these blog posts, I always have to step outside of myself and look at our scenario through an onlooker’s point of view. I want to make sure that everything that is written here has a point and is beneficial to others, especially for parents in similar circumstances. I wrestled with the main point to this post because the message could go a few directions.

So I asked Jamie to read it and tell me what she thought. Her response? “Don’t expect the worst.” After she said that, I thought about it for a second. It was actually a pretty profound response for both of us. How many times do we just automatically expect the worst in autism? The challenges we face on a day to day basis are frequent and sometimes pretty severe. When each day presents some sort of challenge, it’s easy to assume that it’s worse when Max is not in the comfort of his own home. Or, if we’re this exhausted or he is this stressed at home, everything that goes on outside of our home must be worse.

For us though, it’s simply not true. And we’re guilty of expecting the worst. If your child is like Max and you’re like Jamie or me, you might do it too. We have to remember that we’re not inside our kids’ heads. We don’t have the full story of what really is going on. We have to remember that “you just never know.”

A few instances where this idea may come in handy…

When you’re leaving your child in the hands of another caregiver, and that caregiver might not be totally up to speed on all the ins and outs of caring for your child.

When it’s time to try something new that you feel might be impossible, like this story

When you’re nervous about anything new – friends, school, sports, public events, etc.When you need to pull off some sort of event, and the last time you tried was a train wreck. For us, flying has been this way. We’ve gone from Max being elated, to terrified, back to elated to fly over the course of several years traveling with him. You just never know. And had we given up, we wouldn’t have the memories we have today.

So don’t expect the worst. Jamie and I have been in turmoil over Max’s education. We were wrong to feel that way. He’s actually doing pretty dang good. Don’t be like us. Cut your kid a little slack and give him or her room to spread their wings – on their terms. You just never know what awesome story or situation will come from it.

-Chad

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