Yesterday I told Isaac that there might be a new country in the world. I told him about the vote going on in Scotland and how Scotland might become it’s own country. He was VERY interested and he got out his atlases and started drawing maps of the United Kingdom. He was hoping that Scotland wouldn’t break away because that would interfere with the accuracy of his books and the geography songs he likes…and that kind of change can be SO uncomfortable for Isaac. :)
When he pulled out his atlas and the pile of papers he had with it, I noticed that he had been working on a project for a few days sort of under the radar. He had been making his own world atlas with little drawings of the countries. He had a few from every continent. He had Mongolia, China, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Algeria, Chile, Argentina, the US, Fiji, among many others…. Some of the pages included facts about population and ALL had clear page numbers (organization is PARAMOUNT!). I spread out the pages on the floor so I could take a picture. And then a few minutes later I realized: Isaac is six.
My heart starting pounding hard. I was feeling a mixture of swellings of pride followed by shame for feeling that pride.
I mean, of course I am proud of my kids. OF COURSE I am! But this was different. This was feeling pride in an area where Isaac is gifted. Isaac is YEARS beyond his typically developing peers in his understanding of geography. In fact, Isaac knows things about geography that most adults don’t know. He knows his states and capitals and where to find all states and most countries on a map. But he also knows what many state and country flags look like. Like Algeria’s flag. He can pick out Algeria’s flag in a group of flags. But, most impressive to me…he knows the states in order of statehood. He knows which state was the first to join the country, which was the last and he knows every state in between. If you asked him “What was the 43rd state?” he could tell you. That’s like asking you “what’s the 17th letter of the alphabet?” and you being able to answer WITHOUT going through the alphabet. He knows that Louisiana is the 11th state BOTH in alphabetical order AND in order of statehood. I’m not sure that there is anyone else, ever, that’s noticed that.
Honestly, this geography thing is a little hard for me. It’s MUCH easier for me to get excited about Andrew’s contraptions and inventions than it is for me to get excited about states and capitals. But yesterday, when I saw the atlas Isaac had been assembling, I felt SO PROUD of him. And I had a moment of feeling overwhelmed that my six year old can do this. I wasn’t trying to balance it with “but think of all the things he CAN’T do.” which is a common strategy I use. I wasn’t trying to pull myself together with “EVERY kid has amazing strengths! Don’t act like yours are something special!” which is another message I tell myself a lot. I was just feeling proud and impressed. Which made me cry in the bathroom a little. Sigh.
Dave and I used to wonder if we needed to have a college savings plan for Isaac. I know that sounds sort of mean, but it was purely a practical conversation. As things stand now, if we started a college savings plan for him and he didn’t go to college, we’d take a HUGE hit in taking that money out and using it another way. (which is actually a problem that Autism Speaks is working with Congress on… tax sheltered ways to save for your children that might NOT go to college.) But now we think that OF COURSE we should be saving for Isaac. Not just because of his capacity for memorization and his academic ability, but his self-care skills and safety awareness have come MUCH farther than we thought they would. He might actually be able to go to college and…do his laundry! and get himself to the cafeteria for meals! and cross the street safely! :) College doesn’t seem as far fetched an idea as it did a few years ago.
I also know that this seems like a common autism story. How many stories have you heard of autistic kids that couldn’t talk at 3 went on to do X!Y!Z! But for me, living a part of that story, doesn’t feel like “oh this is sometimes what happens”, or, “this is sort of common with autism.” It feels like “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?!” It’s a little rattling, honestly. It mostly feels great that Isaac is blossoming as much as he is…but it has also felt unnerving too. Like I can’t keep up with who he is.
After my tears in the bathroom, and my deep breaths to calm down, and after the waves of pride settled down a little, I pulled myself together and finished making dinner. And things went back to normal. He was just my goofy little guy who needs to pick up his mess and loves his pizza and just wants to talk to Andrew about Super Mario Brothers. He seemed normal Isaac again, but as for me…I think I made a little progress. A few steps in the right direction of celebrating my son.