January 13, 2011

The Crush

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , at 11:39 am by autismmommytherapist

My oldest son has his first crush.

Yes, there have been minor dalliances before, a connection with his chaperone at special needs church group, and a few flirtations with the cute girls in his buddy program when he attended public school. He’s reveled in their attention, even sought it out on occasion, but the look on his face when in their company has strongly resembled the one he reserves for both his mother and grandma. There’s been no special quality to his demeanor, just an unbridled joy that someone is playing with him, and whether that person has been ten or sixty has been completely irrelevant to him.

Until now.

I realized my son’s feelings for this particular teen-aged girl had evolved from a more pure form of love to an actual crush this past weekend, when I witnessed the look on his face as saw her enter our home. Normally, he just jumps up and down with joy, parading his happiness at her arrival with absolute glee. But today, well, today was different. I watched in fascination as he shyly sat down and covered his face with his hands, peeking out at her between two loosely laced fingers. He didn’t rush over to her as he usually does. Instead, he waited for her to approach him with her usual hug, after which he buried his face in her stomach and wrapped his arms so tightly around her I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to breathe. When I acknowledged the transformation, the subtle shift in his emotions, I found myself having trouble breathing too.

He couldn’t have chosen a better person to be the recipient of his affections. This young lady is a neighbor of ours, has endured a rather difficult life at times, and has come through all of her battles with tenacious grace. She is bright, sweet, and possesses an innate sense of justice that she wields with impunity whether someone is being rude to her, or rude to someone she loves. There is an edge to her I didn’t discover in myself until I was almost thirty, and an optimism regarding the life she hopes will unfold for her that has garnered my complete respect. If I’d had a daughter (although now I’m fairly certain I’d never have the energy for that gig), I’d have been lucky if my offspring resembled this not-quite-girl, not-yet-woman.

I am well aware that this may be Justin’s sole foray into the world of “romantic love”, an opportunity where his affections, although of course not returned, will not be entirely spurned either. I am grateful for their interaction, this chance for him to be treated with kindness and respect, this time for him to be unguarded in his emotions. I know he’s lucky to experience this, and will probably have these moments a few years longer until this lovely girl goes off to college (unless my bribes to encourage her to remain around the corner actually work out). I am happy for him.

But of course, planner extraordinaire that I am, I can’t actually dwell entirely in the present, I must of course contemplate the future. I have to wonder what my son will desire in his lifetime, what, if he could speak, would comprise his own grand plan for his future. In an irony not lost on me, (and there are many of these in my life), I once worked as a young woman in a group home for autistic men. As most of them were non-verbal, I often wondered if they felt in any way that they were missing out on the trappings of “normal” life, if they longed for anything other than their structured routine, the chores and errands and meal-makings that bookended their daily lives. I remember thinking they seemed content, but this was several decades ago when communicative devices were not in abundance as they are now, and since they didn’t speak, there was no way to really gage the measure of their happiness other than with the absence of their angst.

I watch my son disengage from his paramour, gently take her hand and lead her to the computer room, and I acknowledge to myself I may never really know either what he wants, or what he needs, despite the incredible advances in technology now available to him. Requests for movies, snacks, and the occasional query regarding a hug are lovely, and I’m thrilled he can communicate them to me, but his technological device does not permit me to plumb the depths of his soul. And I will tell you, without equivocation, that even without the capacity for speech, even without the structured placement of verbs and nouns and adjectives, a lovely soul does there reside.

They both giggle as they mount the stairs, and my son throws the briefest of glances my way, an acknowledgement that mommy’s done right by him, that he is indeed, in this moment, supremely happy with his life. I remind myself, as I often do, that all we really have is this time, this particular moment, and I should dwell here and nowhere else.

And I promise myself, I’ll try.



  1. Mom said,

    Beautifully said daughter. You have made me cry twice this week. As I read it, I can so see his face. I know when he looks at me with that beaming smile my heart flies. How lucky we are that Justin can express himself that way. And I continue to pray that the words will follow.

    • Thanks mom, I’d better put up some lighter fare soon! He really does express himself beautifully with those looks…

  2. Amy said,

    I’m crying, too. You always remind me to appreciate the moment. Thanks, Kim!

  3. misifusa said,

    You’ve captured it perfectly…we only have this moment to enjoy and I’m so glad you and he did!

  4. amanda said,

    Hi Kim its Amanda, just wanted to let you know i loved the blog and i cried when i read this, it makes me feel so warm and happy inside to see the joy in Justin’s face when i walk through that door and to know that i get to share those special hart warming moments with Justin and the rest of the family. I can honestly say i feel like family i look at Justin and Zac as my little brothers that i always wanted ❤

    • Hon, we all feel the same way about you. He just adores you, and if I had had a daughter, I would have wanted her to be exactly like you. We had a great time yesterday, thanks again. Glad you liked the blog!

  5. Angela Marciano said,

    Through tearfilled eyes that was simply beautiful!!! You speak of the impact that Amanda has made on Justin’s life. You have no idea of the impact that he has made on her’s.

    I am sure that all the trials and tribulations in her young life have added to her personality and the person she is becoming. But, each time she comes home after spending time with Justin and your family I see a little more maturity taking over her little girl actions and ways of thinking.
    She is becoming a young woman who is so wise beyond her years, and the time she spends with your boys have only added to this newly formed maturity I see in her.

    I Thank you for allowing her the priveledge of being with your family and helping her to realize that she is capable of making a difference in another’s life.

    • Thanks Angela, and I’m mirroring those tearfilled eyes right now! She is wonderful and an absolute treasure. We (especially Justin!) all adore her!

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