I had the privilege of spending last week at the Fulton County Fair, watching four of my five children showing cattle they have lovingly tended to all year long: feeding, watering, bathing, walking, even nurturing one as a newborn. The older three have been at this three years already, but our little bit is just getting her feet wet in a few more pee-wee classes than in the past.
It’s been fun to watch the kids grow and mature over the years and to watch their friendships grow with other kids who spend their summers doing the exact same thing. Even the younger ones have developed fair friends, but they are also lucky enough that most of their fair friends are also school friends. This helps me and Ben tremendously because it provides a bit of continuity for him from show to show.
It just so happens that two sets of our younger kids’ favorite friends are also brother/sister pairs, and blessed are we that one of the sets also belongs to a show family. So most days of the Fulton County Fair, we could count on not only seeing G (Ben’s classmate and ever ready protector) and B (Ali’s classmate and self-proclaimed and Ali-confirmed Double BFF because they’ll be “best friends for like double forever”), but sitting with them in the stands, creating who knows what with crayons, markers, white boards, colored pencils and a Spirograph type of contraption that entertained my generation so many years ago.
Ben struggled one particular morning while the other three kids played happily. He was using his dry erase markers and whiteboard, but he had found a couple of markers that weren’t working to his satisfaction, the stands were getting crowded, and the speakers were loud, as were the cattle when they mooed.
So it was he was working through all of that like a trooper, but his patience was growing thin when B asked if she could use his yellow marker. This sounds like a small thing, but his markers are the one thing in life he can mostly control and asking for one was the end of the rope. He winced and whined and begrudgingly agreed after showing her EXACTLY where in the box it was to be returned to. B looked at Ali and said, “Ben doesn’t really like me. I wish he’d like me.”
My heart sank for both my kids; for Ben as he was clearly misunderstood yet again and for Ali to be presented with the challenge of speaking up for her brother or agreeing with her double BFF. Thanks to Ben’s buddy G (B’s older brother), Ali didn’t have to speak at all.
G stopped all creating in their threesome when he said, “Ben likes you! He’s sharing his marker. I don’t think Ben doesn’t like anyone, it’s just autism. Sometimes it makes things hard for him, but it’s just the autism.” And all Ali had to do was smile and say, “Yep, it’s really not a big deal. It’s just autism.”
If only we could all see things so easily as G and Ali. I learned a lesson at the beef show that day: It’s really not a big deal, it’s just autism. And I was also reminded of how incredibly blessed our boy is to grow up with people who understand him and stand ready to stand with him.