Susan's Blog

Monday, November 7, 2005

Beauty and the Beast

My teenage son is gorgeous. This is a fact, not a brag. Thick wheat-colored hair feathers back from his oval face, large sapphire eyes take it all in. He is six feet tall and lean, and at sixteen, his shoulders are just beginning to broaden. He looks like a grown Macauley Culkin. He acts more like the young Macauley Culkin, however. My son will probably never have a girlfriend – or a boyfriend, for that matter. My teenage son Nat is autistic.

This is not where the story ends, however. This is not a “poor me” piece. Don’t cry for me, Internet. Nat may be autistic but he is not hopeless. He is learning how to hold a job, and how to live on his own. One day, he may be able to do that. The thing that’s bothering me, though, is the girlfriend bit.

Is it strange that I, his mother, long for him to find love? I found myself thinking about this the other day. He was watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which he has been doing a lot lately. I wondered how much of this he understood. Did he feel the sadness of the Beast, who is not a man on the outside, but on the inside, and no one can see it? Did he long for love the way the Beast longs for Belle? How much does he wish that someone would see beyond his autism and love the young man inside? Or does he imagine himself more as Belle? Or Chip, the boy teacup? What age does he think of himself? He cannot even express to me what goes on in school on a given day; how much does he understand about anything? It is like wondering what babies know. Can babies think, if they don’t yet know words? What about a young man who doesn’t use words, but seems to follow the plots of movies? Who can follow at least two-step directions?

How do I know what he knows?

If Nat can understand Beauty and the Beast, then presumably he can understand his own plight: a man trapped inside irregular neurological wiring. He watches the movie, sitting up tall and alert at the climax, where Belle mourns over the Beast’s body, and cries, “I love you” at the very end of the Beast’s life. Her words break the spell, and he revives, a man at last. But Belle does not simply rush into his arms when he presents her with his human face. She looks carefully into his eyes, to find the Beast she knew, the Beast she loved. Only then does she say, “It is you!” He watches this with a tender expression. I think.

But then again, he laughs hysterically when Belle and her horse are being attacked viciously by wolves.

I want love for Nat, like Belle’s. Except for the looking-in-the-eyes part, because he hates that. But I want him to find a young woman that does not mind the behaviors or the cognitive delay. I want him to feel his heart fill up when she looks at him, so that he can know that what he loved in the movie is something that is real. I want him to make that jump, from living on the outside, looking in, to actually being a part of the best that life can offer.

I want him to be the star of the show. I want him to rock the world. I don’t want to just let it all go. Not yet. Though group homes, personal care attendants, and minivan rides to the mall may be in his future, I want love to be in his future, too.

Is that asking too much?


Sigh. Bud’s only six, but already this is a thought that can keep me up at night.

— added by MOM-NOS on Tuesday, November 8, 2005 at 11:18 pm

I don’t have any answer, but I agree that your son is gorgeous.

Some autistic people feel very self-contained. They like people, love their family members, but they don’t feel a need to “own one”, if you know what I mean.

I’m not like that myself, and I know that many autistics suffer lonliness.

If I were you, I’d assume that my son was of the first type until you find out otherwise.

— added by Camille on Saturday, November 12, 2005 at 3:25 am

On occassion when I look at my Little One I sometimes wonder about the same thing. He is 4 and was diagnosed with PDD-Nos. But then I stop, because having the rough life I have led raising 7 kids…I try to always live in the moment. Today is here and needs to be lived and experienced. Tomorrow…tomorrow is another day. I know what you mean though, but I try to not really focus too much on it now. That is how I am able to not become overwhelmed with my busy, difficult life. I like you, desire the best for my son.
I agree with Camille’s comment, sometimes I think we put alot of “our” world’s values and expectations on their world. Everyone is deserving of love, but does everyone really need to have a significant other? Some people never marry and others marry and never have children. In the same way that they are fulfilled, it may be our children will find their own fulfillment.
I can only wait and see…

— added by supermom_in_ny on Saturday, November 12, 2005 at 12:25 pm

I just like to say it is possible to love someone who is autistic. I love a boy who is a high-functioning autistic. I understand it may take a while for him to understand other’s emotions, and yes I think he is awkward at times. But i want the best for him and i will always be there for him. I’m not sure if this will help any one, but i just thought others should know that I think very highly of this boy I’ve come to known.

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, June 29, 2006 at 9:33 pm