I have never in their lives counseled my children to lie about anything, until today. Today I instructed my son to break my cardinal rule of absolutely no lying– and to do it quickly. I tried not to cry.
Something you may not know about me, I have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We are so blessed. He lives a very normal life. We have had many years of the best teachers and school support staff, along with the best therapists. If the Autism spectrum is a line that goes from zero to a hundred, my son started out at maybe fifteen, and is now at about five. He’s going to go on and live a completely normal life.
Today one of his lifelong friends was razzing him about having ADHD, which is information I’m not thrilled his parents have shared with him. Instead of walking away or ignoring the teasing, my son –with the very best of intentions–made the fatal mistake of correcting this child. “…it isn’t just ADHD, there’s Autism with it.” Oh my! Let the games begin.
I’m writing this now because this is the outlet that keeps me from doing anything to make this very bad situation worse for him. I have to accept that, at nearly 13 years old, I can’t make this OK for him anymore. I fear he may be learning one of the hardest lessons he’s had to learn in his life so far. My heart aches for him. They were so mean. They called him “mental” and I’m not really sure what else but he was genuinely and deeply hurt. These are boys my son has literally grown up with since the age of 4. The friends he made the mistake of thinking he could trust. This is one of the little nuances that goes along with his “inconvenience”. He doesn’t entirely understand social queues and behaviors. We spent a great deal of time teaching him over the past 6 years or so. And since we’ve hammered into his head that truth is almighty, he expects that it shall always set him free.
When I told him about Autism Spectrum Disorder, I all but begged him not to tell other kids. I tried to explain that kids will be really cruel, even the ones you think are your friends. Ever so sadly, he thought he would get total acceptance from his “real” friends. When he didn’t, it hit him straight in the heart, no buffer. The one child who didn’t say cruel things to him, defended the ones who did from Nick’s counter attack on their abhorent behavior. There were absolutely no winners in this scenario.
And so I told him to lie, and to do it quickly. I told him to go back to his friends and tell them he was lying about having Autism. He said they thought he was lying about it anyway. It’s so undetectable in him that they’ve gone all these years without noticing. He was reluctant to lie. I pushed him. “…they don’t believe you anyway, so go tell them you were lying and then just let it go. You have nothing to be ashamed of. But you’re learning about a potential negative side of absolute truthfulness. Sometimes you just keep a thing or two to yourself.” God help me. I’m not sure if I made the right choice or not. I don’t believe this is something to be ashamed of!!! But he’s only just started middle school a few weeks ago and a thing like this can change a teenager’s life forever. They’ve made it this far without noticing. We need to ease them into it. I pray I helped him make the right choice.
He headed out the front door about 5 minutes later and hasn’t come back yet. I have to let him handle this alone, and I will, but it shreds my heart into little pieces. I’ve known for some time that I can’t make things right for him anymore. It was wonderful while it lasted but that ship has sailed. My role now is to help him make things right for himself. I never thought I’d be counseling him to lie.
I’m proud of my son for standing up for himself and expecting his friends to step up to the plate. So far he’s not a follower. He stands up even if that means standing alone. The one great thing with kids is that in a day or a week things tend to blow over, and they move on. I, on the other hand, will never forget this day for the rest of my life and I suspect my son will not forget it either.