Seven reasons I wish I could be more like Evan
As parents of children with special needs we sometimes focus on the many challenges and differences and less on the special talents and qualities a child has.
My son Evan has autism. Because of his autism he struggles in many ways. Because of his autism, he is awesome in many ways too.
His personality and his perception of the world, make me wish I could be more like him. There are a billion reasons I wish I could be more like my son but here are my top seven.
1. He is comfortable in his own skin and nothing embarrasses him
Evan doesn’t even understand the concept of embarrassment. When we tried to explain it to him, he asked if it hurts when your face turns red. I know embarrassment is a useful emotion. We’re still trying to teach him not to drop his pants to his ankles at a urinal. But I’d often be better off without all that worry that comes with embarrassment. It must be so freeing not to care whether others are judging you.
Evan is the kind of person who will dance like nobody’s watching. Plus, he wants everyone watching to join him (which is why he can be the life of the party; see number 3).
2. He can spell
I’d be lost without spellcheck. Evan is my spellcheck. A kid who started reading later than his peers, Evan has an incredible memory that makes spelling a cinch for him. He could easily be the school’s secret weapon in a spelling bee.
Fortunately, I have Evan and a computer with spell-check. Unfortunately, the computer doesn’t catch every mistake and, as a freelance writer and blogger, there is nothing more embarrassing than a spelling or grammar mistake (except missing a deadline).
3. Evan is the life of the party kind of guy
He knows how to engage people, and he attempts to interact with others more than anyone I know. Sometimes he’s actually pretty good at it. For example, he has learned that reading a name tag and then addressing a waitress by her name is a great way to encourage conversation and make someone feel important.
His peers don’t always know what to make of his friendly banter; adults, for the most part, are amused and awed by Evan and his complementary ways. If you’re a girl with lots of ringlets, expect him to start a conversation with “I love your curls.”
During a hot summer afternoon, Evan had the majority of our community swimming pool -– kids and adults – playing his version of Marco Polo. The game consisted of Evan saying “Marco” and waiting for people to respond appropriately. When they did, they were rewarded with an exuberant “You said it. You won.”
Evan loves talking to people and has no problem doing so, wherever he is. Last summer he used a porta-potty at a festival. There was no sinks or hand sanitizer. I was too embarrassed to ask for the sanitizer from more than a few moms waiting in the food line with me, but Evan enthusiastically accepted the task by marching up and down the line and asking everyone until he got some.
4. People remember him
Like Norm on “Cheers,” he is often greeted by a chorus of “Hi, Evan.” The downside of this is it sometimes makes his siblings feel invisible, but on the whole people tend to be drawn toward those who are perceived as fun and outgoing, and Evan can be both with a splash of childhood charm and quirkiness.
“You’re weird in a good way,” I tell him.
Last year Evan participated with more than 100 other kids in a one-week program through the Friendship Circle that teaches individuals with special needs how to ride a bike. When the director returned this year, the one kid she remembered was Evan because of his outgoing personality.
5. He isn’t afraid of any amusement park ride
except the ones that might be dark. Earlier this summer we went to Cedar Point, “the Roller Coaster Capital of the World.” It was the first time Evan was tall enough to ride some of the scarier thrill rides and coasters. He loved them all. The only ride he was too scared to go on was the train (dark tunnel). Nothing was too fast, too high or too much of a puke machine for this almost 10-year-old daredevil.
Watching my son ride coasters that scare the living daylights out of me is, well, humbling, to say the least. I couldn’t help but wish I had the guts to ride alongside Evan as he was having the “best day ever.”
6. The simplest things bring him the greatest joy
Hearing his favorite song, seeing the moon or putting on performances are all things that he loves. You can see the excitement and enthusiasm in his face. And if you can’t, he’s the first to tell you how much he loves something in a tone that replicates the exuberance of a lottery winner or Heisman Trophy recipient.
How great it must be to experience such pure and spontaneous joy on a daily basis. I find it regularly in the simple things like cuddling my kids or watching them play nicely together. I also experience that level of happiness when I’m enjoying an outdoor activity, attending a baseball game or traveling. But, the difference between Evan and me is that I usually have to consciously think about it while he just experiences it.
7. He is determined
When he wants to learn or master a new skill, Evan is determined, focused and works hard to achieve his goal. Whatever activity Evan is interested in, he can work at it for hours. Right now it’s gymnastics. He practices handstands, front walkovers, cartwheels and one-handed cartwheels for hours at a time.
This is a kid who inherited his attention deficit issues from his mom, so I’m both surprised and jealous that he has the ability to work hard at mastering his most sought-after skills. In the past few years, I have wanted to learn to play piano, take up the violin, write a book and start a blog. One out of four isn’t bad.