When I first heard about the new series Parenthood, I was excited to see a "normal" show in the works. Then I heard a little more and decided it was going to be boring. THEN my sister reminded me about the premiere, and I had an empty slot on my TiVo. And that's how I fell in love with Max.
I'm still not sure how I feel about the show as a whole, but I have to admit that I'm fascinated by Max's story and the family's journey through his Asperger's diagnosis.
J was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome more than 6 1/2 years ago. I can't even begin to wrap my mind around that fact. I can barely remember a time when I didn't know, or at least suspect. And yet, I can't believe it's been so many years.
My kid chooses a Yankee wardrobe over a pirate costume, and he was pulled out of school rather than kicked out, but so much of Max IS my kid.
My family didn't get all kumbaya and what not while going through evaluations, but we all dealt with so many of the same thoughts, emotions and fears, and the show is navigating them beautifully.
The biggest difference between J and Max is baseball. Max didn't want to play. J is obsessed with becoming a Yankee.
A couple of years ago, J joined our local Challengers League - Little League for special needs kids. J asked to quit within weeks, and we let him. I thought it was because he felt it was too hard. I'm not a big fan of quitting, but I've always had to pick my battles with J, and I did (and do) believe that those battles should be reserved for the important life skills he'll need to work extra hard on. Baseball didn't fit that category.
This year, J begged to try out for "real" Little League, and my stomach immediately tied itself in knots. He's 11 years old. His LL peers have been playing since before they could read, and J can't seem to walk across an open floor without tripping.
The husband, the ex and I had many serious conversations about this, and we all worried about J taking on a competitive sport, particularly one he loved so much. If he didn't measure up against the rest of the players, he would be crushed. And a crushed Aspie can transfer that emotion to EVERY SINGLE aspect of their lives. But we decided to risk it and sign him up for tryouts. The kid who can't ride a bike, or even tie his shoes well.
My extraordinary husband volunteered to take J, which was great, because I was going to make him anyway. I was too afraid I might tell J the school had burned down or baseball had been outlawed half way there. Or worse, that I'd get there and throw up on a coach's shoes. I knew J had to go through this experience, but he sure as hell didn't need me making it worse.
So J and the husband took off early to watch the younger kids try out. There was a flurry of text messages between the two of us while I stayed on the phone with the ex, relaying messages and venting my nervousness.
J was looking a little green.
The husband spoke to the LL president about J's "situation".
J was being given a separate tryout to see "what he had".
And then J called me to let me know he'd made the minor league team!
It turns out, the kid is a decent ball player, with real potential as a pitcher (the position he covets).
Which means the husband, the ex and I had seriously underestimated the child.
Which means it was an exhilarating moment mixed with some serious guilt.
I'm left wondering what else I've overlooked in these past 6 1/2 years. Have I held him back from other opportunities and desires? Have I pushed him to accept defeat by default in other areas where he could have excelled? I'll probably never know.
What I do know is that I have one very excited son. He can't stop talking about, writing about, or watching shows about baseball. I'm not ready to buy into the idea that he will be a Yankee one day, but I sure won't count it out. I won't count anything out!
Meanwhile, the writers of Parenthood have put Max in an astronomically expensive special school. The average parents of similar children do not have the access or the finances to do such a thing. I hope they plan to bring things back to reality by highlighting not just the gifts that these kids possess, but the incredible (and not so incredible) surprises they bring. I have enough material to get them through 6 1/2 seasons.
But first, I have to tell my 11yo child that his button down jersey is on backwards.