Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Raining cats and dogs

It rains in Seattle. It rains a lot! It's not a heavy rain but it does rain quiet, lately, it's been raining harder than usual. I am not sure if it's a spring thing or if the weather is just changing due to the hole in the ozone layer... the reality is the rain in this city is getting harder and harder. One rainy morning, while driving the kids to school, I couldn't help but to use the good old saying known to us all: "Oh, God, it's raining cats and dogs!" From the back of the van Frankie's voice questioned me right away - "Mom, is it REALLY raining cats and dogs?" Of course not....

Once again I had to explain to my son that I was using a "figure of speech" - an expression that is not literal but just used to describe something that is happening. I didn't question it when I first heard someone use it and I went on repeating it like a parrot, having no clue of  its real meaning. I had to promise Frankie I would Google the story behind the expression as soon as we got back home. And I did.  There are like three different stories, none confirmed and NONE makes any sense.  It figures...

Because of this kid I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about the history behind all sorts of things we say, read, sing, etc,...from nursery rhymes (don't remind me about "ring around the rosy," - it's creepy!) to everyday expressions and terms.  The quest for reason is never ending!  Now, people like me, who talk a lot, sometimes tend to fill "dead air" with totally superficial and meaningless things we say - this is not a good mix for living with a kid in the Autism spectrum! Frankie has taught me that every word has weight, meaning and consequence. I am more careful about what I say because for him, words have value, positive and negative and he will question every sound out of my mouth. I remember the first thing I had to learn when I was being trained to do ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) at home with Frankie was to reduce the amount of words I used with him. I had to use mostly action words and keep them to a minimum....It was the hardest thing I had to do in my entire life but it taught me to place importance and meaning in what I said and did. Best lesson ever learned now that Frankie is out to get me!

Our interactions regarding this matter is not always pleasant and funny like the dogs/cats/rain one; sometimes, they are just plain shameful for me.  There was a time when I was very overwhelmed and I didn't even realize when I told someone on the phone that I was ready to "kill myself" from all the stress I was under.  I don't think anyone who was around me at that moment even blinked at my words but Frankie came to me crying and asked if I really wanted to kill myself. No laughing matter, people - this really hit home. Once again, I had to explain to him that I really didn't mean to say something like that  and that I would never, ever consider taking my own life.  "Why do you say things you don't mean?" was his reply.  The truth is that I don't know why...but I must stop doing it. 

Being in the Autism Spectrum makes Frankie a student of "typically developing" beings and he questions our words, our actions and our decisions. Because he is different from the rest of us he goes around trying to figure out why we do the things we do - he often finds out there is a lot of following and not a lot of meaning in our conduct.  Why do we go through life saying things we don't mean; using expressions that mean nothing; wasting time and energy building empty sentences that have no substance? I guess it took a kid struggling with a condition we know so little about to remind me of the importance of speech and the responsibility that I have to him, and to others, to use it wisely and properly.

Lesson learned: No, it doesn't really rain cats and dogs. It does rain hard and a lot. Let's keep it simple but true.  Let's keep it real while we walk the talk, trying hard to remember not to talk too much.