In Sickness and In Health

“Achoo!” I sneeze as phlegm hurls across the front of my pajama top. Great, the more mucus I can get rid of the better I will feel I think to myself. I’ve been sick for most of the week and my only solace has been sleep and Netflix (not in that order). This is when things get sticky being a single parent of a child with disabilities.

“Is it story time?” the munchkin asks me while waving the book in his hand.

“Not right now ok?”, I tell him snuggling further under my blanket.

When I’m sick I just cant be bothered about dishes, cooking and least of all parenting. Parenting is one of the few jobs in life you can be truly “married to” in sickness and in health.

The other day after picking up the munchkin after work (Yes I went to work sick. Don’t judge me) the battery light on my car lit up. I immediately drove to my dads and he helped to take the battery out and we took it to a nearby Autozone to have it tested. Just as I suspected the battery was “bad” and because we were within the 2 year warranty it was replaced for free.

My dad admonished me “ just because the battery light is on doesn’t mean that the problem is the battery”.

“Whatever”, I responded. “They tested the battery and it was bad” I retorted. Unfortunately I can’t blame my sickness for my snappy retort. I felt like replacing the battery was an easy fix to a simple problem.

Upon returning to my dads apartment we installed the new battery and started my car. The battery light stayed lit. “See!”, my Dad said. “I told you it could be something more complicated”.

My dad proceeds to follow me in his vehicle to a nearby car repair shop. Upon entering the shop my son sees two small candy machines and asks my dad and I for “coins please”. I calmly tell him “No” as I didn’t have any change on me. My dad and I turn our backs to fill out the paper work and one of the other patrons who happened to be in the waiting area gave the munchkin coins to operate the candy machine.

“I gave your son some coins, it’s no problem”, he reassures us. I explain to the gentleman that the munchkin is autistic as I hand him back two of the coins he gave the munchkin. Again he reassures me that he understands and has two nephews who are also on the spectrum. Easy fix right?….

The next day we go back to the car repair shop with the munchkin in tow. As I’m about to pay for the repairs (turns out they needed to replace the alternator) I notice gourmet popcorn on the counter. I jokingly asked the mechanic where on earth he got that popcorn as school is out for the summer and only kids in school programs sell the gourmet popcorn. He smiles and tells me some kids came by selling it to raise money to go to basketball camp. He then offers some to the munchkin and I. The munchkin then blurts out “hey guys, do you have any coins?” Luckily the mechanic didn’t quite understand what he was asking but he now insisted on giving the munchkin the rest of the bag of popcorn. I told him he didn’t have to do that but he insisted and stated “it’s no problem I bought five bags” and proceeded to place the bag of popcorn in my sons hands. Another kind gesture right?

Wrong.

Autism has become a lot more mainstream and with that people are a lot more generous and understanding. I truly love the progress that’s been made but the problem I have with this situation is that people with autism (my son in particular) have repetitive tendencies. What this means is that if someone gives him coins for the candy machine at the car repair shop, he is going to expect to get coins for the candy machine every time we go to the car repair shop.

The answer is not so simple. On one hand I want to allow others to be generous. On the other hand I don’t want to inadvertently foster a sense of entitlement in the munchkin simply because he has a disability.

“Is it story time yet?” the munchkin asks me again tentatively holding his library book.

“Yes it is”, I reply.

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