Have you ever seen the TV show Parenthood?
I like that show.
I like-like that show.
I love watching family dynamics play out in front of me that I don’t have to stress about
or worry over
or problem solve
It’s a bit like how I learned to be a parent by watching the Cosby Show.
But I digress.
On Parenthood there was an episode where the Braverman’s were doing a walk-a-thon to raise money for Autism Awareness and Max was especially excited to “Help all those kids with autism.”
And all the while,
Max is the one with autism.
Only he didn’t know it.
Interesting how TV mirrors a bit of reality sometimes.
We had our own Max moment yesterday.
I was standing in the kitchen cooking dinner.
Who walked right up to me and said,
“Mom. What is an orphanage?”
Now if you can just take a moment and really drink that in.
Because I’m telling you, this was not a case of what is the English word for Chinese orphanage.
It was not a translate this word for me and I’ll know what it is in Chinese.
He truly had no idea or concept of the word.
This was a moment where the innocence of a child directly intersected with the fallen world that we live in. No child, and I do mean no child should have to even know what an orphanage is, much less reside in one for 7 years.
And I so badly wanted to yell, “Cut!”
And I wanted to wait.
I wanted to wait for the script writer
for the director
for the producer
and the lighting director
and the guy from catering to come over and tell me what to do,
where to stand,
what facial expression to convey and just how I was supposed to put down the spatula,
pause while the dramatic music rises
look at him and tell this boy what that is.
What I did do was scoop him up and tell him very nonchalantly, swallowing my stomach and kidneys that had promptly risen to my throat, that it was where children lived that didn’t have mommys and daddys to care for them. And I stood helplessly by as I watched the puzzle pieces he had floating around his head come crashing into place.
The surprise was written all over his face.
And not a yay! You got a new bike! Type of surprise.
But more of a, sorry I ran over your kitten in the driveway type.
This precious child had spent his entire life within the confines of an institution and never really knew it.
Never defined it.
Never took hold of it.
Never let that sink into his soul.
Until that moment.
It’d be kinda like if you had red hair all your life and the only people you ever saw also only had red hair.
And then one day someone with blond hair walked up to you and said, “Hey, your hair is red.” And you never knew it. But now you do. Now you’re a red-head.
Now he was an orphan.
Jacob realizes that we don’t know the where’s or the who’s or the why’s surrounding his birth and the cicurmstances that played out shortly thereafter.
But what he didn’t know.
Is what an orphan and an orphanage is.
He didn’t know it all had a name.
He didn’t have that label attached to himself.
Prior to today,
he was Jacob.
And now, he’s Jacob……who used to live in an orphanage.
And that information has settled right on it to his heart and set up house.
I can see it.
I can feel it.
I can sense the crack that just went straight through his fragile little heart.
“Oh.” he says.
And then he simply walked away.
He got about 10 steps, Beyblade in hand, before I hear him proclaim quietly to himself,
“I lived in an orphanage.”
It’s like he just had to say it.
He had to taste it.
He had to hear it.
He had to have those words tumble through his mouth and go straight through his teeth.
And not a good one.
So as I sit here tonight and type this all out and relive that moment I am, of course,
going over and over
my response to him.
Could it have been better?
Should I have sweetened it up?
Busted out some scriptures?
Should I have put on Annie?
Should I have told him an orphanage is a type of fancy shoe found only in the far reaches of the rain forest?
I don’t know.
I think I know that this is where my frustration lies in with so much of what we go through with these boys.
I just can’t.
How do you possibly look at this sweet 8 year old child and give him that kind of information almost like a spelling bee.
Can I you use it in a sentence?
Does it have any alternate pronunciations?
Language of origin?
1. A public institution for the care and protection of children without parents.
2. The condition of being a child without parents.
Prior to today we always talked about his group foster home that he spent the last two years in, as his “China house.”
A term that he coined himself when he first started picking up English.
And he called the orphanage the “Big China House.”
We just kinda went with that.
It was how he distinguished the two when he would share stories about his life.
Perhaps I should have, in those early days, corrected him and given him words like
“group foster home”
But I didn’t.
Nor did it ever even occur to me to do so.
Insert mistake #4,893.
Doin good Sonia, doin good. Sheesh.
I don’t really have any great, upbeat, fun way to end this.
It was a crappy moment.
It just was.
But though I don’t know much,
and I feel like I’m falling more than I’m building,
and I though I never seem to never have the textbook answer at the ready I know Who does.
I know the script writer, I know the director, I know the One who will make beauty from it all.
So as I
sleep lay awake in bed tonight turning that conversation over in my mind that is what I will always come back to.
Because at the end of every show,
at the end of every movie
there comes the credits.
And I know just Who is both starring in and producing our show.
And if I could see it…..maybe, just maybe, it’d read something like this:
Starring Jacob ~ as the son. Designed and made beautiful by God.
Starring Sonia ~ as the mother. Designed and made beautiful by God.
Starring Jesus Christ. ~ The ONE who knit them both together and who sees so much more than we can even fathom. The author and perfecter. The redeemer, the risen Savior.
So Max Braverman, I have news.
You have autism.
But that label does not define you,
or make you,
or control you,
or persuade you.
You are you.
You are Max.
And you Jacob,
You are Jacob.
Beautiful, wonderful, full of life, beat of my heart.
Forever loved by me, but so much more by Him.
You may have once lived in an orphanage but now,
now you live at home.
Orphan no more, but now treasured son.
“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:3