It was my 41st birthday. Since I had been left pretty much to myself for my 40th birthday (and struggled with that) those around me made more of an effort this year.
The night before, my husband and I went to listen to missionaries from our church speaking about their work in Turkey. As always, it was very interesting. This one missionary in particular is full of passion and energy, which hasn’t dulled at all in the 17 years I have known him.
The next morning, my son went for a walk along the nature trail with me, as this is what I asked him to do for my birthday. I think he was determined to be positive in his interactions with me that day. Typically he prefers to be sarcastic and contrary – it amuses him.
We talked about Turkey (the country, not the animal) as I had much to say about the meeting the night before.
What really surprised me was the detail that my autistic son knew about this country. He knew the leader’s (president, prime minister??? I don’t know) name, all about the false coup, how the leader had been in the US recently and had his bodyguards attacking protesters…
He knew a lot of details about Turkey as well as other world leaders, governments, countries, world issues… which we went on to talk about after.
My son’s number 1 interest is video games. He spends a lot of his time in his space in the basement (he rents from us so has a large bedroom and the family room, which he has made into his living room/office/kitchen) playing games.
He spends a lot of his time alone playing games, and when people think of my son, they consider him isolated (though this is his choice, and apparently he doesn’t feel the same about his life.) The view is that he is in there wasting his life playing video games.
But that isn’t the whole picture.
He is down there learning, and growing, and paying attention.
He knows what is happening in the world in more detail than most anyone else I know. He is studying German. He is learning Pixel Art. He writes, he draws, he does “world building” (which he explained has something to do with designing video games.)
And the time he does spend on his games often is his social time. He plays online while Skyping with friends that no longer live near him, but yet he ‘visits’ with nearly every single day. He has friends. It doesn’t look the same, but it seems to me he gets more out of these relationships and this time spent alone in his basement than many people do going out to work every day.
What I heard in that conversation that we had about Turkey was that my son isn’t wasting his life playing video games.
He is living his life full of interest in the world around him.