17: Look Up

17: Look Up

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum

Look Up

If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.

~Marcel Proust

My crafty child (crafty as in “artsy,” not “manipulative”) was driving me crazy the other day. I was frantically getting ready for a house full of company to arrive. I walked across our open foyer to find bits of folded paper scattered over the recently-swept tile.

“Paul must have been trying to carry his scrap paper from the living room to the garbage can and dropped a few pieces.” I sighed, picking them up.

Moments later I passed through the foyer again to find more paper strewn over the tile. No quiet sighing this time. I called out, “Who is throwing garbage around the entrance?”

No answer. Instead, I saw more bits of paper silently floating down from the upstairs hallway. Looking up, I saw my seven-year-old, Paul, hanging over the rail.

“Paul!” I groaned tiredly. “Stop making a mess.”

Paul stared fixatedly at the paper bits falling softly to the floor.

“It’s not a mess.”

“Yes it is, and I’m tired of picking it up.”

“It’s butterflies.”

“Sorry, what did you say?” I hadn’t heard him clearly.

He didn’t answer. Paul has autism and rarely answers a question unless I’m right in front of him, gently holding his head in my hands, saying softly, “Eyes to me, Paul.” He is high functioning, and while occupational and applied behavioral therapies have brought him a long way, verbal communication is an effort for him. Especially when he’s focused intently on something else.

He ran down the stairs to retrieve his papers.

“Where are my other butterflies?” he asked, looking around.

Every time Paul puts five or more words together my heart says a prayer of thanks. For the first three years of his life there were no words, the next three years he barely put two words together, but lately he seems to realize that the benefits of forming complete sentences when communicating are worth the effort.

Butterflies. Of course. I rushed into the kitchen to rescue them from the garbage, dusted them off and handed them to my young craftsman.

“Wanna see them fly again?” he asked with a shy smile.

“Oh yes! They’re beautiful, Paul,” I whispered.

He ran back upstairs to float his masterpieces down again. I watched them gently fly down towards me. They really did look like beautiful little butterflies.

That day Paul reminded me to look up at beauty instead of down at garbage. How many other masterpieces do I miss because I’m too caught up in Paul’s therapies or my housework or dinner preparations to take time to appreciate what’s right in front of me? Life is not what happens to us, it’s how we look at it. Now, I look up.

~Jayne Thurber-Smith

More stories from our partners