When I was younger, I engaged my coworkers. I cared about what they said, I went to happy hour with them, and genuinely gave a shit and wanted to be friends both inside and outside of the workplace.
Not so much anymore.
Which meant that I missed a chance to bring Our Land closer to reality this week. I had the opportunity to spread autism spectrum awareness, or – at the very least – inform a co-worker about speech and language delays in children. In my child.
And I didn’t take it.
There I was, working away, minding my own business.
A coworker approached to ask me some random boring stuff that I won’t kill you with by going into.
The subject of school came up.
Which obviously led to him asking me about my son’s school. Although I did my best to wiggle my way out of the upcoming conversation by giving my computer screens really intense concentration looks, he didn’t take the hint.
And…I didn’t know what to say. While I wouldn’t say that Tucker’s issues are a secret at work, they’re sort of a secret at work. The thing is, I’m only there part-time and have only worked there for three months. It’s likely that in a traditional full-time setting, I would have lunched with most of these people several times. I haven’t lunched with any of them. There’s also the issue that this particular coworker has kids, is almost 20-years younger than I am and knows everything in the way that the rest of us used to when we were barely 20. I had to think about what to say, because he obviously wasn’t going to read my mind and just walk away.
Saying the word autism out loud can be hard. Saying that Tucker’s delays fall on the autism spectrum but that we aren’t sure whether he’s actually autistic because he makes good eye contact and likes to snuggle feels like a dismissal or a cop-out and just gets more awkward. People don’t understand and while I realize that it’s my job to inform them that autism and special needs don’t always look like Rain Man, sometimes I just don’t have the energy, the time or the patience. There are times when I simply don’t feel like explaining that my totally awesome little boy is perfect in a different way. Still perfect. But different.
So instead of explaining that the autism spectrum is huge and that people fall on it in different areas and please don’t pity me, I just said something dumb like “Um, well, he has a speech and language delay.”
Coworker asked what that meant. Which was a little annoying so I said “it means he doesn’t speak as well as other children his age.” (gah)
Which meant that coworker looked like this. Which is the whole damn look I was trying to avoid in the first place.
That look with pity written all over a person’s face just plain sucks.
As if this stupid conversation was proving to me exactly how stupid it could get, he went into a recover-the-conversation-mode.
He told me that he used to stutter as a child, chuckled, and looked really proud of himself for coming up with this reassuring nugget of hope for me. Aaaaand…WTF to say to that. So, being the completely socially awkward I-wish-this-conversation-never-began-in-the-first-place pal that I am, I said the first dumbass thing to pop in my head.
Yup. I told him that he sounds fine now. In a pathetic attempt to bring the conversation back around even though I should have feigned illness and sprinted to the bathroom right then and there, I offered up another little nugget.
Sadly, I did not sprint to the bathroom and instead shared that Robert was in remedial reading in first grade. How I thought this would further do anything but make me look even more stupid and make my devil-angel wish she had a different human, I have no idea.
At this point, coworker either walked away or space aliens kindly erased my memory because that’s the last part of the conversion I can remember.
Huh. This post ended up going in a bit of a different direction than I’d planned. Should I even try to bring it back around? I vote no. I hope you’re okay with that.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. The sentence is “When I was younger, I…”