Yesterday when I went to pick up Janey at after-school, she was out in the courtyard. I went out to call her in, and saw something that will stay in my mind forever, I think. She was playing ball with a group of kids. They were throwing basketballs and chasing after them---a kind of modified soccer. Nothing formal, the kid of recess game kids play. And Janey was playing with them, completely with them. They weren't "including" her, she was completely like all of them. She ran when they ran, laughed in a non-manic, non-autistic way, was red in the face from the running, happy and coordinated and PART OF THE GROUP. I stood there like in a trance. It was like I had somehow entered a parallel universe, the "normal" Janey universe. She was graceful and athletic---much more so than either of her brothers would have been in a similar situation. She was just another little girl playing.
And then of course the over-thinking took over. I questioned myself as to why I was so overwhelmed and happy with what I saw. I felt guilty---do I wish the other Janey, the real Janey, away? Do I just give lip service to celebrating her uniqueness---do I really just want her to be normal? And of course, a little, I do. Autism is hard. It's hard for us, it's hard for her. But I think there was something else there.
I thought about my proudest moments with the boys. They are moments when they did something I could never do---when they showed me who they were. With William, it was seeing him play guitar and sing on stage. With Freddy, it was seeing him act. They are the moments when you realize they are amazing people in their own right, not because you made them that way. And that was what this moment with Janey was like. I couldn't be part of a sports moment like that. No way on earth. The boys couldn't either. I've never seen either of them at ease playing sports. It's not them. But it's Janey. We've always realized she got the gift of being athletic that shows up very rarely and randomly in both our families, like red hair showing up from some long ago ancestor. It's completely apart from her autism. And that was the gift of what I saw. I saw a Janey that wasn't labeled, a Janey that wasn't a special ed student, or a medical mystery, or a case. It was just Janey, doing something she was good at. And I'll never forget it.