the opposite of hatred

*

The girls and I are driving to the mall. It’s a rare mid-week outing. God-willing, it will be quick and at least mostly painless.

Out of nowhere Brooke asks,”What’s hatred?”

The question sounds deep, but it’s part of a script. Last year, she sang a song in the second grade chorus that included the word. She’s been asking what it means approximately once a week ever since.

I give her the same answer that I have offered at least fifty-two times before. “Hatred is the opposite of love, baby girl.”

I’ve tried to explain hatred conceptually, but I lost her somewhere in the middle of ‘really, really, reeeeeally don’t like …” She understands opposites. They’re concrete. They make sense to her. They are always the same. And so the answer is – hatred is the opposite of love.

But this time the conversation takes a different turn.

Katie chimes in.

“Hatred is when people forget about love, Brooke. And it’s really sad when that happens. We don’t hate anybody, right Mama?”

I chuckle to myself. Welllllll ….

“Mama?”

So.

Tempting.

Must.

Take.

High road. 

“No, baby, we don’t hate anybody,” I say.

We don’t like everybody either, I think, but I keep it to myself. High road and all. 

“You know what I think the opposite of hate is, Brooke?” Katie asks.

The little voice from the seat behind me says, “Whut?”

I revel in the word. “Whut?” The way she enunciates the “Wh” with a long breath around the “H”. The lilt in that fabulous little voice. And the interaction between my girls – however small it may seem. A question. A response. A CONVERSATION. By God it was – it is – so hard-won.

“I think the opposite of hatred is family. Cause family is love, ya know?”

Brooke has gone somewhere else. She no longer appears to be listening.

“Brooke, do you think so too?”

She doesn’t answer.

“I think we lost her Mama,” Katie says, “but that’s OK. Don’t worry, Brooke, it’s OK.”

She knows. Even though Brooke no longer appears to be listening, Katie knows she’s still taking it all in. She’s always taking it all in. My heart swells and breaks and swells again. 

“Well, YOU know what I mean, right Mama?” she asks. “Don’t you think that family is the opposite of hatred?”

I cock the rear view mirror down – first to the left and then the right. I look at my beautiful girls. Katie’s face is so eager, waiting for an answer. Brooke has begun to softly stim next to her – the familiar high-pitched hum that is such a part of our family’s soundtrack. She is methodically pulling threads out of her leggings. I anticipate yet another seam will have bitten the dust by the time we get home.

“Oh, baby,” I say. “I do. I really do.”

*

Ed note: I am so grateful to WordPress, Autism Speaks and so many others who helped bring yesterday’s post ‘A Ding in the Universe‘ to such a wide audience. I am humbled by the response to it and  grateful that through it so many people outside the autism community were able to gain some insight into the tremendous impact that Steve Jobs had on people with autism.

To those who came back again today to continue to read,

Thank you and Welcome. 

As my dear friend Mom-NOS would say, I welcome you to this, my virtual living room. I think you’ll find it’s a pretty comfortable place. We’re not much for standing on ceremony around here, so kick off your shoes, let the dogs up on the couches and settle in for a while. I’ll get the coffee brewing and we can get to know one another. 

If you’d like to explore, by all means do. You’ve got the run of the place. If you’d prefer the nickel tour, the following links (in blue) might be some good places to start. 

*

If your kid is annoying the crap out of you. Mom, Watch This.

If you have a child with a disability, recently diagnosed or otherwise. Welcome to the Club.

If you are struggling. Avalanche.

If you want to learn more about the autism community. My Trip to the White House and Autism Street.

If you want to know how autism and Sensory Processing Disorder affect a family. No More than a Hiccup and The Donut Shop.

If you want to know why I think disclosure is so important – and why the ‘label’ itself may be the ticket to community for people with autism. The Conversation Revisited.

If you want to know how connections can be made in the unlikeliest of places. Babe.

If you want to understand what autism is. Hairdryer Kid in a Toaster Brain World by Mom-NOS.

If you want to know why my eight year-old is obsessed with a 1970’s movie. Godspell Part One

If you want to know why I really want you to read this: Veteran’s Day.

If you want to know where your money goes when you donate to autism research. What I heard.

If you want to know why perception matters. MIT.

If you want to know why the president needs to light the White House blue in April. This is My Autism.

If you want to know how loving someone with autism changes you. Real.

If you want to know why I’d prefer you not use the R word. That’s Retarded.

If you think autistic people lack empathy. Autistic People Lack Empathy – Except Not.

If you want to get to know some of my favorite adults on the spectrum (not a one of whom lacks empathy, for the record). Look Me in the Eye, Incipient Turvy and Aspie from Maine.

If you want to learn about autism self-advocacy. ASAN

If you want to know how much I love my girls. I See the Moon, Nine Years Ago Tomorrow and All You Need to Know. (Or really any post on the whole dang blog.)

*

Oh geez. I guess the nickel tour turned into a quarter, huh? Sorry about that. It’s just that, well, it’s a pretty big house. So what say I leave you to it? Coffee’s almost up. I’ll grab the cups. In the meantime, I really hope you’ll make yourself at home. 

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15 thoughts on “the opposite of hatred

  1. A family is the opposite of hate. That’s incredible and Katie’s right. Brooke is getting it.

    It was so exciting, too, to see you on the home page of WordPress. …and it is so well-deserved. I’m a very proud Mama on this day and every day!

    Love you,
    Mom

  2. Didn’t know about the WordPress until now – YAY! And I loved today’s post. I think Brooke has been learning about the opposite of hatred every single day from her family – no matter how the conversation got deconstructed. (But I know the conversational exchange is a big deal too!).

  3. Love this. Love you. Welcome to all the new folks that will learn such intimate things, real and honest, with raw emotion and a hardy laugh. Because you do what you do, you say what you say, so well it makes us ALL feel right at home.

    Thanks, Jess.

  4. beautiful. as always. I’m struggling over here the past few days. So much has changed with a new baby and i’m dealing with a healthy dose of mommy guilt right now. thank god family is love…not that i should need to be reminded but yeah…..this helped a little this morning. it will take some time…but we all love each other so much, and cymbie knows how much i love her (i cant tell her enough). my heart has more than enough room for two. it’s the rest of me that needs to adjust.

  5. “such a wide audience”

    you deserve the widest audience you can get. the blog universe has it’s generous side and your writing is it’s gift to all of us. your posts are terrific windows into these issues, so the more people who read them the better.

  6. we had a similar success the other night. my daughter was coloring and my son (with aspergers) came into the dining room. Sadie announced that she was working on a picture and Caleb asked what she was making. unprompted, of his own free will, he asked her a question. started a conversation. listened to her response and responded to that.

    i looked at my husband and said, did you hear that? and we both just grinned. a little victory after a weekend of backsliding, tantrums and feeling out of control.

    you have 2 amazing girls and thank you so much for being willing to share your lives with us. it’s so good to know we’re not alone

  7. I think you have a future Nobel Peace Prize winner in your midst!! Katie really has such insight into the most profound things for her young age!! She never ceases to amaze me!! Neither of them do. I really do so much enjoy your writing!!

  8. You should consider writing a book. I know a couple of families with autistic children so I have a little more understanding. But the way you write, I can visualize your experiences. You also make a lot of sense and remind us all to enjoy and appreciate what we have vice what we don’t.

    Thank you for the experiences and keep up the great job with your family and writing

    God bless.

  9. Just so you know, you are making a ding in the universe too! Love you for sharing and representing this unique universe of ours. :-)

  10. I think your Katie got it just right. It is the amazing the conversations that occur in the car. It reminded me of my Mae Mae in the car with me. Oh, the questions and insight that come in the car. Here is one of my posts about a conversation in the car with my little gal.

    http://www.cheairsgraves.com/2011/02/18/our-life/

    I so agree with Suzanne, “you are making a ding in this universe.’ A most special ding and I thank you!! Your writin and sharing is so powerful. It helps us to know we are not alone on this journey and in this universe.

  11. Your little girl has learned from her own experience that the family is the place for true love. What better lessons could you have taught her in the first ten years of her life. You can also be sure that our “little one” is taking in every word and that is, in major part, what has helped her make such great progress so far. How fortunate your babies are to have you to guide them.

    On another note, they do have to learn about hate, and mean, and “bad people” because that is part of the real world and they must be fore-armed so that they can make effective judgments and protect themselves. The real contrasts in life are helpful for sucess.

    You are such a great Mom in every sense of the word.
    Love you,
    Dad

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