Who is my son?

Ana Goiricelaya

President of  TEAdir-Euskadi

It is complicated for me, as a mother, to tell you who my son is, fifteen minutes are not enough

Inas arrived late in the summer of nineteen ninetysix, on Saint Bartholomew’s day, like his great-grandfather one hundred years earlier. One of his many peculiarities. He was the first grandson for my mother, that’s why he was welcomed as a king by grandmothers, great-grandmothers (there were three of them), aunts, cousins and a special nanny. And without realising it, between naps and nappies, the three of us graduated as a family.

From the start he showed us he was a very alert child and very special, with a great sensibility. He was always smiling and he loved eating and trying new flavours although he never ate the same thing twice in a row. Texture was important to him and he didn’t enjoy mashed food.

With these quirky details he grew and little by little started to discover the world. As a child he really enjoyed music, he started dancing with the first music notes so during his first Christmas one of his great passions became a reality: the drums

It was curious that he got such enjoyment from the drums when he found loud sounds like voices, fireworks, cars etc. uncomfortable and tried to avoid them. Even singing ‘Happy birthday’ was unwelcomed (maybe because we sang so badly…) At the same time as this peculiarity developed, another harder to deal with manifested itself: his unwillingness to wear clothes. He refused to wear any kind of clothes except for some old cotton pyjamas. The moment you turned your back he would take his clothes off and that’s why he celebrated his third birthday surrounded by family stark naked. Thank God he was born in the summer!!!

He also showed great interest in unusual places and we were very surprised for his persistence in climbing inside boxes: wood, cardboard, plastic… it didn’t matter. He even wanted to climb inside the washer-dryer.

I started to ask myself what was he looking for in those places but perhaps the right question was what did he find in those places.

He played in a very special way and sometimes his best toys were the most unexpected: a train made from shoe boxes and rope, clothes, video boxes…we thought it was a curious way of playing but, to be fair, you play with what you want, or what you can.

About that time he started to dress as fiction characters, they weren’t dress-up clothes, they were ‘real’ clothes, so sometimes he was Elmer Fudd, others Asterix the Gaul, Obelix or Donald duck. He used their words, expressions and even full sentences; he adopted their speech as his own.

He related to the character to such a degree that for a time he kept asking if he was a real child. Please!!! Of course he was a real child, he was MY child, and I was the blue fairy who gave him life. Every night I would ask him who he was and with a big smile and tongue tied he would answer: “Itayo, amatxu’s boyyyyyy” (He called himself Itayo as he couldn’t yet pronounce Ignacio; amatxu means mummy)

He was also obsessed as a child with covering his head, a trait still ongoing although he has replaced hats and caps with a thick halo of wonderful curly hair.

Like every other child he enjoyed playing video games with his mum and watching films, a passion probably acquired from his father. With all this, when he was able to hold a pencil he started to draw his own stories, creating his own characters.

He had an unbound curiosity and was not satisfied with an evasive answer, he needed to know everything. This curiosity led him to learn to read very early on and it opened a new world full of knowledge. He didn’t need to ask us questions any more as books could tell him everything. Thus his interests deepened and started his own self-directed learning stage on subjects as diverse as dinosaurs, galaxies, the second world war or European medieval history.

And at the same time he played with his brother, his greatest companion and ally who followed him in happy times and accompanied him in silent ones. Without questions, accepting him and his reality, day by day, enjoying the moment. And who also suffered on behalf of his brother as he was, in his own words, the youngest son and the older brother.

He kept growing up and these peculiarities become increasingly more complicated to deal with socially. The constant criticism towards our parenting style and the rejection to his attitude for being different to others made us question our worth as parents and, with the anguish from killing our desire to discover the world through our child’s eyes, we succumbed to social pressure and stopped accompanying him to try and force him to be something or someone he could never be. And that way he enclosed himself in his own world and left us out of it. He rejected us from his life and his world in an aggressive manner, even his brother who had always been his ally. He didn’t talk to us any longer, and he never smiled.

He became a ghost, a living dead full of anguish and desperation travelling in a parallel world to ours.

For a while nothing made any sense and our family was drowning until we were rescued in the form of a different form of therapy which allowed us to recover our self-worth as parents, able to accompany our son in his journey, with our strengths and weaknesses, discovering day by day a new way to deal with any challenges. And step by step, little by little, Inas came back, he started building the fragile bridge that connects his world with ours, he returned with his quirkiness, with his smile, he was back the same as before.

He manifested his strength of character by not letting himself be bent to breaking point but, at the same time, showed us his tremendous vulnerability. He also showed us his great capacity for hard work in surpassing his difficulties to be with us and how important is to have his own space and time. Because if anything is important to Inas is time, HIS time, which sometimes makes us run after him to catch up and others really slow down so we can walk by his side, because walking ahead has never been a good idea. At last everything, absolutely everything makes sense and we have recovered our son, happy, intelligent, polite and with a passion for truth and justice.

He has converted his peculiarities into a way of living, he now plays bigger drums and works hard every day to follow his dream of becoming a film director.

And you are asking who is my son? I really need more time to tell you who he is. Because Asperger’s Syndrome doesn’t define him, it only gives him a label. And he isn’t a jam jar.

Translation Sol Indurain.