A Normal Man

Sometimes, as a mom blogger, I get the feeling that my kids somehow tap into the wavelength of a post I’ve written – before I even post it. And then they come to me and totally disprove whatever I’ve written about them.

For instance, the night that I wrote “Polite Conversation,” about Nigel using lengthy delayed echolalia at the dinner table one evening, he came into my office – minutes before I posted it – and began what was undoubtedly the most incredible conversation I’ve ever had with him.  I honestly didn’t realize that he was capable of a serious back-and-forth discussion regarding intangible ideas for over half an hour. And he revealed so much more about himself during the course of it.

He started off by running into my office, eyes wide. “Mom! Have you heard of something called ‘home births’? Because I think I want to have my children that way and I wanted to see what you thought of it.”

Definitely didn’t see that coming. “Yes, I’ve heard of them. But I think that you should talk to your wife about it first. And I don’t think you need to worry about that for a long time.”

“You mean when I’m 18?”

(!) “No, I think that’s a bit early. You need to have a good job and a home for your family before you start thinking about having children.”


“I think that’s a bit early also.”

“Well, I need to be prepared.” That’s six years of Scouting talking.

Then he sat down on a chair that’s across from my desk, and the topic changed to dating. He mentioned, quite wisely, that he needed to have a girlfriend before he could have a wife, and that there didn’t seem to be any girls at the high school who really understood him. He said that some of them were nice to him, but he was worried that they might not be sincere. “What if they ask me out on a date, but they’re just trying to trick me? How will I know the difference?”

My heart ached to hear him say it. He already knows that he is vulnerable to this. I told him that one thing that will help is to be friends with a girl before dating. And then, I pulled out my new copy of The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism by Temple Grandin and Sean Barron. It had just arrived from Amazon mere days before, and I had been waiting for the perfect opportunity to tell Nigel about it. I couldn’t have planned this better if I tried.

He seemed interested. I asked him if he wanted to read it himself or if he wanted us to read it together, and he opted to read it on his own. I was thrilled by his positive response! Somehow I had tapped into what he needed – before he even asked. But of course, we autism parents do that all the time, especially when our kids can’t ask.  

We talked some more. We conversed. He made eye contact, he posed ideas and waited for my response, and then he responded to my ideas. Sometimes he added even more to his response. His voice inflection was perfectly appropriate, he tried new words and asked me if he used them correctly, he was fully engaged. My heart was bursting with joy, because for many years I didn’t know if such conversations could ever take place.

Then at one point he leaned forward in his chair and said, “I think I’m different from other autistics because I want to be a normal man and have a wife and family.”

I tried not to let my face show too much emotion, but lately my son has been causing me to tear up a lot. “Oh, honey. Yes, your autism makes you different and makes some things more difficult to achieve, but don’t ever think that you can’t be a normal man if you don’t have a wife and family. Whatever you do with your life, you will always be a normal man. In fact, better than normal.” I got up, walked over to him, and gave him a hug, which he stiffly accepted (the usual for him).  

He left then, book in hand, and I couldn’t help but cry. I always think about my son’s future and how different things will be for him. But what I hadn’t thought about is the now unmistakable fact that he is also thinking about his future, his adulthood. And then I remembered something that I had forgotten to tell him. Something I wanted to make sure he knew. I dried my eyes and walked to his room.

“Nigel, I just wanted to tell you that when you’re an adult, I’ll still be here to help you, to talk with you. I’ll always be there for you.”

He paused a moment, taking that in. Then he said, “Good, because I don’t know how to get grants for college.”

Oh, honey. I got you covered.                                                                                

27 thoughts on “A Normal Man

  1. Tera

    amazing! i am totally blown away that he has so much insight. When Kaeden speaks of his future I am never prepared…probably because I have no clue what is in store for him myself. I don’t know where you get your skills from, but you are awesome! Also, does the stiff hug thing still bother you, or have you come to accept it? Every time I get a stiff hug, it *still* stabs my heart with a knife, even tho I always know its coming, and have accepted that that’s just how it is.

  2. Carrie

    “I get the feeling that my kids somehow tap into the wavelength of a post I’ve written – before I even post it.” Mine, too.

    Ditto Jess.

  3. Meg

    Oh Tanya, what an incredible conversation! Nigel will be better than a normal man, he will be (and already is) an amazing man.

  4. Kim

    As so many times before, my eyes are filled with tears at the end of one of your posts, and my insides ache with strain to contain my hope. For you, for Nigel, for Rocco, for me, for all of us Mommies (and Daddies) hoping for our kids futures.

    Wonderful post. What an amazing kid. His “normal man” comment gave me the biggest lump in my throat.

  5. Paulene Angela

    I’m reading a real young man here.

    It’s so wonderful that Nigel can express his concerns and visions with you, even though it tugs your heart, of course, but that’s because you’re a super mum with mountains of love for your boys.

  6. Carrie N



    This is such an awesome interchange. I love his questions, thoughts, and goals!!

    “Well, I need to be prepared.” !! He’s planning for marriage already!?!

    Grayson is seven…

  7. M

    oy, miles and miles of difficult terrain there. and nigel, with that refusal to avoid the difficult topics, that intense honestly, he’s definitely strong enough to handle all of it. painful stuff to anticpate, work through, but he’s communicating his needs, desires, which will make it all completely manageable. in an ounce of his honesty, most of us would drown. beautiful stuff.

  8. pixiemama

    Tanya – I’m so selfishly hoping Nigel will be able to mentor Foster someday. Foster wants to have lots of kids and name them all Foster, “because Fosters are special!”

    Indeed, Fosters, Nigels, Ms, Graysons, Kendalls, Rojos, Roccos, Charlottes, Rockys, Taz’s, Noahs, Roosters, Joys, Spencers, Charlies, Rhemas …

    And all their sisters and brothers …

    And all their moms and dads…

    a very special bunch indeed.


  9. Maddy

    Delightful, although my youngest decided that he couldn’t wait any longer. He used weeks and weeks of pocket money to buy his own son, kinda skip the wifey /partner type. It’s a vile two foot lion cub which has 5[?] noises / growls / purrs, which he believes is more than adequate.

  10. Tanya Savko Post author

    Okay, everybody, now your comments are making me cry! Thank you for your kind and beautiful words.

    Tera – the stiff hug thing used to bother me a little, but now I don’t even think about it. I’ve often said that hugging Nigel is like hugging a surfboard!

    Pixie – I would love for Nigel to be Foster’s mentor someday! Honored! Nigel wants to name his four children after the kids in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy. 🙂

  11. Cheryl

    Wow – amazing conversation, and it sounds like it was perfect timing! Nigel is indeed growing up to be a man right before our eyes…can’t believe how quickly it’s happening, and so exciting to watch! Sniff-sniff!

  12. Michelle S

    WOW WOW WOW. That is so amazing. If that could happen with Daniel someday I can’t imagine how my heart would soar, bc it is now and I don’t really even know the two of you! Congrats to both of you. That is huge.

  13. Nicki

    I love how Nigel thinks! I hope he enjoys the book! You’re right that he’ll be a great man whether he gets married and has a family or not… but I hope, if he really does want a wie and kids, he finds a wonderful, kind, understanding woman that will remind him of his mother! 🙂

  14. Cinda

    This was wonderful! I am so impressed by him (and you and your family of course!). I will be in touch when I write my blog on self-advocacy and transition. Nigel is an inspiration!

  15. Crystal

    Awesome post. You’re in a much different phase than me, but I enjoy reading about people with older children. One day, I too, will have the same worries!

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  17. Melody

    I cried this week when my son Shamus said to me “mom, I had a dream that I got married and was walking on the beach with my wife.” Shamus has been having a lot of dreams lately about love and dating. He’s been telling me about them, sometimes I just ask him, “what did you dream last night Shamus?”. He will just say it all in one sentence then stop. It’s lately all about having a girlfriend and marriage someday. I never thought he would say these things to me. It’s SO much emotion hidden inside…something coming out that is so new for me to see in my son. It’s really hard to hold back the tears. That lump in my throat stays for a while. I’m so happy that I’m not alone on this journey. I’m so blessed to have you writing and telling Tanya…your blog website etc is such an answer to my prayers. Thank you again for sharing such deep sweet things. I really wish you and your kids lived next door!

  18. Tanya Savko Post author

    Melody, I’m so glad this resonated with you. Thanks for sharing your experience with Shamus – he sounds like such a beautiful soul. And I appreciate your kind words about my writing – it’s so affirming to connect with other parents who go through what we do. I wish we lived closer too!

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