This week, I discovered something my older son -- who has a fairly substantial list of issues that complicate his life -- is really good at: he can poke fun at his own quirkiness.
As an 11-year-old boy with serious attention deficit disorder and mild autism, Tommy often has trouble doing what he's supposed to do. He'll go upstairs to put on a pair of socks and come down with a different shirt on instead, often on inside out and/or backwards to boot. He'll inexplicably pick up his school backpack on the way out the door to basketball practice. Once I asked him to put a letter in the mailbox and he put it in his baseball bag instead.
So when multiple (luckily cheap) sweat jackets disappeared from our house, I was pretty sure that Tommy had absentmindedly left them in various spots at his middle school. He checked the lost and found in the cafeteria and didn't find them. Then yesterday, after we watched a basketball game, I asked him to go to his physical education locker and get the shorts and shirt he wears for gym class so I could wash them.
Tommy emerged from the locker room looking sheepish and struggling with a large load of clothing (although not the gym clothes he'd gone in for). And there they were: sweat jackets one, two, three and four. Sweat jacket five was, lo and behold, in the cafeteria lost and found.
As we walked out to our car, I couldn't stop giggling at the sight of Tommy's locker room exit. Instead of taking offense, he laughed along with me.
"Jeez Mommy," he said. "I'm crazy."
Yes he is. But he's also very comfortable with himself. He allows himself to make mistakes and doesn't take himself too seriously. It is a great gift, and one that his younger, generally more together brother doesn't have in the same quantity. Neither, for that matter, do I or my husband.
We try to show the kids how to move on from embarrassing but relatively trivial mistakes -- what they call "epic fails" -- by taking them as lightly as possible. After all, it's hard to tease people who are already laughing at themselves.
Nobody's perfect, we tell our boys time and time again, even as we (mostly I, I must admit) beat ourselves up when we mess up. Meanwhile, Tommy has already figured out that epic fails are part of life. What an epic success.