Jonathan learns to lie, cheat and deceive

It is hard to know where to begin, writing about our never ordinary life. I won’t be working through our lives in chronological order, but rather will jump around at whim.

Let me tell you about one of my favourite episodes.

The week when Jonathan learned to lie, cheat and deceive.

Jonathan is extremely honest. I really like that about him, as I always know where I stand with him. Once there was a lady at church who sang loudly and enthusiastically, but with little regard for the tune as it appeared in the hymnbook. It did encourage the rest of the congregation to sing a bit louder in self-defence, but I think it caused my poor children pain. Once we were sitting waiting for church to begin, and Jonathan heard this woman talking behind us. He turned around and announced to her, “You shouldn’t sing, it’s too hard for you.” Fortunately the woman in question was also a little deaf and Jonathan can be difficult to understand, so she was spared his helpful suggestion. I shushed him up and changed the subject.

This directness is refreshing, and he has now learned to temper it with tact. There is another woman from church, visiting from America. She is about ten years older than I, and an accomplished pianist and music teacher. She adores Jonathan, and it is mutual. One day I said to him – “I think you like Sister S more than you like me! Who do you like better – Sister S or me?” I was delighted that he was forming attachments to people. His response was wonderful – “I don’t want to say because it might hurt your feelings.” Very sweet. Point to Jonathan.

However when he was younger I worried that this total lack of guile made him vulnerable to dishonesty in others.  (William insists to this day that Jonathan had a bit more guile than we thought!)

My fears were allayed in a single week when Jonathan was eleven. His teacher reported to us at an IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting that she had caught Jonathan cheating on a spelling test. His book was in his bag, and he was reaching into the bag which was hanging on his chair, and reading the braille words with his fingers. He blushed when she asked him what he was doing. He knew he was cheating.

It was at this same meeting that Jonathan appeared at the door looking very pleased with himself. He had told the substitute teacher that he was supposed to come down then. He explained to us that Daddy could take him home now so he could watch Open Sesame. I introduced him to the other people at the meeting, then told him he could stay there and say nothing, or he could go back to the classroom. He would have to tell the teacher that he had been mistaken and come back at the end of school, when his father would take him home. Jonathan took his bag and his cane and went back to the classroom.

The following day Mark and I had planned to spend the night at a hotel to celebrate our wedding anniversary. William and our home-stay daughter would stay with my mother, and Jonathan was going to his fortnightly Caregiver. At about 2pm I checked my voicemail at work and found a message from the school nurse saying that Jonathan was in the sick bay and looked as if her were going to vomit any minute. “Noooo!” I cried to the room, as I saw our night away evaporating.

I rang the school and found that Mark was already on his way there. But I found I couldn’t concentrate on my work and decided to go home to see if I could help Mark. He’s not good with vomit. All the way there I was trying to think what I should do about our night out.

Halfway home I met Mark coming the other way in the other car. We stopped and swapped cars. Jonathan was in the back, looking pretty normal really – perky even. Mark told me that Jonathan’s first comment had been to ask if Mark had his “going away” bag. I started to feel relieved. I drove off with Jonathan and asked him how he was feeling. “Oh”, he said casually, “I was just pretending to be sick.”

I was so relieved I laughed out loud and couldn’t be bothered working out the most suitable response. He had learned to lie, but his follow-through clearly needed work. The little toad just wanted his weekend to start a little early. I did make him apologise to the teacher and the nurse on Monday, and Mark and I did have a nice little break.

One of my very favourite movies is “Galaxy Quest”. In it there is a race of aliens, Teurmians, who are completely honest and do not understand deception. They have been watching old television programmes from earth and call them “historic documents”. (The programmes include “Gilligans Island” – “Those poooor people!”) The Thurmians are totally vulnerable to the dishonesty of Sarris, the leader of another race who is trying to conquer them. Knowing this movie so well, I was pleased that Jonathan did have a little deceptive streak.

Never Ordinary

As a child I liked to be different. Ordinary was dull. I was really happy to come from a family of multiple surnames, when that was far from the norm. (My mother was quick to tell people she had been widowed, rather than divorced). I could say I had four grandmothers, through the various permutations. In my eyes it stopped me from being ordinary.

In 1989 I gave birth to Jonathan. It was a challenging delivery but at the end we were so happy he seemed fine. In some ways he really was. But he sure as heck wasn’t ordinary. And if our family was ever ordinary (which I doubt), it stopped being ordinary that day.

In our family we use the word “ordinary” for people who don’t have special needs. We prefer it to “normal”. Sometimes we have wished that our life were a little more ordinary,when the challenges of raising our children became overwhelming. But it isn’t.

This blog is about our life with Jonathan. I could call it “living with an alien”, which is what Jonathan’s grandfather suggested it was like. Or I could refer to Jonathan’s autism, blindness and prodigious musical talent on the piano, and call it “Savant life”. But I like “Never Ordinary” because of the positive spin it puts on things. “Never Ordinary” is good.