He Will Never Be – Song & Video
The lady in the aisle at Party City held up the Superman costume and in an intense southern drawl said, “Isn’t this the cutest thang? My little boy is going to love trick-or-treating in this! What is your child going to be?” She had no idea that she was about to get punched. She had no idea that standing next to her was a mom, a Northerner, an ego-centric artist, who was full of so much anger, bitterness and fear, that she was about to punch her square in the face.
That was a few years ago, and I didn’t hit her. In fact, I should find her now and thank her, because from that moment of frustration eventually came insight, healing… and a song.
My son James is eight-years-old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and Autism. I’m slowly getting better at accepting his disability. Slowly. It’s an on going daily process, where I try to remember to let go of my fears, live in the moment, and say my own version of the serenity prayer; Help – Ok – Uncle – Help. But sometimes Superman outfits and Halloween still make me sad.
James hates Halloween. He does not eat candy. He is uncomfortable when he meets new people. And he doesn’t like to dress up. You would think that these issues would be enough to detour me from making him participate in the holiday? But every year, in my attempt to look and be as normal as possible, we wrestle James into a costume; we force him to walk up to strange peoples houses with cobwebs and black cats on the porch, to collect candy, which only I will eat. Then, we find ourselves the end of the night exhausted and crabby and full of commitment to NOT do it again the following year. But like diets, addicts in withdrawal and childbirth, we forget the pain and dive in again. So, every year I walk the aisles at Party City, along side other mothers as they hold up outfits of what there children will ‘be’; a policeman. A fireman. A doctor.
One year I hit the jackpot when I found an orange and black t-shirt that read, “This IS my costume.” Success. I overcame the wardrobe issue, but I was not letting go of the rest of the festivities! “My child will trick-or-treat!” (Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.)
As I pulled the t-shirt over James’ head, the voices in my own head started mouthing off in high gear, “You know, not only will James never want to dress up as Superman, or a doctor or policeman, the truth is, James will never BE any of those things. He’s going to just end up bagging someone’s groceries… or sorting bins at the Goodwill. In fact, your son will never be a anything great.”
I brushed the tears from my cheeks and I sat still in the silence. And God showed up in Her perfect timing and delivered an ah-ha moment. Those rare few seconds where the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, your heart skips a beat; you catch your breath and listen to your gut. And I heard, “You know Lynn, James will not be a lot of things in his life, but the good news is…. James will not be a lot of things in his life! He will never be a pessimist. He will never be prejudice. He will never be full of anger.” It was a beautiful moment of clarity. But… did I mention I’m a slow learner?
The rest of the evening went as expected. Filled with resistance, my tears, James’ frustration, and the devouring of a ridiculous number of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. When the night ended and I lay next to James in bed, my stomach ached and my spirit was exhausted from all the acting, I stared into James’ eyes. He stared back with emptiness like I had never seen. “James, I wish you could tell me what you’re feeling, I want so badly to know who you are, what you like, what you don’t like (as if he hadn’t just tried to tell me all night long what he didn’t like?) and oh how I wish you were more like me.” I could immediately hear God’s full out belly laughter, “Are you %#@*ing kidding me?!!!!!!!! (Of course I don’t believe God would swear, except when She’s talking to me) “Do you really want your son to be like you? Really? Do you want him to be oh, let’s say, a cynic? A critic? Jaded? Full of fear? Angry? And…A chocolate addict?” James reached up to touch my eyelashes, something he does every night right before he falls asleep. I’m sure he felt my tears.
It was a few years later when I found myself in a writing appointment with Tom Douglas, one of the most talented songwriters in Nashville. I told him the story and within an hour and a half Tom had crafted a beautiful song. (I don’t take much credit for writing the song; I just mostly showed up and tried to stay out of Tom’s way so he could do what he does so well!) But I’m grateful that he was able to relay my experiences through a beautiful melody and amazing lyrics. And, I’m grateful to the universe to have put all the pieces together.
I am a firm believer that it is in our complete messes, in our biggest failures and our hardest trials, where we can have our greatest successes and eye-opening moments that lead to the growth of our soul.
Someone asked me what I believed the song would accomplish? I told them that it is just a tool that will hopefully cause people to pause and think twice about what the think when they when see a person with special needs. From my own experience (as the daughter of an alcoholic and a recovering codependent), I know that you can’t change anyone’s actions or opinions until they are ready to change. All you can do is put out messages of hope and inspiration for them to cling to when they need it and are ready to receive.
At the end of each day, I’m so glad my son is not like me. I’m so glad that he is and will be much more than I could ever dream of being. And hopefully, with God’s grace, therapy and enough chocolate, by the time Halloween arrives I might be able to give up the need to look normal and truly celebrate all my son will never be.
“He Will Never Be” is available for download here.
All profits go to special needs organizations. Please share the video and song with your friends and help us change perspectives, one share, one view, one heart at a time.