Type A Achievers Meet the Speed of Autism OR The Tortoise and the Hare?

Remember those early days of the Corona shutdowns, back in March?  Now many things are reopening, and it is almost hard to remember what we were experiencing back then.  Many of my friends had written about how the “shelter-in-place” rules had provided a welcome and most unexpected opportunity to have their adult children at home for an extended period of time.  Others bemoaned that their kids specifically chose NOT to come home, trying to be responsible, afraid that as millennials they were potential COVID carriers and might unknowingly affect their parents aged 60 and older.  Each family chose what worked best for them.  Our adult son with autism lives with us anyways, and since his university was closed, he is now living and learning and working all from his room.  Our adult daughter has a theater job where everyone was asked to work from home, so she chose to come home to us and work from here initially.  It has been years since we have all been under one roof for such a long period of time, and never under these conditions of course!

Our daughter is an organizer by nature, and immediately got busy organizing game nights.  No one had anywhere to go, and in those early days all of our work and deadlines were accompanied by huge question marks.  We hadn’t done game nights in years.  In fact, because our son’s learning disabilities make college work incredibly time-consuming, we probably haven’t played a game in at least the 6 years that he’s been in college.  And, because his work is also so all-consuming mentally, he didn’t remember any of the rules of some of the games we used to play.  No worries, now was the time to take a breath and review some of the life skills that he used to know how to do but has forgotten.  Not that playing a card game is a life skill, but it was reflective of the many things that have disappeared from his daily routines that we could now review.

So we retaught him the rules to Spit, also known as Slam, Speed, or Double Solitaire.  Everyone know that one?  You can google it if not, it’s a fun game.  But it totally favors people who think fast and move fast.  In other words, the type A personalities of the modern world.  The go-getters, the self-starters, the movers and the shakers, the leader types.  Our son does not move fast.  The other three of us do.  Seems therefore like a very unfair game.  But something interesting happened.

Each time we played, the three of us raced through the game, slamming cards down in their appropriate places as fast as we were physically able to.  Our son moved slowly, a little bothered by the fact that he couldn’t move as fast as the rest of us, but mostly just focused on his cards and getting his cards into the right piles.  And then, in every game, we reached a point where the three of us fast-movers were stuck.  We couldn’t move anymore cards anywhere, and we had to sit there, waiting for him to get through his cards.  But now he wasn’t racing against us, because we couldn’t do anything, so he could go at the pace that suited him, take his time, think quietly and comfortably about his cards and where to put them.  And the rest of us just sat there.  Four out of five games, he won.  All of our breathless racing was pointless.

I loved it!  What a silly, but significant, reflection of how the “meek” shall inherit the earth, (though my son is anything but meek.) As we sat there playing these silly card games, Corona had brought the world’s economies to a standstill, with all the wealthy powerful (arrogant?) nations in the exact same boat as less prosperous parts of the world.  Running faster wouldn’t make Corona go away, but stopping and staying put, inside one’s houses, might just work.  What a change of pace, literally.

I’m not sure that I will begin to play this card game any differently than I ever have, but those game evenings in the early days of Corona definitely made me question all the running I do in the rest of my life…and shown my son that being that slow and steady tortoise is not something to be ashamed of, despite his family members’ hare-like habits.

There are many different interpretations of the old Aesop’s tale about the race between the tortoise and the hare.  Some recent versions that I have come across in my lifelong love and research of folk tales has the tortoise as a cheater, setting things up like an illusionist, getting all of his relatives to wait at different intervals along the race track, tricking the hare into thinking that the tortoise is always in front of him, when really it is many different tortoises working together as con artists.  In this version, the poor hare is the victim, just running along, following the rules, unwittingly being tricked into thinking that he has lost the race to the cheating tortoise. 

That’s not the interpretation I grew up with, or that I use.  I wonder about this latest interpretation, clearly favoring the hard-running loud, braggart hare.  What does that say about the values of modern society?  About who is worthy of respect and who is not? I have always seen the story as a race between an arrogant, fast talking, fast moving hare, boasting about how great he is, and a slower, but more organized and efficient tortoise, who has lived a long and wise life, who knows that he doesn’t have to be the flashiest or the quickest thing on the block in order to make it across the finish line.  The hare, in his hubris, has no respect for the tortoise.  He is youthfully derisive of the much older tortoise and is so sure that he can win the race without even trying that he doesn’t bother to prepare for it and takes naps all along the race route.  

I loved watching my son win those card games.

No song this time.  I am working on one that starts, “I guess I’m more a tortoise than a hare…”

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