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My Indigo Rose

Blue rose, originally uploaded by *Sil.

Blue is the color of love
Faded like a cut flower
Dark is the night of discovery
Dark is the hour
Goodbye lasts for too long
Everyone knows
Goodnight, goodnight
My indigo rose.

David Hamburger

The term “Indigo Child” entered the lexicon about ten years back courtesy of writers and therapists Jan Carroll and Lee Tober, authors of The Indigo Children. The title of the book floated like a blur along the periphery of my memory with the listless weight I assign most self-help/discovery books. It only began to take definite shape when someone recently suggested that my own son fell somewhere on the indigo spectrum.

Once Hollywood wasted no time either in appropriating the term or turning the bestseller into a movie, my disdain for the label started to take on an identity of its own. It often seems that labels and diagnoses of children with “disorders” and “syndromes” all too soon become self-fulfilling prophecies. And worse: They can become a strangling albatross around a child’s neck where none existed before.

A baby who enters the world stage with the featherweight of one pound, seven ounces at 27 weeks gestation is a miracle pure and simple, even without other developmental delays to rally against. My son, who continued to astound and amaze neonatologists and neonatal nurses throughout his stay in the NICU—due to his stalwart refusal to invite Retinopathy of Prematurity, Cerebral Palsy, or any of a host of other dastardly and unwelcome visitors into his isolette—was described by one such professional as “superhuman.” The MD in question was a pediatric ophthalmologist who had never seen a baby of his size not develop the dreaded ROP.

His development continued along more or less uneventfully for the next four years, punctuated by select potholes in the road. These included a long delay in the ability to walk, to register emotion and a certain desirable facial “expression” and tone when being spoken to, and the nagging stumbling stone of a weakly homogeneous and unvaried diet. Despite these ongoing challenges, I was more than ready (as I informed my husband) to dispense with “freak school” upon my son’s third birthday. I was referring cynically and somewhat ungratefully to the parade of visiting nurses, nutritionists and developmental experts who had descended upon our home and child for the last several years. In reality, it would have behooved me to deeply appreciate and respect that I live in a state that provides excellent social services and health insurance for lower middle-income families. Instead of living in resistance and fear of an eventual diagnosis that might not meet with my own arbitrary and judgmental standards of what a child with my genes “should be like,” I might have been a more willing participant in the process. And, in fact, I liked many of these professionals personally and respected the job they were doing. I was simply tired of feeling robbed of the harmonious experience of parenting that exists…well, mainly in fairy tales and New Age parenting magazines. In short, my resistance caused me to suffer and may well have caused my son to suffer too.

When the diagnosis of Asperger’s (a condition on the spectrum of Autism Spectrum Disorders) came down this past December, resistance and shock had finally run their course. My husband shared his concern that our son had Asperger’s before an MD confirmed it. I liken his admission to the fulcrum of pressure build-up; the point at which the faucet spins wildly off the sink and the water comes sluicing out. To face up to this shocking fact in no less a person than my partner—the person who shares responsibility for bringing our small miracle into the world—was grounding as well as tender. How do you deny the truth spoken from the being whose love enfolds your own and that of your child?

The word Asperger (which is only, after all, the name of the doctor who observed and documented a set of  personality traits in certain children) is hardly more than a signpost and one I don’t object to it. What I do object to is the sneaky word yoked to it: “syndrome.” That’s because “syndromes” and “disorders” suggest a certain toxic identity. And that identity is none other than the encrusted judgment locked in the minds of people who can’t tolerate “other” of any kind. For this reason, it is more important than ever that I (and indeed anybody who has a child diagnosed with any kind of “disorder” or “special needs”) continue to hold a sacred space of compassion and non-judgment, both toward these disparaging associations and the people who make them. Because let’s face it: those “people” include me. They include my family. And, if my husband and I are not extremely vigilant, they could eventually and woefully include our son.

For all its Hollywood appeal, the term “indigo child” is respectfully devoid of negative connotations and associations. It refers to children who have entered the world on a different “frequency” and even seems to imply magical overtones. These are children who march to the beat of their own drummers and have the world firmly in the palm of their own, extremely individualistic hands. And in this web excerpt, which is linked to the authors’ page, they are described with a kind of wonder:

The Indigo Child is a boy or girl who displays a new and unusual set of psychological attributes, revealing a pattern of behavior generally undocumented before. This pattern has singularly unique factors that call for parents and teachers to change their treatment and upbringing of these kids to assist them in achieving balance and harmony in their lives, and to help them avoid frustration.

I’m struck that this brief description is studious in its avoidance of labels and platitudes regarding the children who fit these characteristics—it merely observes what is unique in them. While some may indeed have ADD, ADHD and other “Pervasive Personality Disorders,” the focus is on a pattern of special individualism and “unique factors.” Strikingly, the onus is on parents and educators to “assist them in achieving balance and harmony,” rather than to insist that any of these children conform to either a stubbornly rigid and hierarchical school system or traditional methods of discipline. The suggestion is that they have developed personalities out of pure consciousness in order to gently teach a deeply mistrustful world. The hour of the Indigo Child has arrived.

What have they come to teach? I asked myself. Yet even without reading the book, the answer quickly became clear. They’ve come to teach acceptance and non-judgment. They are here to instruct their elders in the “isness” of things. They are here to usher us, not only into a new generation, but a new world order, where labels, syndromes and disorders no longer exist as identities disparate from anything else. They’ve arrived to gently remind the world that we are all one.

Indigo, as songwriter David Hamburger so beautifully observed is “the color of love on a warm flame burning.” Likewise, “the dark night of discovery” morphs into a full color spectrum redolent with a high and beautiful frequency. Indigo blue is the color of a jewel bestowed on humanity in the precious guise of a child.

When I tiptoe into my sleeping son’s room at night I kiss him, tuck him in, and whisper softly in his ear.

Good night, good night my indigo rose.

****

Photo courtesy of Sil under the Creative Commons license.