I haven’t written on this blog in a while because I try not to go there. But lately I’ve been stuck there, so I might as well try and explore what there is for me lately. Maybe it’ll help shake me out of my malaise. Maybe.
So here’s a list I expect to add to as time goes by….
The Top Five List of Benefits to Having an Autistic Son
1. Being able to swear in front of your child longer than other parents. It is only the realization that my neurotypical (oh hell – NORMAL) 21 month old daughter is starting to scream “GO” at the stopped cars in front of me, when we’re sitting in traffic, that I realize that it is about time that I stopped dropping the F Bomb in front of my children. Yes, I’ve been a parent for almost four years. : )
2. Not having to wonder how I’ll address the toy gun issue. Pre-parenthood and Pre-Diagnosis, I wondered how I would explain to my son and husband what I would not be buying any toy guns, since I didn’t think violence equated to a good, imaginative time. But since my son doesn’t play with anything (and I mean absolutely ANYTHING), there are no requests for any toys in particular, let alone violent TV shows or video games. Hallelujah. Nobody has to hear my liberal feminist ranting and everybody is better off for it.
3. Not having to feel obligated to contribute money to charity. Thanks to the ridiculous therapy bills and insurance coverage in this country, we have no spare income for anything other than pizza once a week and a few new items of clothing every so often. I feel a burden lifted from my shoulders when it comes to owing my change to the guy on the street corner or a dollar to Jerry’s Kids at the grocery store. This is honestly a pleasant discovery, as I used to constantly wring my hands over who deserved more of my middle-class-aware-of-my-privileges-and-must-pay-it-back money.
4. Actually realizing what it is like to walk in the shoes of people and parents that I never thought much about before. Pre-diagnosis, I could walk by disabled people or try to politely ignore families who were struggling with a “different” child and I would feel a fleeting sense of sympathy and an even more ephemeral sense of gratitude that I had escaped those troubles in my own life. Now, with only a taste of what true struggle must be (i.e. parents of children with severe health/mobility/emotional problems), I want to give each of them a hug and an apology for not spending enough time thinking about them. I’m pretty sure they don’t want my sympathy. But I’m certain that they (like I) would truly appreciate it if everybody could just remember that they/we are out there, struggling.
5. Facing the daily burden of taking a long hard look at myself and trying to self-correct. When life was easy and my young son had a whole normal future ahead of him, I might have patted myself on the back for being a good mom and wife and law-abiding citizen during a 15 minute shower in the morning once a week. I might have had a conversation with myself following a minor argument with my husband about how I should probably nag him less or let him go have a drink with the boys a bit more often. But I now perform a rigorous daily examination of what kind of mother I am, what kind of mother I need to be, how I choose to act towards my son, what my attitude towards our future should be, how I should define success, goals, satisfaction, and most importantly what I should and should not expect and demand from my autistic son. This is a painful exercise, but I’d like to think that it is shaping me into a better human who has been forced to actively define things in life that only gradually take shape for many people.
And because every post is better with an image, here’s one of my son sleeping, the time of day when it’s easiest to love him, and also when I tend to judge myself the most harshly.