I belong to a couple of general parenting groups on the ol’ interwebs and I am increasingly struggling with how to relate to them.
In a lot of regards, J is just a kid. He has a lot of the aspects of a typical 3-year-old and I do try to maintain a childhood for him that is not that unlike his peers, be they neurotypical or not. But playtime is where similarities seem to end. Heck, playtime isn’t even all that similar sometimes. It’s like there is a constant reminder that our life is different and I more so than he have a hard time relating to the world around me.
Part of it seems to be that when I watch other children his age, the differences are starting to be stark. The way they chatter, the interactions they have, etc. are all so contrasting to what J has. This is when the doubt creeps in. You question yourself and your parenting when in fact you already know the truth of the matter: Your child just operates differently. It’s not a dark mark against either of you, it’s just how it is.
The human mind is a devil though and loves to grind down on raw emotions to make you doubt yourself doesn’t it.
I don’t know how to reach out to other parents with advice or commiseration. In the back of my head as I type or say something all I can feel is that “well, how can my experience apply because my child is special needs and theirs isn’t.” Crap way to think, right? Autism does not invalidate our experiences nor does it invalidate theirs. I’m scared of saying “oh, my boy did that too!” because I do not want to make another mother or father feel like they might be headed down our road when in fact we’re just talking about typical kid things, like fighting sleep or throwing food as young children (and grown children, let’s be honest) do.
It’s like I have to try to stand in two worlds, a world that is heavily entrenched in learning about and working with autism and another world where it doesn’t really exist, everyone is just exactly or close to exactly on a more typical track. The balance feels painful, for if I veer too far one way I definitely feel I am being untrue to my boy and yet, I feel cocooned staying too deeply entrenched in the world of special needs parenting.
What a weird mental place, right?
But this is where I am some days, this morning having been another mild encounter with it. When I think about if I would change anything though, I can’t say I would. It’s like when people ask if I would change my past… Why’d I throw away what I have now on a would have, should have, could have? This is the cost of doing business so to speak, and it is part of having J in my life. Since I would change him for nothing, even on the days I threaten to sell him to the first person with a nickel and a bag to put him in, then I guess I shouldn’t really be too hung up on the little stuff like this.
I’ll still get hung up, because that’s how I operate, but the effort is there to try not to. I imagine there’s a few people out there who will have snarky commentary for me about that but eh. People like that need to look at themselves, first, instead of trying to change everyone around them to conform to their desires.