I woke up this morning with a post on my mind, a list of all the things I must embrace because my daughter is autistic.
I embrace the fact that she’s afraid of movies and I won’t be able to watch a movie with her for a very long time if ever. Instead, I embrace watching hours of video game recordings with her and finding her joy in the comforting, steady trajectory of the main character, the steady backgrounds, the small thrills of getting coins and leaping over man eating plants.
I embrace the fact that she won’t walk between the car and the library door anymore, let alone holding my hand on a long walk. I embrace the fact that we need a double stroller and will need one possibly until the baby decides to walk.
I embrace the fact that she doesn’t know when she’s gone poo or pee, or whether or not she has on a diaper. I embrace the fact that we’re not ready for potty training and won’t be for a long time.
I embrace the fact that I am more aware and more knowledgeable of the signs of autism, and that I will be looking for them in the baby every day. I embrace the fact that there are a couple but they don’t necessarily mean anything, that I can’t know and he may or may not be so different than his sister.
I was going to add to this list and end it with the beautiful things I embrace–her precision, her drawing, her explosive and sweet and constant love for her brother who is safe to her and therefore the recipient of all the love she’s too scared to give the world.
But then the baby woke up before I had a chance to even get my old computer to turn on, stop processing updates, and open a web browser. Because I also embrace the fact that we’re broke because I stay home. And I embrace the fact that this baby cannot sleep for more than 10 minutes by himself even when I wake up at 5:30am. And when I knew he would wake up for sure, I wanted to punch a wall, furious about my lack of any time alone, any time not “on the clock” in the sense of ready for the next scream, ready for the next diaper, ready for the next nap which requires both hands and my whole body embracing and bouncing the baby.
I feel like I’m in a psychological experiment where every time I get an idea or a goal, I am interrupted by screams and cries and physical demands. Saying I embrace that fact is just bullshit. Which makes the whole original post bullshit.
I realized quickly that I wasn’t writing this post for myself, or for other mom’s of kids on the spectrum. I was writing this post because I’m about to see an incredibly overbearing family member who doesn’t believe my daughter is on the spectrum and doesn’t like anything we’re doing (staying home, homeschooling, or anything else). That family member will let me know about her disapproval in passive aggressive comments, little critiques and dismissals, little “I just said. . .” that can’t be pinned down. So of course I’ve been having pretend conversations in my head where I argue with her, and this post was one of them. Yet another attempt to prove that my daughter is on the spectrum in order to prove that my struggles are real.
Because I find it incredibly hard to embrace the fact that my experience and choices as a parent, along with my commitment to social justice (because we’re also likely to argue about white privilege and political action for racial justice), make a majority of my family members lose respect for me. And yet I love them anyway, and continue to see them, even when it makes me angry and anxious.
I wish I could be flagrantly counterculture. Part of what attracted me to my husband was the way he didn’t care–dyed his hair, became a goth, listened to ear piercing experimental music, no matter what anyone said. And here I am using all my mental energy trying to prove to someone who will never accept me the truths of my life as I see them. I don’t know how to live on the chasm that opens when I think about letting go of the effort to make my family understand, to make them support our choices and respect our experience and love my children and myself and my husband just the way we are.
I do know that physically and emotionally embracing my children is the right thing. That even if I’m mad at being interrupted as soon as I pick my baby up he is the sunshine in my life. That even if my daughter is too scared to walk herself, holding her against me, arms around my neck and cheek against mine is the right thing. That no matter how much tough love my family prescribes I know I’m doing right by just picking her up and not trying to terrify her into acting normal. I know that I love how much love I get to give my children everyday by staying home, no matter what anyone else thinks.