Unschooling has been a process of uncovering layers and layers of myself. As is parenthood, but unschooling pushes us deeper, we are with ourselves and our reflections–our children, our motivations, our triggers–all. the. time.
And no wonder there are so many cover ups and walls and shields in myself. I cannot imagine what my daughter would have to do to make it through more authoritarian parenting or school. How much she’d have to rely on rules and routines and the teacher to get her safely through the storm. How much she’d have to repress the stories she wants to tell in order to make it through the bombardment of demands and kids. What variety of stimming she’d have to come up with in order to cope with the sounds and smells and input and transitions.
As I’ve dug more and more into the writing of autistic adults, particularly parents, I keep seeing myself. I doubt I would be diagnosed, since the diagnosis process doesn’t work well for girls and really doesn’t work well for adults, and particularly since I’ve been “successful” at life in most senses. But there are many parts of myself that I’ve been trying to force to change for 30 years, and I’m realizing that maybe I can’t change them or don’t have to.
And mostly, reading the words of autistic adults makes the pain real. The pain of being in a grocery store after a long day, the pain of talking to too many people. Reading the words of autistic adults shows me I’m not the only one experiencing this pain, I’m not being crazy or making it up. That the burnout that happens to me as an adult corresponds with many of my actions and retreats and coping mechanisms in childhood.
This has also helped me better understand my relationship to politics. Why it hurts to think about going to a protest, even though sometimes it can be invigorating. Why I try to make myself volunteer or organize and succeed in participating for about 2 weeks, then just cannot do it anymore. Why I can picture exactly what to say in order to lobby for things I care about, but feel that even calling a representative’s office is like stepping into a tornado.
The question is, now what? I want my daughter for find passions and a lifestyle she feels good about, not guilty about. What does that mean for me? And what can I do that doesn’t terrify me personally, but still be a political activist resisting racism, fascism, sexism, and violence in our world today?