“In many ways, I feel that Autism has made me a better parent. I have come to appreciate the moments and every success that all 3 of my children make. However, it has made me timid. It has, on occasion, made me so nervous that I’m afraid to step out my door to see what the world has in store for us. There are days that I really miss the Mom I was.”
She and I have a lot in common– we both have five year old twins with autism. I think all the time about how timid autism has made me and how very few times I step out my door WITHOUT pecs, just in case changes of clothing, loveys, and a very healthy sense of trepidation. Today for the first time in years we had a PERFECT (ok, ALMOST perfect) Shabbos lunch at a friend’s home. NEITHER of my children misbehaved (greatly). NEITHER of my children had a sensory meltdown. BOTH children interacted with the host family’s children. My son, who pre-abilify would never give a hug to a stranger went up to both the Mr. and the Mrs. of the family (without us asking) and hugged them! WHAT?!?!? Abilify might just be doing something for him! ok, Tenex is still doing nothing for Wilma, but today she was great!!! So tomorrow when I take the kids out in public, will I be less timid and fearful? Nope. I’m realistic— I know that today was a total fluke.
But I NEVER think about how autism has made me a better parent. So I’m sitting here (with a sinus headache, so it’s not like I can concentrate on work related stuff anyway at the moment) thinking about it. My twins with autism are my first and only children. So I can’t compare my parenting to MY parenting of a neurotypical set of twins.
My friends with neurotypical children take some milestones for granted. For each milestone they don’t have a folder of pecs/social stories/bookmarked websites/loads of posts on online support group websites. I saw a two year old today who, when she needs to go to the bathroom, goes over to the bathroom, undresses herself, sits on the toilet herself, does her business, washes her hands, and comes back out. My five year old son is now newly toilet trained, but I help him every step of the way on the potty, remind him to go potty, etc— he absolutely refuses to dress or undress himself— and wiping? we’re probably a year away from that. Does it make me a BETTER parent that I’ve spent not hours, not days, but YEARS in preparing my son to get just THIS far with toilet training? Not necessarily– our kids get to the same place at different rates. But it makes me a much more STUDIOUS parent. Out of necessity, everything my kids do comes complete with a laminated social story, a chart, loads of late night hours spent on support group websites. And now I blog about it all too.
I reach out for companionship. My friends with neurotypical children are friends with their neighbors, their children’s parents, their general religious community. I am friends with all of the above PLUS an entire online arsenal of cheerleaders: fellow autism moms. Am I a better parent for befriending the women who can help me decode my children’s mysteries? Nope….. but definitely more introspective. I think most parents don’t think, when they make a friend…. “how can this woman advise me vis a vis my daughter’s IEP?” “how can this online website help me learn the tricks to get my son to take off his own sweater?”.
So I’m a more studious and more introspective parent than I would be if I weren’t blessed with children with autism. And much more timid too. And that’s why my friends with neurotypical kids will all be at Chuckee Cheese tomorrow, but we won’t be there.
Our little update: Fred is now on abilify and Wilma is now on tenex. Abilify is calming his desperate questioning “may I calm down? May I bite? May I hit? May I stomp my feet?” AND is making him more gentle and cuddly. It hasn’t stopped the biting, but I’m starting to see some differences I like. Wilma’s tenex is doing diddley squat. If she’s going to go into full blown crazy mode, this med isn’t stopping it either. The psychiatrist wants me to give it more of a shot but I think I’m going to ask for risperdal at the next visit.