Hindsight burns my eyes. My post, yesterday, about the feelings of being pulled down when Evie was teeny tiny resulted in me rereading my earliest posts.
Each time I do that, I cringe. And fight the temptation to edit–to revise my history. Some of the stuff I wrote is damn embarrassing.
Like the one where I preach person first language.
Or the one where I laugh at my husband for labeling Evie as “high functioning” and proceed to “accept” inevitable incompetence.
Or where I talk about Evie living in her own world. There are actually lots of those, I think.
Anyhow, you get the picture. My thinking has evolved quite a bit.
I know that it continues to evolve and that I will probably always want to edit my evolution. That this very post will very likely mortify me in some way if I read it three years from now.
It feels like I have always felt the exact way that I do today. About everything.
The old posts serve as a reminder that I didn’t. And that there was a definite turning point–when Autistic adults reached out to me. You can see that turning point and the first overtures that my Autistic friends made to me in the comments here. You can see where Cynthia reassures me that Evie might not be lonely as I had indicated thinking in that post–but content to be alone.
What you don’t see, is the private conversations I had with people like Sparrow and Alyssa. People who gently and lovingly taught me about things like the problems with person first language.
Sometimes, I’m too hard on people. I don’t remember what it was like to not have a community of Autistic adults supporting me. I forget that almost everything works against parental understanding and acceptance of Autism.
Sure, some people need a hard hitting wake up call to see the light. Some will always live in the dark. But others need what I was blessed to have–the loving support and guidance of Autistic people and parents like Heather, Michelle, and Ariane.
I was given a chance. I believe that, for the most part, I’ve honored that chance–made good on the leeway I was given for my ignorance. I need to extend that some leeway to other parents–not the ones who take the chance and spit on it. But the ones who haven’t had the opportunity to be supported by the community of people that promote the love and acceptance of Autistic people.
I need to give other parents the opportunity to learn and grow without automatically condemning them for that which they don’t naturally understand. Like I was given. And continue to be given.
So that’s me owning my history. And me apologizing for berating those parents who simply have not been given the opportunity to parent with the support of a community that advocates love and acceptance.
This is me committing to giving parents (those that are receptive) the road map to community and the space needed to evolve.
Mostly this is me being grateful for the community that embraced me. Embraced my family.
So much love to you and to all of us who know what it’s like to look back and wish we could edit our history… Love you, Beth Ryan.
Ah, Beth…. you know how much I relate to this feeling of embarrassment over the past and relief and gratitude for having been found by people willing to support and ultimately change our lives. You are on my list of people I am grateful for. Much love. xx
Beth, first off ❤ to you. You're one of my favorite people and I truly mean that.
I'm an autistic parent with so much internalized ableism… working through that has been really hard for me. Some of that internalized ableism translated into me screwing up as a parent to my autistic son (but I'm human so I think that is allowed? lol) Anyhow, I have had to learn, but have done so through being silent and reading. It didn't take me long to get it because there were so many "A-HA yes yes that's it!!" moments. I too wish I could rewrite/edit my past
Sometimes I forget where I came from when I talk to others. My patience has worn thin and for that I am so embarrassed, I'm tired of screaming at people. (granted some do deserve it!)
Today I had an old friend (one of my only friends from my teen years) write to me and tell me she was watching a show and the main character reminded her of me because I was such a good person with such a great personality. It made me feel good, but also made me sad because I don't feel like I've been that person lately. If other people were asked to judge my character right now, they probably wouldn't say very nice things. They wouldn't claim that the now me has been very helpful, in fact they would call me condemning as well (and some other choice words I'm sure).
This isn't about being popular for me, I've never been popular in autism parenting circles, and I can live with that. It's about making myself accessible to others, so I can help them. Which has always been my goal.
I know there will always be the ones that can not be reached and usually I can tell who they are and they are not worth my spoons.
Just found your blog when my son’s (amazing!) teacher shared it. I’m really enjoying your blog as I am becoming aware of my own embarrassingly profound ignorance. Such a paradigm shift for me – I’ve always considered myself to be a good and informed advocate (I have an adopted son with autism and work as a community support worker). I’m hoping that this shift in perception will help me build/rebuild a relationship with my son.
You are beautiful, Beth!
Don’t you dare edit or remove those early entries. You know why? They stand as a testament to the world.
Somewhere out there, there is a parent who feels now the way you felt then. That parent will get on Google, looking in desperation for help and solidarity. That parent will find your old posts and hear a comfortable and familiar voice. They will be excited to find a fellow traveller. And they will keep reading. And they will watch your evolution right there in front of their eyes. And they will marvel — “but look what she said before! Her child has not changed . . . but . . . she has?”
And they will keep reading. And their eyes will be opened. And they will look again at their child — a person that has symbolized fear, limitation, brokenness, and burden up to that point. And they will look at the child with those new eyes, those opened eyes. And they will think, “maybe there is another way to view all this?”
And it will all be because of you and because you had the courage to leave all your posts up, even the ones that make you cringe now. Leaving up the bread crumb trail that shows how you changed will give a road map for those who come behind you.
I love you!
Thank you for this, Beth. It’s something we all should do/want to do/need to do (and I’ll be doing again – yes AGAIN – in the near future), and you did it beautifully. Thank you for all that you do, you are genuinely loved ❤
I’m so happy I found your blog. And I am so happy you found adult autistics, and the community dedicated to understanding and appreciating autism. It is uplifting how much empathy, love and respect you have – you’ve always had – for your child, even when all you had to go on was the prevailing narrative of autism. I read those early posts you linked with trepidation, but the minor mistakes in your understanding were outdone by the outpouring of positivity, patience, appreciation, genuine unselfish unconditional love. Heart = warmed. Thank you!
I think you’re judging past-you too harshly. You may see only the insights you hadn’t had yet, but reading those old posts, I see you’d already had insights that many parents of autistic kids may never have.
In some ways, you kind of remind me of my Mom. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 15, but long before then, my Mom stumbled upon similar insights about how to deal with my differences. My school wanted to bully me into unthinking compliance to ‘normal’ behaviour, but my Mom instinctively saw that it was wrong. I’ve often wondered what it was about her and my situation that allowed her to see that – was it my Dad having similar quirks, her feminism, her own healing from abuse, or the abuse I suffered from foster siblings as a preschooler, or was it just that she’s an insightful and sensitive person? Whatever it was, I feel lucky to have had her as a Mom. And my guess is Evie feels lucky to have you, too.
You know what you could do (if you think it would help) is put a disclaimer at the top of each post explaining in your words briefly that your outlook has changed over time and link to this post. I think most people can relate to this to some extent. It is so reassuring to see that we have true allies and that people can change 🙂
I feel this way too…and Im autistic myself. Did not even know what ableism was till last year…almost a decade after diagnosis with my children. I even cringe at stuff I wrote months ago…thanks for putting this out there…I just came across your blog and look forward to reading in the future…and I adore cynthia…she was crucial to my growth, vocabulary and wisdom.