Written by Beth Ryan
One of the criticisms that is most frequently hurled at me by other parents of Autistic kids is that I judge people. I freely admit that I do. Often. Constantly even.
But my judgments don’t come from a place of wanting to elevate my own self esteem as so many of these criticisms imply. I am ever engaged in judgment of what will hurt or improve my daughter’s quality of life.
I’m not perfect. I’ve done and said and written things which I know have been hurtful to my daughter and her Autistic tribe. One of my greatest regrets is the fact that I spent so much time fighting AAC and trying to force my child to speak. That cost her more than I will ever know.
The other criticism I get most often is that I am “PollyAnna” about Autism. That I want to sweep the challenges my daughter and family face under the rug. While I choose not to publicly share details which I feel could hurt my child or family, I do not ever deny that some things are really, really hard. But I cannot think of any obstacles that could not be overcome by a shift in the way disabled people are supported, accommodated, and spoken about.
Recently, there was a stir caused by a very popular blogger’s comment: “I’m also going to remind you that even in the midst of all the positivity, you’re not human if you don’t have moments where you wish to god your kid didn’t have to struggle and all you want to do is tell autism to f@%k itself. That’s the secret that no one will talk about. But it’s what makes us real, and it’s okay.”
I judge. I judge. Yes, I do judge. THIS hurts my child.
And I’m judged. I’m not “human”. I’m not “real”.
My child is Autistic. She IS Autism. Telling Autism to go fuck itself….that’s telling my kid to go fuck herself. This has never crossed my mind. Not because I am perfect. Not because I don’t have bad days. Not because I don’t want things to be easier for my child in many ways. Not just because I love my child and this thought would be a betrayal of that love.
Because my child is NOT the problem. The problem is the way the world responds to my child. And on the days that I struggle–the ways that I respond to my child.
Being a parent to ANY child is hard. There are days when bedtime cannot come soon enough. You don’t have to have an Autistic child to know that this is true. Those are the days where I succumb to my human weaknesses. I get frustrated. I say the wrong thing. I react the wrong way. And my reactions make life harder–for my child and for me.
I’m privileged in that parenthood was a choice for me–I do realize that it is not a choice for every person. When I decided to become a parent, I signed up for the ups and downs. I signed up for the happiness and the heartache. I signed up for all of it. I’m accountable to my child. I’m accountable to myself.
I judge people. I do. I also judge myself. I’m responsible for judging myself and for doing better when I fail.
I’m responsible for creating a world in which my child can thrive. I’m responsible for judging the things that stand in the way of my child’s quality of life.
I’ve found that this responsibility isn’t always fun. And it certainly doesn’t win me popularity. But we can’t make things better if we don’t talk about the things that are wrong. I’d love to write a blog which everyone loves and celebrates. I would love to not receive hate mail. I’d love to not rock the boat and be friends with everyone. I’d love it if everyone would think that I am just the bees knees. Because it isn’t fun when what you say and write is not popularly received.
But I love my child. And I will stand out in the cold and rain for a lifetime if it means that she is spared even a moment of facing the elements. Not because I am strong. Not because I am brave. But because I’m a mother. And that’s what mothers do.
My child is more important than stroking the egos of other parents. Every single time.
My child is more important than my desire to feel liked. Every single time.
My daughter doesn’t have the luxury of riding the fence. So I’m not about to climb up and ride it at her expense.