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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The hardest post I've written yet

I don't normally put family business on the internet. A lot of my close friends and family will not be surprised by what is in this post. Some people will be shocked. Some people won't understand. What I'm asking is when you read this, please GOD don't read it with sympathy. Or an "Oh I'm so sorry" attitude. That's not the point, and I don't need it.

Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Big deal right? To me, it has become a big deal. Child 1 was diagnosed last year with PDD-NOS. Which falls on the autism spectrum. Does it make our life harder? Sure does. Usually in not so wonderful ways that other people simply don't understand.

Do you have to call your evening meal lunch? I do, or else my child won't eat. Do you have to say everything just the way you mean it? I do, as my child is incredibly literal and takes things JUST the way you say them. There is no room for interpretation.

Does it make my child any less important than any of your children? Nope. Just makes him different. Just means we have a bigger team of people who are helping my child be the best person he can be. Does it mean he has a "disability"? Not as far as I can see. My kid is intelligent. He says things you would expect to hear from an adult. He remembers things forever. Most often the ones you simply want him to forget.

What my child is, is a child. He's my child. He's my world. He's the life of the party. He loves attention. He loves to talk. He loves to make up stories. He's the best pretender I've ever seen. That kid can make up stuff like nobodies business. Occasionally it has gotten us in trouble and he fills in the blanks sometimes with what he makes up. Which is also hysterical when we get down to the bottom of what really happened.

Child 1 has wormed his way into the hearts of everyone I've ever seen him interact with. My child has been kicked out of 3 daycares in the past (Clue 1 that something wasn't quite the same as other kids). I have never seen a daycare director cry and hug a kid when they had to ask that he not return. It happened with mine. They were so sad to lose him because at his best he is the most wonderful, caring, empathetic, smart, sarcastic, funny, off the wall kid ever.

At his worst, he's that kid you see in the grocery store who won't get off the floor. He's the kid who HAS to take a toy with him EVERYWHERE and will undoubtedly use it to slam into you in the check out line at some point. I'm the parent who has to say sorry to a lot of people on some days. But I'm also the parent who gets to smile proudly when my son steals the Christmas Play and gets compliments from everyone in the audience.

I love my son regardless. I would give anything in the world for my child. Some days I wake up mad that he has this "issue" because his life IS harder than other kids. Things are hard for him. Regular things you take for granted are sometimes things he has to work at. And the reason I sometimes get mad is because I want what every parent in the world wants. I want my kid to be happy. I want him to have a better life than I did. I want him to be whatever he wants to be.

And some day he will. I have to remind myself that what is hard today, he will learn. What I see as a problem, he sees as life. It's not a problem. We just got a different set of cards than other people. But we are playing the same game. We just have to find a way to make our cards work for the game.

No, I don't want sympathy or sad eyes. And please, refrain from telling me you understand when you have no idea what I'm talking about. Your kid throwing a tantrum sometimes is not the same. If you want to relate to me, tell me about the great things our kids do that are the same. Don't point out that your kid sometimes does bad things too. Every kid does bad stuff, that's what God made naps for. So you have an hour away from them so you don't kill them. They are all bad.

Tell me your kid loves to dance, because mine recently learned to shake his butt and does it everywhere. Tell me your kid loves to read, and I'll tell you about the national geographic books we read as bedtime stories. Tell me your kid is an amazing artist, and I'll tell you Child 1 hates to draw but can do puzzles like Rainman. Tell me your kid recently learned the word "ass" so I don't feel so bad that my kid picks up my bad sayings sometimes.

Even if you don't have autism in your family, you probably know someone affected by it. April is Autism Awareness Month. Ask me questions if you want. Take the time to learn something about it. It affects a lot of children. Some way worse than others. But don't qualify us either. Hearing "I bet you are glad your kid is high functioning" makes it seem like the parents with lower functioning kids are worse off than we are. They aren't. They can share some of the same things we can. I know a person with a lower functioning child whose son can do math in his head that I would have to do on paper.

Every single autistic person has good qualities. Don't overlook them and only see the meltdowns and tantrums and poor social skills. I want you to look at Child 1 and see a kid with a particular zest for life. I want you to look at Child 1 and see a kid who is so fascinated with learning new things that he wants to learn everything. I want you to look at Child 1 and just see happy.

In a way, I'm glad to be a parent of an autistic kid. It made me a better parent. It made me a better learner. It made me more empathetic. It made me more caring. It made me more passionate. It made me take the time to learn about other things that other kids are dealing with. It made me more likely to take the time to stop and answer why. And it made my family part of this huge group of people with the most amazing kids ever.

 Not that your typical kid isn't amazing, but autistic kids are pretty damn cool.