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Dear ‘Same-Abled’ Mom from the ‘Autism’ Mom You Met at the Gym Yesterday

  • 11:11 p.m. This is what I get for having coffee at 8:30 p.m.
  • No Coffee. What’s wrong with this picture?! 
  • Dave Matthews Band. “Let’s not forget these early days…”

Waldwick, NJ

Dear Same-Abled, Typical, Normal, etc. Mom,

mother-3312105_1920While I was blow drying my hair in the women’s locker room mirror at the local family gym yesterday,  you and your 2 girls came in from the outdoor pool. You opened a locker behind me and tried to get your daughters into dry clothes. Your kids resisted.

I tried NOT to smile, but I couldn’t help myself. The exchange – right down to your firm, somewhat exasperated tone – brought back memories. I turned around, smiled, and commented that my son was just has hard to wrangle into dry clothes at that age. You chuckled. I asked what the girls were doing for July 4th and you jokingly said, “a nap”. I replied that my son was 17 now and my upcoming afternoon entailed cleaning his room.

Then, without quite knowing why and completely unable to stop myself, I risked offending you by blurting out my first-ever piece of unsolicited parenting advice:

“Treasure even the exasperating moments. Someday you’ll want them back.”

I wished your girls a happy July 4th. You wished me the same. I could tell by your tone you weren’t offended, but you did think my comment was odd.

I didn’t mention “autism” during our 30 second conversation, and even if I had, it is not incumbent on others to instantly understand how Autism feels. If I want someone to know what being an Autism mom is like, I have to explain. I didn’t. If I had explained, you might have understood where my comment came from.

You might have realized I treasure every moment I have to pull out my firm, bordering on discipline, restrained voice with my son because those are the typical arguments that have nothing to do with Autism. In my case, they usually revolve around forcing my kid out of his room and off a video game console.

35w_autism_mom_quotes_aYou might have figured out I was secretly jealous of and simultaneously berating myself for being jealous of the clear, intelligible, expressive voices of your girls, because my son isn’t able to speak that way.

You might have understood that to me, a child taking up a whole locker room bench isn’t even a thing. I’m worried about public meltdowns over the wrong type of pizza.

You might have recognized my haste as I shut down the hair dryer and wrapped my too-long bangs around a curling iron for what it was: fear of not arriving at my son’s house at the exact time – to the second – he expected me and destroying an entire day as a result.

You would have known that the dark circles overcoming my hastily applied concealer were the result of late nights searching the Internet and wracking my brain for a way to give my son some relief from anxiety he’ll feel the next time his red shirt isn’t clean on a Monday.

You might have realized that in the three minutes it took me to blow dry my hair and spray my stubborn, uncurling bangs into something ruly, I saw the possibilities in your girls’ futures that do not exist in my son’s present. If so, you would have known instinctively how badly I wish I could change his present – and future.

None of this is your fault.

You probably would have, had I mentioned autism, looked at me with some level of sympathy. You wouldn’t have understood I don’t view autism as something to be sad about. Despite all of the things I just mentioned, I only want the child I have, exactly the way he is.

I don’t want my son to be typical. I just don’t want him to feel hurt that he isn’t.

20160401_aam_590x290_postIf you must do something, teach your girls to not bat an eye at the kid in school who doesn’t make eye contact, mumbles, or maybe yells when pizza is served the day the school cafeteria menu says grilled cheese. Abolish the words “Special Ed”, “Sped”, and “Short Bus” from a high schooler’s vocabulary.  Teach your girls to say hello to the socially awkward kid in the self-contained class like they are saying hi to one of her friends.

Above all, treasure every parenting challenge your typical girls send your way. Rejoice in the times they try your patience. Cherish the almost daily fights about curfews, too much makeup, and the occasional bad grades that will be part of their teenage years.

I wish I could be so lucky.


1:18 a.m.


Just call me Cris...

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