My kids are great. They are really wonderful. But I have noticed that they are more wonderful when they are not at home. When they are at a friend’s house, at school, or at their grandparents’ house, they are more wonderful. There are many causes of this, all of them quite understandable. They are on their best behaviour. They are having a great time so there is less to lose their cool over. They are getting plenty of attention. They are being challenged and so they are not bored and looking for ways to make things more interesting. I get all of that.
And certainly, at times, I know they can be trouble for their teachers and grandparents too.
Overall, however, I also know that they let most of their trouble out at home. For five years Jake has been having tantrums, meltdowns, violent reactions, and stressing out the home environment. Aiden has now joined in, provoking Jake, having his own tantrums, screaming and yelling when he doesn’t get his way. Some days there are a lot of tears and a lot of screaming. Some days I join in. Some days I don’t.
The autism diagnosis told me that I wasn’t crazy. That what Jake was going through was not developmentally appropriate. That it is not my parenting. I am not a screw up nor have I ever screwed him up and created this. How amazing is that? I have doubted every decision I have ever made. I have wondered about when he was an infant and when he was a toddler and what I have done wrong. I haven’t done anything wrong. I have done my best and it is good!
One of my most encouraging friends told me that she thought that if it wasn’t obvious to some people that Jake has autism, it is because of the love and parenting that he has been surrounded by. What an incredible thing to say. What an incredible gift.
Because I feel doubted. I feel like if people are aware of Jake’s autism, they either don’t believe it or they think I am making something out of nothing. I feel like they are doubting the diagnosis, that they are doubting me and my parenting decisions, that somehow they look at him, having a minor tantrum, yelling and swinging his arms for example, and they would think I am clearly not doing something right. As though maybe if I were gentler, he wouldn’t be violent. Or maybe if I were not so strict, he would be happier. Or maybe if I just gave him what he wanted there wouldn’t be an issue at all. All of these things feel like judgments that I am fighting all the time.
The truth is, Jake has autism. He gets overwhelmed. Small things bother him greatly and he seems to overreact all the time. We have no violence in our home. None. No guns. No blasters. No swords. No killing. No blood. Have never. We have been so careful what we expose our kids to. But he is overwhelmed by this world and its sounds and rules. He is coping as best he can. He is happy. But he is learning how to survive and thrive in a world that has values which are not intuitive to him. It’s hard. Clear rules and expectations help him. And there will always be issues. Always. Because that is what you get when you have someone who is different. Issues come from friction. The friction will lessen as we learn how to help him. And as he learns to adapt. But that will take him a long time.
All of this is encouraging to me. It is freeing and empowering. I know it is real. I was so careful not to skew the results of his diagnosis and I prayed over it obsessively. God has led us here and it is real. So I will learn to endure the doubts and judgment that people inevitably will have once they know. And I guess I will try to educate them about autism. That’s kind of the whole point behind this writing too.
It’s not all kids who are non-vocal. It’s not having a really low IQ. It’s not imagined or ADD or ADHD or just badly behaved kids. It’s really not. It’s not because of vaccines. It’s not moms who don’t care. I care.
And my kid, who appears at times to be nothing more than a little quirky, is doing so well in spite of his brain which is wired differently. Is doing so well in spite of his overload of sensory information that makes him scream sometimes. Is doing so well despite anxiety over people doing things that don’t make any sense to him.
I’m pretty proud of him.