Following are my answers:
Can you tell me when you first noticed your child was different?
The interesting part about this is that I knew on some level that Michael was different, but since he was my only child I didn’t know how different he actually was. I knew he screamed more than other babies I had met (which was not too many).
Understand though that I was this ultra-devoted mother and spent (literally) every waking hour with him for his first 2 or 3 years (Corey was the first babysitter I ever had that maybe I followed around for several visits before she looked at me and said, “Go.”).
Mason was born right before Michael turned three and he was pretty much the exact opposite of Michael with the exception of his looks. He was quiet, slept strong and long from the very beginning, cried very little, didn’t speak or babble with his voice, and was easy to transition.
I had tidbits of moments where I side-eyed my son, like when he started writing letters on his MagnaDoodle at three years old . . . without being shown how or even prompted.
Or there was the time a woman said, “Have you had him tested?”
Confusion. “Tested for what?”
“Oh no, I haven’t had him tested.” Blank stare. What? I thought, “He’s four, lady, he doesn’t need IQ testing.”
It was when Michael had his first “killing” episode at age seven that I realized I had to actually do something for him or about him or with him, whatever the case was. He threatened to kill every doctor in a building when his head got busted open by a steel water bottle (long, yet short, story).
I knew I needed an appointment with someone so we found a psychologist, listed all the things that were “typical” for him, and away we went.
When did you get your diagnosis?
Michael was seven when we got our diagnosis (in conjunction with the above episode). I’ll share that I was sitting in the front office and they handed me a sheet of paper listing something like “Ten Things Your Asperger’s Child Might Do” while they talked to him privately.
He was a solid eight of these ten things and the other two were strong possibilities. I was transported from my old life to a new life all while sitting on a waiting room chair.
Does your child take any medications? How did that go for you?
I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with meds and Michael, which is probably why I thought of this question. I did not want to commit “chemical warfare” on my child. But after I popped him on his bottom out of anger, I knew something had to shift.
What was the hardest part of your medications journey (if applicable)?
The chemical warfare part was hardest for me. It was so difficult realizing that my child couldn’t control certain actions or reactions and that some behaviors simply weren’t appropriate or “livable” without drugs. It was hard coming to terms with that back then. I could try to find the words for it, but it felt almost indescribable with the resistance, pain, and confusion when I embarked on our meds journey.
I don’t want to call it a failure per se, but there is a very real element of feeling as if he were broken and needing “repaired,” which is simply not true.
I tried hard to accept the thought that diabetics take insulin, heart patients take their meds, and my child needed his specific meds to get different chemicals to different parts of his brain.
What’s your favorite thing about your child?
Oh, it is totally his way of seeing the world and that he can explain it so that I can easily understand what he is thinking and experiencing. He’s truly one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met and I’ve met a lot of people in my time. I know I’m his mother, but my admiration feels like it goes way beyond the maternal bond.
I feel the same about Mason for sure, so I know the “mommy-element” is hugely relevant, but still, both of my kids are fully alive, intelligent, funny, engaged, engaging, and I love “being” with them.
What has been the most difficult part of raising your child?
Outside judgment. That means the judgment that others have heaped on me, which eventually turned into inside judgment (i.e., I did this to him. It’s my fault. I’m a bad mom. My gene pool sucks. Etc.).
It was ridiculously hard to overcome the outside criticism, judgment, and unsolicited advice, but I have fought through that for sure. I stand very firmly in my path with raising, guiding, and protecting Michael. It wasn’t easy getting here and I certainly still question my choices. I often feel like I don’t know what to do, but as I see how he is in the world, I feel very proud of my actions as his mother.
What has been the easiest part of raising your child?
Loving him. I love and adore Michael and Mason more than anything. Even when I’m mad at them or frustrated with Michael’s reactions or constant talking, he’s still the one I want to be with.
I find it interesting that I get teary-eyed anytime I think of someone else raising Michael. The emotions that rise within me, thinking that anyone else might have access to him, are pretty impressive.
What are three favorite lessons you’ve learned from raising your child?
- It’s not my fault. I didn’t “do” this to my child, nor did any parents inflict this difficulty on their kids. Parents of “Lego kids” did not shove Legos into their baby’s crib or tell them, “You need to be obsessed with Legos,” or other such unhelpful things. It’s not our fault. *Disclaimer: There are things that parents do to damage their children, but autism is not one of them in my opinion.
- To seriously claim the power for how I want to raise my child. I get one shot at raising my children and if I had listened to some of the crack-pot advice I received, he would quite possibly be hospitalized (oh, here come the teary eyes again). I have (and had) a responsibility to my son and I have to take it seriously from day one.
- To judge less. I want to go back and bow down in front of every parent that I gave unsolicited advice to before I had kids. Wow. I didn’t get it and that is an understatement. So this third powerful lesson is all about not judging others for their children’s behavior. It’s probably not their fault, and if they’ve done something to create it, they need help, not judgment.
What do you want me to know about how it’s been raising your child?
I am trying to figure out how to do this well every single day, so my personal way to explore raising my children is to write a blog. I review books, movies, and video games. I learn as much as I can about this life and how to live it. It’s my journey with a different brain. I definitely want to change the perception of our families and I’d like to share that :
We didn’t do this on purpose, because that’d just be cray-cray.
Our children have just as much difficulty as we do.
We hate to see them suffer, and they are suffering when they’re in breakdown mode.
We are probably struggling with PTSD.
The apples don’t fall far from the tree, so these difficult behaviors are often found in both the children and the parents.
How can other people help parents who have different-brained children?
Number 1 – Stop judging us, say kind words, offer support, smile at us, but don’t tell us how to raise our children unless we ask you.
Number 2 – Refer back to Number 1.
Is there anything else you want to share?
I suppose that I believe this is a universal lesson of accepting all human beings as they are. We all struggle, we all have weak points, we all are amazing, and we all need help and connection. I’m simply reflecting one way of being, but every one of us has a story. We have hardships. We have huge celebrations. We have our personal experiences, which helped to transform us into who we are today, young and old.
I’d like to invite us to act like we are all one. That’s an invitation for me, especially, because I totally make mistakes around this idea every day. It’s a constant journey to get to where we’re going–so aim for the kindest, strongest, and most respectful path. For all of us.
Huge love to you,
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