The Lament of an Aspie Mama

It was the moment I knew I needed help.

Baby G was engaged in one of his favourite activities...pulling DVDs off the shelf, taking the discs out of their cases and tossing them around. Typical toddler behaviour, and I should have reacted by firmly telling him we don't pull the DVDs down, and then finding some other activity as a distraction. But I didn't. Instead I was crouched on the floor with the palms of my hands pressed to the side of my head, making a strange sort of wailing noise, when DH found us. "What's going on out here?" he asked.

"He's pulling out the DVDs, and I can't stop him, and...I don't understand why he's doing this" I replied in some minor anguish. And there it was; the moment when parenting and autism collided for me. I got through the small baby stage with its disruption of routine and unpredictability; I breastfed for 16 months despite that I'm not always too keen on being touched. I could do this, I thought, and gave little thought to how autism would affect my parenting at all.

But now we have an (almost) two year old. A running, jumping, chatty, irrational little creature, no longer a baby, not yet quite a boy. Baby G is a sweet, cuddly, friendly little guy who is still yet to throw a full-blown tantrum. But he is a tornado of activity, constantly on the move, curiosity never satisfied. A typical kid his age, basically - and neurotypical, too, from what I can tell; showing no signs of ASD (I'm watching carefully for any early indications, so far so NT). It's everything I can't stand - things are never where I left them, constant mess, noise and movement, someone with an independent will of their own whose motives I can't guess and can't ask to be explained.

A good mother, runs the cultural trope, is patient, understanding, generous...everything that runs counter to your typical Aspie; orderly, unable to cope with sensory stimuli, needing a pattern and reasoning for everything...and prone to outbursts when it all gets too much. And of all the stages of parenting, toddlerhood possibly challenges us the most, but we have to find our path to being good parents anyway. And I'm still not sure how to do that. So I've gone looking for answers, and what I've found is not encouraging. There seem to be few studies done on parents with autism, and what research there is points to "significant problems due to the core neuro-cognitive clinical features of autism". Problems can include the parent shutting down in the face of toxic stimuli or withdrawing from the situation; being unable to discern your child's feelings, and being unable to understand the child's motivations and thoughts. Everything that comes together when your son is hurling DVDs around the lounge room, and there have been times, when DH isn't around, that I have gone into another room and cried, or screamed and shouted myself.

And I know it's not good for Baby G and I want to know what to do. I wanted a nice shiny self-help book that will tell me how to cope with situations I'm dreading in the years ahead, like kids birthday parties and parent teacher interviews. Or I wish I could make this go away. I don't want to have significant problems with my parenting.

I don't want to bring Baby G to a friend's birthday party at a play centre and be thought of as the weird mother who wouldn't talk to anyone.

I don't want him to have to tell a school friend he can't have anyone at the house cause his mother isn't..you know...like other Mums.

I don't want him to bring his first girlfriend or boyfriend home and have them in tears because I inadvertently said something hurtful.

I've always heard people say they can't relax when I'm around. I want him to be able to have his friends over without making everyone uncomfortable.

As the years go on, and the current increases in children being diagnosed with autism see these children grow up and become parents themselves, I'm sure the literature will increase and with it, the awareness. Whilst I'm pouring out my worries here, in real life I don't often tell people about this, because they often don't really know much about it - thinking it's something to do with being unfriendly and needing matching socks - or because I just want to be normal. I don't always want to be seen as someone weird, even though I am, and most of the time I'm okay with it. But I want to be a normal parent, a good parent. I don't want to be Baby G's weird nasty mother. We're famously resistant to change, but I'm willing to try; and if anyone else has faced the same situation, I'd love to hear from you.

Comments

  1. Witaj, mam 33 lata i moja mama była Aspi. Z perspektywy dziecka wychowywanego przez osobę z ASD proszę Cię - przutulaj swoje dziecko i mów że je kochasz; słuchaj kiedy ma problem, nie krzycz kiedy sobie nie radzi lub płacze! Moja mama nie wiedziała, że ma zespół Aspergera. A ja przez całe swoje życie czułam się winna i odpowiedzialna za jej złość. Czułam że mnie nie kocha i nie rozumie, a wzbudzam w niej tylko nienawiść za to że jestem... Bardzo ciężko mi z tym żyć :(

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