“You Must Be A Saint”…and other dumb things NT’s say about parenting Autistics.


     Those who are Autistic must suffer fools–this is not an exaggeration but a statement of fact, nor does the foolishness always occur at the hands of cruel, ignorant, or prejudiced people–sometimes they come in the form of well-meaning, if unenlightened ‘others’. Women whose children go to the same schools as our children, people we see in the grocery store, or in a variety of other places…members of our communities. These individuals as I said, well-meaning in their own minds, I suppose think they are being kind to us; giving us a lift or encouragement by their ‘words of understanding’ that they so graciously bestow upon us. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to slap on a social smile and endure any of the following, often said in front of my own children:

  “You are an amazing woman, I can’t imagine going through what you must go through every day…”

Sighs…what I’m going through? You mean, the daily chores of being a mother–and in many ways, the very same joys and sorrows, problems and solutions that every other mother on the planet goes through in her day? Why is it that NT’s assume that I must go through so much more than they just because my children are Autistics? The only things I have to go through that is possibly beyond any other mother around me is that I have to deal with this kind of ignorance and misplaced judgement on my life. How would an NT mother react if while doing her normal things with her children, some stranger came up and admired her for such seemingly unbelievable feats of every day competence?

“I don’t know how you do it, I don’t think I could manage it, but you do beautifully…”

“You are wonderful with them, if I had to deal with that, I don’t think I’d leave the house…”

  “How do you manage to do this every day, I don’t think I could manage to get out of bed in the morning if I had to do all that you do every day…”

Are you serious? So basically, you take one look at MY CHILDREN and decide in your heads that oh heaven forbid you should have such trials— that you can’t even imagine having children LIKE MINE…the mere thought is unthinkable. Wow. Just Wow. For the record, I don’t DEAL with my children; I raise them, love them, and care for them just like any other decent mother.

“I think it’s great that you support your children…”

“It’s wonderful that no matter how hard it must be for you, you keep trying…”

“You are amazing with them…”

     Really, you think that somehow my supporting my own children, just as I’m sure every other mother does in whatever way her child needs, goes so above and beyond the imagination that I need some kind of special acknowledgement for the feat? Or do they mean that they really find themselves to be inferior against my mothering skills, or is the thought of having a child like mine, much less children like mine so abhorrent an idea that, being kind and all, they just have to give me that extra little pat on the back or head to keep me going? Grrrrrrrr—

“I don’t know how you do it…”

“Don’t you ever just want to walk away from it all…”

Okay, while I may get that the average NT doesn’t get how anything can be in any way but the way they know…I cannot understand wanting to “walk away from it all”. Sure I have my frustrating and difficult days just like any other mother…but gahhhhh! No I don’t ever want to walk away from my children just because they are Autistic and behave in a different manner than NT children, sheesh–but I can only assume by such statements that NT mothers must become so overwhelmed at times that they have feelings of wanting to abandon their kids–even if only in ‘wish’ or ‘daydream’ form–and I feel a little sorry for them.

“You must be a saint!”

{{{ Face-Desks }}} No, can assure you, I am most certainly NOT a saint. I do not need to call on heavenly resources to parent my kids. I have no more patience, kindness, love, acceptance, or consideration in raising my kids than anyone else. What’s more–I don’t see my Autistic kids as any more particularly challenging than I imagine most mothers find their own NT kids as they work on raising them in whatever way they deem appropriate–but I will say this–I raise my children to, among other things:

  • understand that it is NOT okay to tease, exclude, or bully others because they are different.
  • that you must have patience (not the patience of a saint), just every day patience with those who lack or have not yet cultivated the understanding for another person’s ‘differences’.
  • to be compassionate individuals who look beyond the surface of both individuals and situations to see the greater truth–to, as I have heard that it has been said by the Dalai Lama, “Be kind whenever possible…it is always possible.”
  • to recognize that not everyone may be able to communicate on their level (sometimes we have to help our NT community members because they can be a little slow to grasp the fundamentals of behavior we innately understand.)
  • to understand that my children are themselves unique and have something to offer this world
  • to not let others determine what they can or cannot achieve in their lifetimes
  • to live and let live whenever possible
  • to stand up for themselves and when anyone tries to tell or infer to them that they are somehow damaged, broken, or in need of a cure–that they have the fortitude of character to not only maintain their self worth, but attempt to help those who would believe such things to change their minds–or at least acknowledge another point of view.

   The only time I could ever think that I would need to lean on Saint-like powers…would be in dealing with all that those who are NT presume to put upon not only myself by my children…it frankly floors me that NT’s are willing to donate all kinds of time, effort, and money to ‘find a cure’ for Autism–rather than just adjust their preconceived notions, their bias towards social norms, or even their own thoughts/actions just a small amount towards acceptance and understanding.

I love my children and have hopes for them just like any other mother on the planet. My children do not need to be ‘cured’, they do not need to conform to any mode of behavior that is exclusionary, short-sighted, or unkind just because others may consider such ‘the norm’. As so many mothers have said before me, “If EVERYONE jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”

Just a thought–Coyote


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