There are hundreds of "top ten" things you didn't know about autism, or autism parents, lists floating around out there. I'll spare y'all the torture of reading another. Something that constantly appears on them, however, is an autism parent admitting they're jealous.
Jealousy and braggadocio, sadly, are a big part of parenting in general. Every single one of us has to deal with other parents constantly reminding us what little Johnnie or Sally is doing at a sixth grade level this week. Americans love hyperbole. We love victimization. We champion triumph and, as parents, we love projection.
I went to a birthday party recently and had this conversation with a beloved and trusted friend.
Friend: "We're having an issue with little Sally. She's getting pretty good at asking for things now instead of demanding."
Me: "That's great. What's the issue?"
Friend: "She's having trouble understanding that she doesn't always get those things. Even if she says please."
Me: "That's a big concept."
Friend: "Right? We spend so much time teaching them to ask instead of demand, then we spend so much time teaching them to be polite. She's done everything she's been taught, right? She hasn't figured out yet that even if you follow all the rules, sometimes you don't get what you want."
Me: "Sucks. I guess they just figure it out."
Friend: "I guess. We're working on it. Man, parenting is tough."
Me: "We're working on not biting our classmates."
I could be angry, or offended, or judgmental. Here's a friend with a child the same age as mine, BRAGGING about what complex, advanced, or enigmatic problems his child has that my child is nowhere near.
But guess what? I'm not. I'm happy. I'm glad little Sally is doing so well. I love her, too. These are legitimate parenting concerns and questions my friend is asking me. I want little Sally and her father to be the best they can be.
But... I am jealous.
I think we tend to alienate ourselves as special needs parents because we feel we bring nothing to the bragging circle. We certainly alienate ourselves from community outings (grocery stores, restaurants, zoos, birthday parties, etc.) because we fear how our children will react to the situation, and, how we will react to the situation. I would love to be at a point in my evolution where I could honestly not give a fuck what other people think. I remind myself that, often. I can logically deduce that it doesn't matter what anyone thinks. But, the truth is we DO care. We are social creatures.
Sometimes to his detriment, but my son has mastered this. Another thing to be jealous of?
A lot of children with high functioning autism have developed what we call "splinter skills". Some are great with math. Some have incredible memories. Some are truly gifted in the arts.
My son has two. The first is useless. He can walk in heels really well. Yep, years of tippy-toe walking have made him fearless when wearing mommy's heels. He can sashay his pretty little self all the way to the mall without as much as a stumble if he wanted to. I was really hoping he could count cards, or pick horses, but I got catwalk skills instead.
Secondly, my son has an incredible sense of humor. He will do anything for a laugh. He writes jokes. He makes puns. He truly loves to entertain and sense of humor is the number one quality to attract women! I read that in a recent poll. I swear I did.
Here's the point. We are all jealous.
We are also all braggarts.
Instead of wallowing in the misery about what our kids can't do, start bragging about what they can.
I just did.
Go ahead. Take a moment and tell someone what your kid does better than theirs. It's normal. It's healthy. It's therapeutic. It might even, god forbid, make you smile while you're writing it.