When my now 9-year-old son was a baby, he cried incessantly. He didn’t sleep for more than an hour or two at a time, tops, for the first 7— SEVEN, dear reader— months of his life.
I almost had a nervous breakdown. Quite frankly, my stubbornness is probably what saved me. That, and my pride. I was much too proud to buckle under the pressure of being home with a three-year-old and an infant. After all, women have been doing this shit for years! I would certainly not be the one in this scenario to fold up like a cheap TV tray.
So, I did what made sense. I became an alcoholic instead.
At the time, I felt isolated and exhausted and willing to try anything to make the crying stop. My husband worked insane hours (and still does), and I remember stuffing Asher’s tiny body into a zippered, stretchy, cotton tube with a hole in the top for his head to poke out, before swaddling him tightly in a thin blanket and strapping him into an overpriced baby swing that mimicked the womb.
Never once did I think that he had Autism.
What I did think, however, is that I must be doing something wrong. So I drank.
Today is January 21, 2021. We’ve waited over 3 months for this appointment. I got on the waiting list in October. The final straw — the thing that convinced me it was time to pull the trigger on having Asher evaluated — was the intense anxiety he was experiencing at the Magnet school my kids attend. The teachers there are wonderful, it wasn’t their fault that my son was unable to sleep at night because of the book they were studying (Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen). The story revolves around what is literally his worst fear: getting lost.
So we waited and I argued with my husband about whether we even needed to do this (the answer is yes) and then at long last, this morning Asher and I arrived on time and I filled out a stack of papers and sat waiting, for the second time in less than 5 years, to have one of my sons evaluated.
Asher has Autism.
And the thing is, I was not surprised. The news didn’t catch me off guard, and yet, somehow it still knocked the wind out of me. Something about having a Doctor of Psychology look me directly in the eye and tell me what I already know to be true just hits different. And because of what our oldest son is going through, I am keenly aware of the challenges that will surely pop up for us in the future.
We have two incredible, neuro divergent boys. I didn’t choose the Autism life — the Autism life chose me.
Now, I understand why motherhood has been such a challenge. Now, I finally have an answer for what never felt quite right in our household, why everything was always incredibly hard.
Nothing for our family has been simple, and every piece of advice was wrong because my kids aren’t typical kids. Every book I read on discipline has been tossed into the garbage pile. Every guide, every article, every single word of wisdom I got from kind and well-meaning people who have never raised an Autistic kid has officially been moved to the Recycling Bin, never to be seen or thought of again because it does not. apply. here.
For years, I felt like nothing I was doing worked, because it didn’t. Armed with knowledge, we can now move forward with confidence.
Asher knows a lot about cats. He is an expert on them. If asked, he will tell you that he has 4 friends, even though he actually has many more than that, because he doesn’t know the difference between “classmate," “acquaintance,” and “friend.”
I find his quirkiness charming.
When we got to his school this morning after our appointment, I paused in front of the door to the front office and instructed him to open it for me.
“Why can’t you open it?”
“It’s polite for you to do it because you are a gentleman.”
“But why? You have hands.”
“I know. It’s just a mannerly thing to do.”
He stared at me. I smiled. He finally opened the door, and we both walked in.
“Thank you,” I said.
He didn’t reply. We will work on that another day.
The more I lean in to it, the easier it becomes. Instead of trying to cram my star-shaped kid into a square hole, we are ignoring the hole altogether because truly: who gives a fuck?