Finding out I was autistic, which came far before my official diagnoses, was one wild journey. Part of that journey was accepting how my autistic traits affected how I mothered. Coming to terms with the traits that I found unacceptable to model for my children, and learning how to modify those traits until they were acceptable.
One of the reasons I sought a diagnoses was because both my children’s teachers expressed concerns that led to nothing. I took my oldest first, the therapist said something along the lines of, ‘it’s the strangest thing, she is displaying autistic traits but when I tested her she did not score a single mark on any of the 7 tests’.
My younger son’s test went along the same lines. When his therapist remarked how my son did not seem autistic at all, he also said, “maybe he is picking up the traits from somewhere.” I would bet money that he tried really hard to get that hint across to me with some kind of facial expression. I do not suggest this method if you suspect someone has autism.
That big of a hint my husband may have caught had he not been working. Said hint went unnoticed for a few days, when I was relaying the appointment for the third time to my husband he caught the remark. Upon repeating the statement to him I said after a few moments, “oh my god! What if THAT is what is wrong with me?!”
I know that was a terrible way to say it, but a set of stadium lights had gone off above my head. Keep in mind I have been failing to make friends for almost 30 years at this point. I knew I was different, but had never been able to pinpoint what it was. Suddenly all the things I saw my children doing, I saw myself doing.
I applied the checklists, tests, articles I had read instead of to my children, to myself. My world was suddenly tetris pieces falling into alignment.Things I had struggled with, I had noticed other mothers smile and shrug off. Things that did not come naturally, like comforting someone else.
When my children threw tantrums as toddlers and screamed, I didn’t jump to console, punish or understand them. I slapped my hands over my ears and my eyes grew into baseballs at first. When my children scraped their knee, I used to say, “you’ll be okay!” Instead of, “Are you hurt?!” It did not occur to me for a long time that they might not be crying because they hurt, but because they wanted comfort.
I finally knew why I felt like exploding when everyone talked at once. I finally knew why I couldn’t stand being cuddled for hours on end like other moms. I knew why I could NOT figure out how to play barbies. This last one is basically torture for me, no matter how much I want to spend time with and connect with my daughter.
Part of me mourned. More of me celebrated. There is so much more I understand about myself, my parenting, and how to be a better mother now. I know my limits better, I am not the only one affected by my meltdowns, so it is far easier to accept I need and take, preventative measures.
I’ve taught myself to become a compassionate mother, but it didn’t come overnight. Sometimes my oldest is far too tough. Sometimes I will overestimate my abilities and end up melting down and needing extra downtime. Sometimes I embarrass my kids by going places in pajamas, or refusing to wear a costume because I do have limits. I have different limits than most moms, but those are not always bad.
I know when I need my noise cancelling headphones on. I know when my day is too packed, and that birthday party is not worth the state of shell-shock I go in to after it ends. I know my kids love us home watching a movie happy, opposed to finding their mom crying in the bathroom at a party.
Ultimately, I feel I control my reactions better than most other parents because I have to pay far more attention to how I am feeling, in turn I explode a lot less. I feel that I have more compassion when my children struggle and always look for a reason and rhyme. I work harder to understand my children and let them know I love them.
My kids who are old enough, understand that their mom has a difference. They don’t know all the details, they just know I am always ready for a Marvel movie marathon. Or that I will never say no to reading Harry Potter to them. They know I need extra quiet space breaks sometimes, and that cereal for dinner beats crying over a burnt new recipe. They know that everyone has their own set of challenges. Above all they know that compassion and kindness are not always easy choices, but they are always worth it.
Finding an admitting my faults as a mother has grown me further than I ever thought possible in a short span of time. I have a lot of things to improve before I am the kind of mother I want to be. I never wanted or expected to be any different, but I find myself often grateful for knowledge and behavior I would never possess if I weren’t autistic.