(Shared with permission from my adult daughter.)
Cleaning out the shed today, I found a box of things collected since my teens.
I felt such sadness when I found this.
I was 18 when my first baby was born.
I was on my own and lived in public housing, and absolutely loved being a Mum.
In hindsight, there were clear indicators that my little girl was autistic but I didn’t know.
In fact, I didn’t know until she was 16.
She’s an adult now and we’re a proud autistic family, but as she grew as a little one, I started to receive feedback from family and friends about her behaviour.
Most of the time, it wasn’t an issue for me, we just did our thing. But for others, their right to give me unsolicited advice about my inadequate parenting was truly present.
I was convinced I was failing her and became increasingly stressed.
I became disconnected from my intuition and enrolled myself in some parenting courses.
I did consistently notice that all the things I was advised to do, I was already doing; but I surely must have been doing them wrong or somehow it was me that wasn’t getting it.
It was painful sitting through parenting classes.
People assumed I didn’t know what I was doing because I was young.
I picked up and moved away with my baby when I was 21.
No car. No job.
I just wanted to remove us from the constant looks, sniggers, whispers and comments on her behaviour and my parenting.
Those comments and those misunderstandings from others had such a detrimental impact on our parent-child connection for the following 16 years.
I was angry with myself. I was angry with her. She was angry with me. We were stuck in a loop of resentment.
It wasn’t until we learned about autism that our lives began to change for the better, but it took a long time and it will continue to take time.
I carried this sheet of parenting tips around with me everywhere I went, inside my bag.
I’d check in with it in case I was missing or overloooking something.
We were missing a lot of things and I wasn’t going to find what we needed on that sheet of paper.
Parents of neurodivergent children- we are not supposed to parent the same way everyone else does.
We’re neurodivergent, we need different things.
We’re not failing.
And I know it’s bloody hard sometimes but I know we get there.
It’s okay to switch off the white noise of a well intentioned (and sometimes not) society and plug back into our intuition.
It’s a muscle that can be strengthened.
Look at our family photos. Our family history.
I’ve seen this exact same photo here at my own Mother’s house.
Except it’s my mother in my place, and me as a baby.
We’re not supposed to do as everyone else does.
(Image description: A photo of an excerpt from a parenting book, on top of the parenting book sits a photo of a young woman holding her baby.)
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