Why I’ll No Longer Grieve Over My Autistic Child

Mizina Oksana / Shutterstock

Mizina Oksana / Shutterstock

Ever have a life event that kind of smacks you upside the head and makes you realize you were really wrong about a certain way you viewed something? Two months ago, I attended a wake for a child. I still think about that little girl and her family daily. The experience taught me in a way I didn’t expect about how I view autism.

I can no longer say I know grief. I do not—not by a long shot. I know I have written about finding out your child’s autism is a grieving process. I know I have read similar posts talking about mourning the child you thought you had only to discover autism “took the life you thought you had away.” No, I didn’t know grief. Not at all. I know this because although my child is autistic, he is here. He is making a mess. He is playing with toys. He is singing the flipping “Bird Is the Word” song for the 739th time today.

He will need several prompts to finish chewing his food fully so he doesn’t gag. He will need reminding to not tease the dogs. He will be scared if he sees me so much as open the kitchen cabinet with the blender in it. But he is here. I can laugh and sing with him. I can high-five him passing in the hall. I can sneak into his room at night after coming home from a funeral home and kiss the top of his head as he sleeps.

So yeah, life isn’t what I had planned, but no life is. Seriously, the life you see others living—the one you envy—even to them it’s not what they expected, both the good and the bad. Maybe what I feel at times is self-pity, frustration or disappointment, perhaps a grand combination of all of the above. For myself, I know it is not grief. I choose to not use that word anymore in regards to autism and accepting my child’s diagnosis. It’s not a grieving process. It’s an acceptance process.

It’s an insult to compare it to losing a child—one I won’t do anymore. Nor will I be “mourning” him, because he is still here. Yes, it’s more work on my plate than I ever expected or even wanted, but I am grateful for it, because some parents do not have that luxury of complaining because they are actually lost and buried a child.  They are the ones who have the right to grieve, to mourn for a life they can no longer watch and help develop.

I am not saying this anymore. I’m not asking or declaring you do the same. All I am asking you to do is hear me out. Is your child still here? Then you currently have more riches in your life than others do. I’m not telling you not to be sad or angry or frustrated with your situation. It would be utter madness for me to even suggest it. Hell, you don’t even have to like it sometimes. I just know what I felt when I hugged a mother recently who had been preparing herself to accept a lifetime of medical challenges for her daughter, only to then be greeting us at her child’s wake at a funeral home.

I’m not declaring a right or wrong for anyone but me. Maybe you’ll agree, or maybe you won’t. I just feel it’s important to acknowledge when I was wrong and how I plan to change it.

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School Lockdown Drills And My Autistic Son


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Once a month like clockwork, I receive a text from my son’s school that they have performed their monthly lockdown drill. This text is to inform me that it is just a drill, and I have no need to be concerned.

But I am concerned. This is just another reminder of how much my son’s autism impacts every part of his life. I am scared shitless because I don’t think he will be protected and safe during a lockdown procedure, and it’s by his own doing.

You see, you hear about teachers ushering their students into a closet or restroom—all sitting silently side by side. You know what my Kiddo is doing during this? Talking—telling the teachers, staff and students that there is going to be a surprise. A combination of my son’s autism and innocence makes him think they are playing a game of hide-and-seek, or that it’s a surprise party and they are going to have fun. He loud-whispers to everyone around him to “Be quiet!” while not picking up on the fact that he himself needs to be quiet in order to save his own life and the lives of others.

And I hate it. I hate that this is part of his educational experience. I hate that autism and his communication and intellectual issues might be yet another safety risk in his life and the lives of those around him. If Kiddo makes a noise, he jeopardizes every person in the classroom closet with him. He won’t mean to do so, but it is the reality of the situation.

My heart broke when his teacher first told me about this. She didn’t seem too fazed by it, and from what I can tell, he’s not the only kid in class who does this. He just has no concept of the situation and no idea that this is a drill about saving his own skin. I was told it was a skill they would work on.

Part of me is angry that this even has to be in my kiddo’s life. Like what-the-ever-loving fuck is this? Don’t we have enough on our plates? Now I have this concern to worry about as well—that he will potentially give away a hiding spot to those looking to do harm to himself and others. I thought working on life skills meant learning how to live independently, but now they include trying to stay alive.

I hope to hell that I will never even have to think this could be a reality, but I can’t help thinking about it when that text message announcement comes through my phone once a month.

I don’t have a solution. I don’t even have a suggestion. It’s just another complication involved with autism and one that you never even think about it until it’s in front of you.

{Scary Mommies: It’s up to us. Together, WE CAN DO THIS. Please join us in taking a stand against gun violence and fighting for a safer country for our children. Learn ways to make a difference at everytown.org}

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The Things We’ve Tried For Our ADHD Child


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In my son’s first week of kindergarten, he tried to run away. He fought back against teachers who tried to bring him inside. He refused to listen or do anything they asked of him. He threw unimaginable tantrums.

Naturally, the school called and set up meetings with us. Very concerned and unfamiliar with the child they described, we went.

We’d seen signs of “odd” things prior to kindergarten. When he was 2, he would sit for hours on end, watching the wheels of his Matchbox cars go round and round, and he’d cry if you tried to swap out the cars for any other activity. He required intervention to help with delayed speech and fine motor skills. But until kindergarten, we’d never known our son to have any “behavioral” issues. He made friends easily in pre-K, loved his teachers and seemed like any other “normal” child his age.

We took his kindergarten teacher and the other administrators seriously, though. Clearly, something was not right. Two months later, after many meetings, tests and questionnaires, our son was diagnosed with ADHD.

Fast-forward to third grade, and most of the same issues remain: not doing his schoolwork, not doing anything anyone asks him to do, “checking out,” alienating other kids, not listening to or following directions, getting lost in his own thoughts and so on. It’s not for our or his lack of trying. We’ve tried everything. He’s tried everything, and I mean, everything. I’ve kept track. In fact, as proof, I offer up the following lists:

Things We’ve Tried




No screen time

Less screen time

Screen time only when he’s “good”

A reward at the end of the week, if he’s “good”

A reward at the end of the day, if he’s “good”

A reward for just trying to be “good”

A reward for just trying to be “good” for an hour

No sugar

All the sugar he wants

No gluten

All the gluten he wants

No dairy

All the dairy he wants

Laying down the law

Yelling and screaming

Sending him to his room

“I’m not sending you to your room, you’re just getting a time out.”

“Okay, now I’m sending you to your room.”

Counting to three

Counting to two…


Relaxing the laws and making it more of a meritocracy

Relaxing the meritocracy and making it more of an oligarchy (It’s OK, I also had to Google it.)

Rubbing his back a lot

Talk therapy

Behavioral therapy

Physical therapy

Primal Reflex Release Technique therapy

Eye exams

Hearing tests

Autism spectrum disorder tests

Guilt trips about his behavior during his after-school program, because “Mom can’t keep leaving work early to pick you up for bad behavior, unless you don’t like having a house or food or Christmas or vacations. Of course, if you don’t like the house or food or Christmas, by all means, keep it up.”

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school

Advocating to make sure the IEP gets implemented at school

Making sure the drama teacher knows the IEP needs to be implemented at school

Making sure the gym teacher knows the IEP needs to be implemented at… (Um, is it 5 o’clock yet?)

An in-classroom aide at school

Seeing a social worker at school

Letting him handpick his summer camp classes

A reward at the end of the week “if camp doesn’t call me one more time to tell me you’re not participating in your summer classes that you handpicked.”

An in-classroom aide at summer camp

Reading books with titles like The Wildest Colts Make the Best Horses and Raising Your Spirited Child!

Rereading books with titles like The Wildest…  (Oh my God, I can’t type all that over again. I probably have ADHD.)

Loving the heck out of him and telling him every single day we’ve never loved anybody, ever, so much in the world, as him

Things We’ve Not Yet Tried


Things We’re Going to Try Next Week

Loving the heck out of him, and telling him every single day we’ve never loved anybody, ever, so much in the world, as him


If medication doesn’t work, I suppose it’ll just go on the list of things we’ve done to try to help him. Perhaps, instead of that first list coming to an end, it will just keep growing. But for now, we’re going to try medication. We’re going to try, and hope it goes well.

Whatever is coming next, we’re ready. And, yet, we’re nowhere near ready because that’s parenthood: an endless game of guess-what’s-next, who-knows, and damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead.

Now, who’s with me? All together now: Geronimo!

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10 Reasons Why I Hate Helping My ADHD Kid with Homework


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This is how the dictionary defines homework:

Homework /ˈhōmˌwərk/ noun

1. Schoolwork that a student is required to do at home. 2. Work or study done in preparation for a certain event or situation.

Here is my new and improved definition:

Homework /ˈhōmˌwərk/ noun

1. A medieval torture device used to tear families apart in the home. 2. The cause of parents’ instability, mood swings and excessive drinking. 3. A mass murderer of trees.

All joking aside, I get the reason for homework. Kids need to practice the new skills they’ve just acquired. I’m fine with that, except for the fact that I have a child who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and getting them to sit and do homework is almost unbearable. Even if I can get them to sit still for five minutes, they do anything but pay attention. Here are 10 reasons why I hate helping my ADHD kid with homework:

1. I have no patience. This is not my kid’s fault. This one is all on me. Unfortunately, my lack of patience and my kid’s inability to focus is a disastrous combination. I really try not to let my lack of patience show. However, in my head, I have turned into Dr. Evil. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve told them to zip it when they have gone off on a tangent. I’m also starting to wonder if they would work harder on homework if they thought I had sharks with freakin’ laser beams attached to their heads.

2. It ruins my over-inflated opinion of them. I don’t want to admit to myself that I didn’t produce exceptionally gifted children. Working on homework with them shows me that they’re normal kids who have trouble focusing long enough to learn new concepts. The sun doesn’t shine out their asses. They’re not the next Einstein—they’re struggling with subtraction and how not to poke themselves in the eye with a pencil.

3. They have no organizational skills. Almost every day, my child’s homework is either forgotten at school or important school papers are shoved haphazardly into the black hole that is their backpack. I constantly find assignments that weren’t turned in and weeks of “misplaced” progress reports. I try to make organization fun (is there such a thing?) and to emphasize its importance. Unfortunately, all I receive for my efforts is an uninterested glare and nightmares about my child’s future as a hoarder.

4. I don’t get the way they do it. This one, again, is all on me. The school systems have recently started using the common core principles. This system is way different compared to how I was taught. I start to help with a problem, and I am informed that I’m not solving it the way the teacher does. I say, “Okay, how does your teacher do it?” My child’s reply is, “I don’t know, but it’s not that way.” I’m surprised that my hand isn’t permanently glued to my forehead and that my eyes haven’t rolled completely out of my head and onto the floor.

5. They aren’t listening to you. My blood starts to boil when I am explaining how to solve a homework problem and my child’s eyes are on the ceiling. Everything I say goes in one ear and out the other. We constantly have to start problems all over. During homework time, my ADHD child turns into Dory, the blue Disney fish from Finding Nemo. I take deep breaths and remind myself to just keep swimming, just keep fucking swimming.

6. They want me to do it for them. My daughter and I go through the same routine every damn day. She gets a list of similar problems, and she has to solve the equations. We do one together. We go over the process thoroughly. I make sure to explain every step. I tell her to do the next problem. She shrieks, “But I don’t know how, Mom!” I reply. “You do the same steps, just with this problem.” “But I don’t know how! Just do the next one with me!” It’s like my help is crack, and she’s addicted. She keeps escaping from—figure it out yourself—rehab.

7. The whining and arguing. “But Mom, it’s too hard. I’ll never get it! It’s so boring! My life is horrible, just horrible!” She doesn’t believe me when I tell her she will get it, and it will be OK. To my knowledge, math homework has never killed anyone. Then she proceeds to tell me, that I’m just doing it wrong. She knows she has the right answer. Her confidence might impress me a little, if she wasn’t screaming, “Two plus two is five! Two plus two is five, Mom!”

8. I’m too busy. I know this is a horrible thing to say. I should always make time for my kids, right? The truth is, my kids do take up the majority of my time, but you see I have three of them. When it’s homework time, I’m trying to stop my 4-year-old from “helping” my 10-year-old by coloring all over her spelling page. I’m also cooking dinner, cleaning and trying to keep my 2-year-old from either dancing on the table or from escaping out the doggie door. I wonder where she gets her ADHD from.

10. They have way too much of it. My ADHD child is in elementary school, and they have about an hour and a half of homework every night. I don’t remember getting a lot of homework in elementary school. We would get a few things here and there, but it wasn’t much. The most we had to do was create a paper mâche volcano or present a poster about why one state county is the best. The time we spend on everyday homework is ridiculous. Instead of having fun as a family, we’re all in homework hell.

11. The battle to get them to do it and to do it the right way. By now, my ADHD child has learned that they need to do their homework. When I ask them to do it, they will sit down and do it. Five minutes later, they are in the basement dancing. When I ask about their homework, they say it is done. Unfortunately, when I don’t supervise, they proceed to guess and write nonsense on every single problem. I’m lucky that I haven’t found “I like bananas” as one of the answers. I get that they would rather being doing something else, and to be honest, so would I. There are some days when I ignore my kid’s ADHD struggle and educational shortcomings. I instead focus on the fact that they are ridiculously good looking. I hope they have a successful career in modeling. We’re currently working on our blue steel poses.

Helping my ADHD kid with homework is challenging, but I do it every school night. It sucks, and I mostly hate it. I feel like I’m living in my own personal version of Groundhog Day. We go through the same infuriating routine every day. My child does their best to not listen or pay attention, and I sit there clinching my fists, trying to be patient, trying to be a good parent. I make sure that they are using their brains to solve problems. It’s a battle, but luckily there is a reward in sight. There is a particular moment that I am waiting for every day, and it’s like heaven. I’m talking about when the lightbulb in their brain finally turns on.

Everything suddenly clicks and the homework is now easy. This, for me, makes all the crappy things I just listed worth it. I feel like I am Frodo, and I just dropped the ring into the fiery depths of Mordor. We did. We made it. The battle is over—well, at least until tomorrow.

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5 Things I Wish People Knew About My Non-Verbal Child


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In a lot of ways, my 4-year-old son is a typical kid: He loves to run and play. He enjoys a good tickle fight, dancing to music, playing games on my phone, and hearing a good bedtime story. His autism, however, sets him far apart from his peers. Having a child that doesn’t speak is a big enough challenge. A lot of the time, unfortunately, the challenge comes from the people around him. They think that because he can’t talk, he is essentially a waste of space. They couldn’t be more wrong. Here are five things I wish people understood about my son:

1. He doesn’t talk. That does not mean he cannot hear you. There are actually two types of language skills: expressive and receptive. We’ve had his hearing tested, and his receptive language (what he hears) is at least normal in one ear. I am guilty of forgetting this, too, and I am sure that the first thing he will regularly say if he ever starts talking is swear words he picked up from being in the car with me. Don’t talk about him like he isn’t there or use baby talk. Talk to him like you would any other kid. We do. He knows when people are underestimating him, and he plots accordingly.

2. He has a sense of humor. Actually, he’s a bit of a smart aleck. He has a good grip on sarcasm, which is impressive for a 4-year-old. I’ll pay someone a compliment, and he’ll laugh and shake his head. Then there’s his favorite joke, which is pointing to the wrong object when the therapist asks him to touch something specific. He also puts his hands behind his head in speech therapy and stares at the clock. Either he can tell time on an analog clock, or he at least knows when his half hour is up. Once he even put his hand out like he was going to give the speech pathologist a high five, and then ran it through his hair instead. He cracked himself up with that one. At a famous autism clinic during an evaluation, he started to do a puzzle while the doctor’s back was turned. He stopped, with one piece left, the moment she turned around. Then he acted like the puzzle wasn’t even there. If he could have whistled as he was looking all around the room, he would have.

3. He’s not Rain Man. It’s great that you saw that movie but not all autism works like that. He’s not going to tell me how many toothpicks I just dropped on the floor. He’s not going to compose a symphony on his toy piano. He doesn’t get a magical talent to compensate for the fact that his brain is wired differently. And even if he did, I’m not going to make him whip it out like it’s a party trick.

4. He can read people like it’s a profession. He is an adorable hustler. He will pick the sucker in the room and play them like he’s a pool shark. He knows that the quickest path from A to B is not a straight line but making somebody else do the walking for him. It works, too. He has played teachers, therapists, and family members. His cuteness is hard to resist but—as I actually had to tell a teacher’s aide once—no, I do not sit there all day and just hold him. He is 45 pounds and 4 feet of wriggly, energetic boy. You try holding that all day long.

5. He is more than his disability. You may just see the kid who is quietly staring off into space or flapping his hands, but he is so much more than that. He is a real little boy who has trouble communicating. Do not underestimate him, not just because all people should be treated with respect, but because you’d miss out on knowing a really great kid.

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My Son Challenges Me (And You)


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“Mom, why can’t everyone be kind?”

That plaintive question had been prompted, of all things, by a visit to the dentist for my son’s semi-annual teeth cleaning appointment.

While our family has been blessed with some pretty incredible people in our lives, there are always those whose words and actions wound deeply. Unfortunately, when public excursions are involved, you never know what sort of response you will receive.

Our dentist’s office is chock-full of amazing professionals, all of which regularly go out of their way to accommodate the extra time and effort that accompanies caring for a person on the spectrum. Even though I knew that I could expect an overall pleasant reception when I brought my son for his appointment, I was not at all prepared for what we encountered.

Less than a minute after we had arrived for my son’s appointment, a sweet, grandmotherly-type woman came into the waiting room, introduced herself to us, and then sat down in the chair opposite me. With a giant smile wreathing her face, she asked me if it was okay if she chatted with my son.

Slightly surprised, I gave my assent and then watched in awe as this amazing woman brought my son out of his shell.

Overlooking his constant jerky movements, she asked him the perfect questions about himself—what games he liked, what Lego creations he had built recently, what his favorite foods were, and who he thought the best Marvel superhero was. I watched my son come to life, speaking with such excited animation that I initially moved to give him the shoulder-pat which is our signal in public for him to calm down. The sweet lady saw this, and put her hand out to stop me, telling me that it was perfectly okay, and that she was happy that he was happy.

She then told my son that if he was ready, it was time to go back for his teeth cleaning. As my son happily started to walk away, this incredible lady leaned closely to me, and whispered, “It’s okay. My grandson has autism, too. Aren’t they the sweetest kids?”

And at that, she smiled once more at me, patted me on the shoulder, and walked toward my son.

On the ride home, my son asked me the question, “Mom, why can’t everyone be kind?”

The kindness which he had received from a stranger made such an impact on him that my son asked me to write and tell everyone that they should be kind to other people, because everyone deserves to be shown that they matter.

What if we all made a pact that we would go out of our way to show kindness and exhibit grace-in-action to other people?

What if we use the knowledge that we have gained from walking through our own experiences to help other people?

What if we decided to knowingly be “that” person who gives hope to those who are struggling?

What if we showed love to the people who do not go out of their way to show love to us?

What if we chose to speak an encouraging word, telling someone that they are doing a great job, providing encouragement to someone who might desperately need it?

What if we chose to smile at strangers, rather than just go about our daily tasks in our always-hurried fashion?

What if we provided a helping hand to the mom who is struggling to calm her child who is experiencing a meltdown in public, or to the individual in crutches who is struggling to carry packages?

What if we simply chose to be intentional about showing kindness?

We all know what it is like to be on the receiving end of unkind words, actions, and deeds, some intentionally delivered, and others delivered out of ignorance. We hopefully also all know what it is like to be treated with kindness and dignity, and shown love and grace. Where the first experience wounds deeply, often leaving lifelong scars, the second one provides a healing balm for the heart, soothing hurt places that we might not have realized were damaged.

I know that each of us who either personally struggle with the extra hardships brought on by illness, limitations, or disabilities—or who have the dual task and joy of caring for others with those life-challenging situations—often feel like we are scraping the bottom of the barrel ourselves, and have nothing left to give to others. But if we could only take a moment to remember how it felt when someone else went out of their way to be kind to us, or to our loved one, then we might just be able to reach down and tap into some of that incredible strength that we never knew we had, until life’s circumstances caused us to reach new levels of endurance and perseverance that we would not have thought possible.

My son wants me to ask you to accept the kindness challenge, choosing to show kindness to others, because each person matters.

I am accepting the challenge.

Will you?

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An Open Letter To My Autistic Son’s Preschool Class


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Dear Kids,

You know my son. He’s the one who demands attention because he often shouts out the answers instead of raising his hand. He’s the one who makes you laugh because he loves to spin and run around in circles. He’s the one who sometimes hurts your feelings because you ask him a question and he doesn’t respond. He’s the one the who makes you nervous because his smile can quickly turn into a teeth-baring snarl. He’s the one one who scares you because he sometimes hits the teacher and throws chairs.

I want you to know my son has autism.

I realize that term probably doesn’t mean much to you now, but it might in the future. What’s more important is that you know my son really wants to be your friend. I’ve seen him try. He asks you to play with him, but sometimes you’re across the room and can’t hear him. Sometimes, he knocks over your block tower, then asks you to play a game with him.  Sometimes, he mentions your names at home and calls you his friends. I know it’s confusing, but he thinks you know this, even though he doesn’t tell you.

I want you to know I appreciate your constant forgiveness. Even when he gets mad and yells and pushes you, I see you playing by his side the next day, even giving him a hug. You are unconditionally forgiving.

What scares me is when you lose that gift and start judging. When you finally decide you can’t handle his aggressive outbursts and tire of talking to someone who won’t look you in the eye.

I’m scared of the day you decide to start teasing him because he makes comments that don’t make sense and speaks with an unusual inflection or because you’re genuinely scared of him and simply don’t know what else to do.

I want you to try your best to remember that underneath all of that rough exterior, my son really cares about you. He wants to be your friend.

I want you to know 1 in 68 children are now diagnosed with autism. That means in your current school, it’s quite possible two or three of you have struggles similar to my son. For those few of you, because of your own difficulties with social interaction though, it’s very likely you and my son have an even harder time understanding each other.

I want you to remember that the bruises and scratches my son gave you will heal with time and the doting affection of your family, but the invisible bruises my son will wear from the nasty glances and hateful remarks of those who have labeled him as “bad” may never go away.

I want you to know you have a choice to be compassionate to all people and set an example for others.

I want you to know that, while I’m terribly afraid for my son, I have hope you will maintain the respect you may not always receive in return.


The Mother of a Child with Autism

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I Don’t Always Feel Compassion For My Autistic Child, And I’m OK With That


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A few weeks ago, I was describing one of my daughter’s meltdowns — a particularly gruesome one — to my therapist, when she looked at me kindly and said these words: “Jody, focus on compassion during her meltdowns.”

At the time, I kind of wanted to ask her whether she was high. My daughter has autism, and there are days (like the one I was describing) where it takes every ounce of compassion I possess to remain calm enough not to lose my shit. Her meltdowns aren’t just tantrums, they are Grade-A, bonafide shitshows, and she needs me to hug her and comfort her as soon as they pass. Right after she’s just spent up to 30 minutes screaming, hitting, kicking, or even biting. The only way that I’ve managed to successfully remain calm through these meltdowns is to detach myself from her emotions. That detachment is how I am able to treat her compassionately in the midst of chaos.

As time went on, however, I kept coming back to my therapist’s words. Was there something wrong with detaching like that? After the meltdown passes, safely in the confines of my therapist’s office, should I re-focus myself on compassion instead of venting my frustration? And what does it mean to focus on compassion when someone is screaming at you like a banshee, anyway?

After plenty of deliberation, I’ve come to a few conclusions: 1. Therapists without children of their own probably shouldn’t offer parenting advice, 2. Therapists without children on the autism spectrum definitely shouldn’t offer parenting advice directly related to autism, and 3. Fuck that noise.

For all of the touchy-feely awesomeness of the idea of “focusing on compassion,” there are moments in life when it’s simply not practical. One of those moments is when it takes every last bit of internal fortitude simply to survive. Later, perhaps, it is helpful to re-focus on compassion for your child’s experience, but it is equally (if not even more!) important to acknowledge and process your ownfeelings about the experience, too. No good comes from stuffing down your feelings and focusing entirely on your child’s needs, and the reality is that parenting requires us to achieve a balance between ourselves and our children. If I acknowledge my own frustration, anger, and sometimes even grief, then I am able to come to terms with it and release it. That makes me a happier person and a healthier, more effective parent. Reminders to “focus on compassion” imply that there is something negative about feeling our feelings as parents, and that’s just plain bullshit.

I’m a big fan of compassion, and I incorporate it into many areas of my life — including parenting. But, at the same time, I think it’s possible to treat someone with compassion without actually feeling a whole lot of compassion. In fact, in the midst of those meltdowns, I behave with compassion by gritting my teeth, detaching from the emotional turbulence, and riding out the meltdown. I exhibit compassion when I greet my daughter with arms wide open when the meltdown has ended. No matter how exhausted, frustrated, or even angry I feel, what matters most is how I behave, and that is what I hope to teach my children.

This post originally appeared on Ravishly

Also from Ravishly: Life Lessons To My Younger Self  • 6 Parenting Guilt Trips • After Divorce, Who Keeps The Friends? 

The post I Don’t Always Feel Compassion For My Autistic Child, And I’m OK With That appeared first on Scary Mommy.

3 Things I Want to Tell My Friend Whose Child Was Just Diagnosed With Special Needs

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My husband and I have two boys, ages 8 and 10, both of whom are on the Autism spectrum. Every time a friend or acquaintance comes to me and tells me their child has been diagnosed with autism or another special need, my heart aches just a little bit more. Because I know things, and the path their new life will take will be rewarding, but exceptionally difficult at the same time. Here are three things I want them to know, things I learned the hard way:

1. Advocacy is a nice by-product, but it’s not your job to make stupid people understand. Listen, some people are stupid, plain and simple. Either they intend to be mean, because they’re assholes, or they have no intention of understanding because it’s just not a priority to them.

Years ago, right after our oldest was diagnosed, I was in a fast food restaurant and I ran into an old friend of the family. She wanted to know how therapy was going, and was asking questions about the boys and their therapy. I walked into the play area, and a stranger followed behind me. It started off innocently enough:

“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop,” she started, “but I heard you talking to that woman about your kid having autism.”

I smiled. “Yes.”

“I don’t mean to judge, but did you vaccinate your children?”

I should’ve stopped her right there, and told her to shove it, but I was naïve and believe in teaching opportunities.

“We did, yes.”

“You know that’s what caused their autism. Have you researched this? Is your husband OK with you abusing your children? He must not be educated.”

“My husband is a physician, actually, and we made the decision to vaccinate with our pediatrician,” I said, trying to remain calm.

“Oh, well that explains it. Your husband gets paid by the pharmaceutical companies.”

This lunatic had no intention of learning about what autism means to our family. She came in with the sole intention of making me feel bad about my mothering skills. People like this can suck the life out of you, but it is not your job to make them understand what you and your child are going through. It is your job to be your child’s mom.

2. You are going to lose friends, and at times, you will feel lonely. This is an unfortunate by-product of this life you are embarking on. I’ve yet to know someone with a child with special needs who hasn’t lost a friend or two because of it. Maybe it’s because of their own insecurities. Maybe it holds a mirror up to their imperfect life. Who knows? But the less time you focus on the people who step back and more you focus on the people that step forward, the better off you’ll be.

Even the well-meaning friend will say insensitive things to you. Nothing makes me angrier than people telling me I needed to ‘grieve the child I wanted.’ I always hold back from responding, ‘no, you grieve the child you think I should have.’ We have the children we are supposed to have, regardless of what others may think.

While people will disappoint you with their behavior, the friends that step up and stick by you are the ones you will keep forever, because they get it. These are the golden ones; hold onto them tight.

3. Everyone can and will Monday morning quarterback your decisions, but they’re not living this life, you are. Acceptance needs to be your new mantra for yourself. You are going to make mistakes. Accept this now, and it will be less painful when you screw up. There is no playbook for your life. Even with research, fabulous therapists, and brilliant doctors, straightforward solutions are usually not the first answer.

You will get angry and frustrated, but that is a waste of your precious time and energy. When our first child was diagnosed, I got into the tub and cried, because I didn’t know what I was up against or what the hell I was doing. When the second child was diagnosed, I crawled back into that tub and cried, because I knew what I was up against. I can’t change the way their brains are wired, just like I can’t change their eye or hair color. It’s what makes them them. While I dragged them to therapy multiple times a week, I used the rest of the time to focus on their gifts and strengths.

What you do need to do is throw all of your expectations out of the window while you drive towards a new destination. This is the life you are living. Embrace it.

Related post: Dear Newly Inducted Special Needs Parent

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8 Reasons My Son Having Autism Has Made Me a Better Person

My 13-year-old son has autism. I’ve said often over the last ten years that I hate autism, but rarely have I said that autism has been a good teacher. So, I’ll say it: I have learned much from autism. I am a better parent and a better person because of autism. 1. Autism has taught me compassion and empathy on a level I never understood before. Watching my son wrestle with his anxiety and knowing he does not understand much of the world around him causes my heart to ache more deeply than I knew was possible 2. Autism has taught me patience. I have never been a patient person, but I almost never lose my patience with my son. 3. Autism has taught me humility. After raising older children that excelled at almost anything they tried, I had become somewhat conceited. I have found it very humbling to sit in the office of school administrators and beg for the help my son needs. I have found it very humbling to have to explain my son’s behaviors to strangers. I see now that I was arrogant, and humbling is exactly what I needed. I am thankful I have been humbled. 4. Autism has taught me that “one size fits all” does not apply to parenting. Children with special needs sometimes need special parenting. 5. Autism has taught me a lot about hard work. Autism has moved me to pursue every avenue of help for my son that I can. Autism has called me to be much more involved in my child’s education and has often meant I had to study and fight for the things he needs. 6. Autism has taught me that hard work pays off. Early intervention was intensive and exhausting, but the gains we saw were huge and well worth all the time and effort we put in. 7. Autism has taught me not to let my guard down, because although MOST people are kind and can be trusted, not ALL people have pure motives. People with special needs can be easily victimized, so a parent must be diligent and watchful. 8. Autism has taught me that people with special needs have a lot to offer. I used to be intimidated by people with special needs. I now know they are just people who might take a little longer to respond or need a little more help to get things done. But they are people and their lives have as much value as mine or anyone else’s. If you have someone in your life with a disability, search for the lessons you can learn. As you help that person to be the best they can be, you will likely find yourself becoming better and stronger as well. Related post: A Letter to the New Autism Parent The post 8 Reasons My Son Having Autism Has Made Me a Better Person appeared first on Scary Mommy.