Monday, December 28, 2009

The best gift of all? Acceptance.

As the holiday season approached, I noted that a number of blog posts by special-needs parents focused on their anxieties about upcoming family gatherings. They didn't have garden-variety plaints -- "God I hope Uncle Ed doesn't drink too much again" or "If Grandma nags me about my weight, I'm gonna lose it". In blog after blog, I read about moms and dads girding their loins in preparation for the volleys of criticism that were about to be hurled at them about their parenting. I read about parents sending pre-emptive emails to relatives, and printing out fact sheets on their children's disabilities, hoping that they could get their families to understand why family gatherings are so difficult for their kids. Their angst was heartbreaking.

I'm lucky. My family has taken great pains to understand and accommodate my sons' autistic spectrum disorders and mental health challenges. At a recent holiday gathering, my son Taz (who has frontal lobe damage from seizures that renders him nearly devoid of impulse control) became anxious and began blurting out grotesque, completely inappropriate statements that totally mortified me. I began to apologize for his behavior when my mom held up her hand. "Don't worry," she said. "We know who Taz is. We know there's beauty in him. We get it." It took all the pressure off, and Taz eventually relaxed when he felt the embrace of my family's acceptance.

Even my wusband's family has become more tolerant over the years, something I never expected to happen. He took the boys to his sister's house on Christmas Day, and my older son Rocky didn't even say hello before going over to her TV and reconfiguring it for optimal video output (one of his autistic obsessions). The wusband cringed in embarrassment and angrily prompted Rocky to perform the expected social niceties. That's when my ex-sister-in-law, who has lectured us relentlessly about how remiss we are in teaching our sons proper manners, apologized to her brother, saying, "I'm sorry I didn't get it before. That's his autism, right?"

If your family doesn't support you now, take heart in knowing that there are people like my ex-sister-in-law who eventually "get it". And even if this never happens, know that there is a lot of support out there for you -- from friends, neighbors, and, of course, from all the Hopeful Parents in the blogosphere. 

May 2010 bring you all the loving acceptance you need and deserve.

13 comments:

  1. I have to say that you are so right, and that one is so lucky when they have a family that understands! While doing our family photo, and having to promise Casey the world if he would sit through at least 5 flashes (his latest "fear"), they all gave him a round of applause when he got through.... when he told my sister yesterday that he hated her when she asked him to eat some breakfast she made for him, I apologized and she looked at me as if I was an idiot. You gotta love it!

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  2. awareness leads to compassion, if just one family member at a time. i'm so glad the boys (and you) have such wonderful support.
    Merry Christmakka!

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  3. I'm so glad you have the blessing of good family support Happy 2010!

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  4. So true! I'm so glad things went well for you and your boys this holiday!

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  5. I've been lucky too. Not only my family, but my neighborhood, friends and church family. No one in our neighborhood gets upset when they see Jonathan in only his birthday suit jumping on the trampoline. Our church friends don't bat an eye when Jonathan comes through the room with only very loose boxers and then gives them the full monty when doing a handstand. Our friends and family all make sure when we come for dinner that they have chips and salsa and pickles available for Jonathan to eat.

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  6. Wonderful post. So glad to hear that you've got that support from your family, and that even your ex-SIL has come around. We've had similar experiences here - those who didn't understand but still loved and accepted, and those who gradually realized that, yes, this is his autism. There are those who still say "Hasn't he grown out of it yet?" and I have to graciously tell them the same thing I've said a hundred times before. I keep believing that someday they will get there too. Acceptance is definitely the best gift of all.

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  7. So glad to hear of acceptance and love, even when understanding is lagging. It's so nice to have a support group of family, friends, school, church, community that tries, even if they sometimes don't get it exactly right. I don't get it right half the time myself, and I'm an "expert" on autism, albeit by necessity not choice. Happy Holidays to all!

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  8. wow. i love that your ex sister-in-law 'got it'!

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  9. A friend passed this blog site along to me. The blog above was very encouraging. I have been very blessed with acceptance of my sons' disabilities from my family, religious community, school and friends. The message that it is never too late to see changes in others' understanding of disabilities is very positive. I have also found it freeing to lose my expectation that certain people will change and understand our lives and our children. I kept hoping for understanding but when I finally recognized the ignorance behind the attitude along with the resistance to change, I could let go. I continue to protect my children from the lack of acceptance from the family and friends who don't get it. Now I can better protect myself too.

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