My tiny man is seven years old today. And while he is elbow deep in Thomas trains and David Attenborough DVDs, I feel I should take a moment to reflect on the parent I’ve become.
I was always one of those people that kids looked expectantly at… even when I was a kid. I wasn’t the most popular kid, by a long shot, but other kids always thought I had the answers. It wasn’t a bad position to be in, though once when there was a heated discussion about where babies came from, I seem to remember reassuring all the other kids that penises were definitely not involved.
As I grew older, I was the supervisor of the little kids, the baby sitter, and as the youngest of six kids, it didn’t take long until I was the fun aunty. I specialised in writing for kids at Drama School and then did post-grad study in Early Childhood Education.
So the pressure was on, parenting wise. The bar had been nudged higher and higher by successive generations of doe-eyed, sugared-up little kids.
By the time the stars aligned (or were wedged into a vague line after freaking years of trying) to make parenting a possibility… folks were expecting Super Nanny meets Dr Spock with a bit of Maria Montessori thrown in for good measure.
And then Billy was born.
My overwhelming memory of the first year of his life is staring into his eyes, smiling at each other. I never felt more connected to anyone or anything ever. It was magic… everything I’d ever dreamed of.
It helped that he was cute as a button, and it helped even more that he seemed to be slamming those milestones way ahead of time. Could this get any better?
There were a couple of things that raised our eyebrows a little. He reacted badly to sudden sounds – clashing shopping trolleys, motorbikes speeding past the car, people laughing suddenly. He would startle and cry. The tears wouldn’t last long, but they were consistent. And then there was the birthday party, where we realised Billy couldn’t handle kid noise.
Even so, he walked and talked and played all the games that we played with him.
I felt re-born. Like this was what I was meant to do. I am grateful that I avoided the perils of post natal depression, because it would have sucked to have missed those new feelings. I felt like I was climbing up close to that child rearing bar set all those years before I gave birth.
So, when autism made its presence felt, we laughed. I couldn’t work out how someone so connected to his parents could be autistic. Isn’t autism all about not letting people love you?
We had videos of our koala boy, giggling and hugging and having the time of his toddler life around us. So how could this be autism?
I quickly morphed from offended parent to gutted parent, through stunned parent to angry parent. All in a couple of weeks. Then came resolved parent, who put her head down and kept her eyes on the prize. Until she worked out she didn’t know what the prize was.
Do I want the autism to go away? No. And I say that knowing that we are the lucky ones, autism wise. We have language and love. We have wit and wisdom. We have a bunch of squiggly looking disordered development challenges as well, but we’re OK.
Do I wish Billy was NT? No. And I say that because it’s kind of like wanting me to look like Heidi Klum. Just not gonna happen, so why even go there.
Do I wish I had another child? Maybe. And I say that because that’s what autism took away from me.
With Billy’s particular sensory presentation, and the additional toll that we both knew another (is it or isn’t it?) child could take on our relationship and well being… we made the decision to quit while we were ahead. And while I stand by that decision 100%, I’m not thrilled with it. Lord knows all those kids all those years ago raised my hopes a bit too.
Seven years of Billy sure beats all those years without him. I’m thankful for all the things he and his autism have brought into my life. Even the repeating, and the jerky excited arms and the same dinner every night.
I’m proud of the parent I’ve become. And I say that because I’m unbelievably proud of the child that he has become.
Now it’s time to sugar him up with GF/CF cake!
valerie's increasingly random ramblings can be found at Jump On The Rollercoaster.