This was written when Toby’s behaviors were much more severe than they are right now. He no longer has outbursts of this degree.
One saturday morning last year, a neighbor surprised me at my house on a day when Toby was losing it. She sweetly offered to watch him for me, but for whatever reason his fit had ended when she walked in and I knew the “switch” had flipped back off and he would be fine until my husband came home from helping someone move. I sincerely appreciated her offer and her concern.
What bothered me was this: She said to me “I remember those days….”
No you don’t. You’ve likely never had to lock your young daughter in her bedroom to keep her safe from her out of control brother. How often did you have to fend off a scratching, hitting, kicking and biting little boy? Most likely not as often as I do, at least every other day. I have scars from the scratches, on my arms and on my heart.
Nothing hurts as much as being physically harmed by your own child.
I experienced so much stress and tension in the years prior to my son’s diagnosis, and every mother I knew assured me it was “normal” for him to do some of the things he did , and that I should try this method or that method. To be fair, Toby is mild (verbal, social etc), and not everyone can tell that he has autism, but he is also very small for his age and sometimes people think that he is younger than his three year old neurotypical sister. Once he was diagnosed, it became all too clear to me that everyone but me knew something was different about him. But no one wanted to make me feel bad so they acted like it was normal.
I know that the young years are not easy for any mother. But I think that in an effort to make me feel like a “normal” mom by empathizing with me saying “Oh, we’ve been there. We’ve had that problem,” they are minimizing the extra measure of difficulty I’ve faced as a mother of a child with autism.
It took me forty minutes in a closed room with 100% of my attention to get my son to put on 5 items of clothing. Tell me that you’ve had to do that with your neurotypical five year old.
I know some might think this is an ungrateful thing to say. I only wish that people would stop trying to empathize with something if they don’t really understand it.
I’m not going to just sit there and tell them how wrong they are. That would be horrible. I just want other moms to understand that what I deal with is NOT the same as what most other moms deal with. What is baseline normal for moms of kids with autism is not the same as what is baseline for moms of neurotypical kids.
So yes, this dear lady did endure those toddler years, the high energy, go go go, tantrum-for-no-real-reason years.
But the days I have are not the same ones she remembers.