February 4, 2014

Normal is a dryer setting

Today is day 1. 

As I was getting my sleeping child ready for daycare a feeling of anger came over me. After the boys left the feeling was still with me, and I couldn't figure out why. I became irritated not being able to figure it out. Who was I mad at? God? Nikolai? Vanderbilt staff? My friends who all had "normal" kids? And then the feeling became stronger, but I still couldn't put my finger on it - who was I mad at? 

There are a range of emotions that a person goes through when hearing the diagnosis of Autism. What emotions they are can be as different and broad as the autism spectrum. Yesterday I had blamed myself. What had I done to cause this? Fast food during pregnancy? Vaccinating? My genes? I felt sorry for myself. I felt sorry for Nikolai. Wishing that my child could only be "normal". My baby had a problem that I couldn't fix. I spent yesterday drowning in my self pity. The select few I confided in gave me the automatic responses of "it will be okay", and "there are tons of resources" in attempt to cheer me up. But the majority couldn't relate - they didn't know what I was feeling, they hadn't been in my shoes. Just like I didn't know when I had told those same lines to friends who had kids diagnosed before me. 

Then, as I spent the morning looking through my phone of old videos and pictures I had taken over the past month or two, it dawned on me. My feeling of depression and self pity had turned into anger alright. I was beyond angry, I was pissed off. At myself.

Who was I to feel sorry for myself? I have this amazing child who teaches me something new everyday. He pats my back when I'm sick and cuddles with me to watch movies. Who gives me an unlimited number of kisses (sometimes without me even having to ask!). He runs to me when he's hurt, expecting and knowing that I can make it better. He loves me unconditionally. 

Who was I to feel sorry for Nikolai? Sorry for what reason? Being an amazing kid? Overcoming new obstacles everyday? Learning new skills? Having dance parties to his favorite songs? Being a happy kid? Nikolai doesn't need anybody to feel sorry for him. He doesn't need anybody raining on his parade. He'll be just fine, and if I know my kid probably better than that. 

Who was I to use the word "normal" when describing my kid? Or any kid for that matter. Just as I wouldn't accept society's definition of "beautiful" when it came to women, I wasn't going to accept the term "normal" and make my child feel like there was something wrong with him. 

I realized that my child isn't "broken" - he doesn't need to be fixed. There's nothing wrong with him - he IS normal. He simply needs encouragement and sometimes adjustment to his routines in order to help him be successful. I won't focus on what he can't do but rather what he can

I woke up this morning ashamed at myself. Because while my child has never failed to love me unconditionally, for a brief 15 hours I had failed him. These past 24 hours have been nothing short of a whirlwind. And while it's true - things have and will continue to change, one thing has not. I am my sons voice, biggest supporter, and advocate.

My conclusions: 

  • If I don't understand Autism and educate myself on the matter,  then I can't expect others to.
  • The world "normal" is deleted from my vocabulary, there is no such thing as "normal"
  • Autism does not define anybody, including Nikolai. It is simply a character trait of theirs.
  • I refuse to let Nikolai use his diagnosis as a crutch or excuse for things. My dreams and expectations of him have not changed because of this diagnosis, only the way we might approach and accomplish them.
  • I don't need to protect Nikolai from the world, if anything I need to protect the world from Nikolai. He's a force to be reckoned with and nothing will stop him.
  • Our parenting techniques and approaches might change but our love for him will not.
  • While I dread questions being asked about Autism and Nikolai, questions are better than pretending he doesn't exist - with questions comes education.
  • When he comes storming in from daycare running to give me my hug and kiss, I'll be there with open arms. Never again will I fail him or think there is something wrong with him. My love for him is unconditional.


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