This is Cindy Szymonik. You may remember me from my previous blog posts discussing my two wonderful sons who are on opposing ends of the autism spectrum. For the past 15 years, I have been coming to terms with raising my boys in a world where they just don’t quite fit in, most of the time. And it follows that if your child doesn’t quite fit in to typical society, by proxy you yourself do not exactly fit in as a parent either. This phenomena used to be a source of great concern for me. How could I make them ‘fit’? How could I get them to enjoy the things that I myself enjoyed as a child? And MOST importantly (lol), when they were young, how could I find another mom to have some coffee with when the boys and I kept kind of getting edged out of playgroups?
The answer came to me slowly over time. I wasn’t going to. This is the fork in the road where my opinions often vary from those held by other special needs parents. Please remember that I am only presenting my approach and opinions gleaned from living with my particular kids. Your approach may well be different. But it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. (Just kidding). And actually I have become quite at peace with it. Some (not by any means ALL) of the situations that used to make me wish the earth would open up and swallow me because I was so horrendously embarrassed that we weren’t fitting in have become downright funny, now that I look at them with a different perspective.
A few months ago I was sitting in a kickoff meeting for parents for a teen religious education program. Everyone was pleasantly discussing the challenges they faced with their teens, nodding and commiserating with each other. I grew conspicuously quiet, and all of the sudden I had this weird visual that I was sitting in a puppy obedience training class. Everyone there had a puppy, but there I sat with a chicken. I like my chicken, don’t get me wrong, and wouldn’t trade him for a puppy, but the issues that were being discussed were COMPLETELY unlike the issues I was facing with my teen. Some of their issues were harder, some easier, but they were definitely NOT the same. It is sometimes hard for me to be objective since I am not, and never will be, the mother of a neuro-typical child. But it became clear pretty quickly that they were figuratively walking around that block while I was out in a barnyard spreading feed somewhere. Concerns of dating, sports competitions, popularity, and poor grades are not even on my radar. In some ways this is a good thing. But all the banter really didn’t bother me now. Years ago I would have probably felt sad and wished we were encountering some ‘normal’ problems too. But sitting there then it suddenly occurred to me that this was really quite funny. I felt like an ‘imposter parent’, who snuck into a meeting where I didn’t belong.