Who has the biggest house? The best car? The most intelligent children? The most athletic children? Sometimes it seems that we spend the majority of our days comparing ourselves with other people and their children.
I’m sure we’ve all been compared with others at least once in our lives.
In high school there always seemed to be an imaginary popularity contest. If you were considered pretty, athletic and likable, you had a ticket to your high school’s upper crust. When I became a mother, it seemed there were a set of new rules established for the “it” crowd’s mom circles.
In order to fit in, you had to be well groomed, in shape (or at least making a good effort), have well-manicured nails and be on top of all the latest childhood milestones. I never saw any of the “perfect” mothers appear to be sleep deprived. It seemed their outfits were flawless and so was everything else about them. Their children seemed to be perfect little cherubs, meeting and exceeding every developmental milestone.
I also never encountered any mom like me, a woman on the spectrum.
Things were not the same for me, I was sleep deprived, not put together and my children were different. My oldest daughter was put in glasses at 10 months old. My middle daughter had corrective leg braces because she had poor muscle tone. People stared and whispered, but I just ignored them.
When my oldest and youngest daughters were 7 and 3, they were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. That’s when I really noticed a huge difference between “typical” moms and moms of kids with extra needs. They started comparing children as soon as they were born. That trend escalated as soon as preschool started. No matter where I went someone was telling me how advanced her child was for his age. I heard how so and so’s son was a soccer prodigy, or about the 4 year who was already doing algebra.
I was never embarrassed of any of my daughters’ differences.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for other moms. It was that other moms felt sorry for me. They would say things like: “I’m sure your daughters will catch up.”
One mom made the comment that my daughters must know what it’s like to not have any friends because autistic people don’t have any friends.
I did not respond to her, mostly because I was in shock. I couldn’t believe another mother could be so cruel. I have been told numerous times that my life must be incredibly overwhelming and difficult because I am an autistic mom and have three children with special needs. My daughters are often counted out of sports and other events because they might not be able to “handle the stress or interaction” with others.
No child should ever be counted out of anything in life.
Just because some people on the spectrum don’t want to participate, it doesn’t mean everyone should be left behind. Although my middle daughter is not autistic, she does have ADHD and Tic Disorder. It was assumed she wasn’t very bright. She was often put in the back of the classroom and ignored. I was told by teachers that she performed poorly and probably needed more help.
As a mother, I knew they were wrong.
I knew my daughter was brilliant. It wasn’t until she reached her freshman year of high school that others finally realized what I knew all along. She is and has always been intelligent beyond her years. In fact, all of my daughters have proved teachers and other parents wrong. The potential was always there—people just weren’t looking for it. Grades aren’t everything, and neither are sports.
Never mind what other people say about your children’s potential or abilities.
The disabled community has always been overlooked. When you have children that don’t fit into the typical mold, people assume that they are somehow less than. That is just plain wrong.
Everyone meets milestones in his or her own time. Just because someone doesn’t follow the exact developmental milestone pace as suggested by various charts (or mom crowd expectations) that doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer.
I did get weary of the comparisons when my daughters were little.
I’m sure that other parents meant no harm. Having experienced the stares and whispers, I hope that I am more aware of how much that can hurt.
Stop defining individuals by their diagnoses. Look at the person. Don’t assume you know everything about every diagnosis or disability. Just because your friend has a friend that has a daughter with autism that doesn’t like to eat peanut butter…it doesn’t mean you know EVERYTHING about autism. Even people with disabilities are unique. No one fits into a standard mold.
If you liked this post, you may also like:
- More of Megan’s Autism Insider essays
- What is the Impact of “Old School” Thinking?
- From Fear to Victories in One Middle School Year
- How to Find Autism Resources
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