What do people see when they see me walking with (specifically) the twins? Do they see a mom with 2 kids? If we are having an “A-moment”, do they think how could I allow my children to become such spoiled brats? Or do they actually see the autism? Can someone who has never seen me or my children before recognize the struggle that I must mentally prepare for every time we leave the house? I always feel I have to explain myself or their behavior away, even when things aren’t so bad. I feel I have to prepare everyone for the imminent breakdown that is coming so they don’t see me as “that terrible parent”. I shouldn’t care about this so much. I shouldn’t anticipate the negative moments.
But I do.
They happen all the time. Things aren’t as bad as they used to be….we have learned several tricks over the last couple of years (gummy bears and cookies are probably our most successful ones). When I would pick up Big Brother from school this year — I was known as the “Gummy Bear Mom” because I always had a pocketful. I would hand them to “S” periodically as a reward for good behavior, or when he asked me appropriately. Most of the Moms around me, knew us by the end of the year, but what did they think of my parenting techniques before they came to understand our struggles? And, again, why did I care?
Today, I will be picking up Big Brother from his second day of camp at a facility the twins have never been to. It’s a gymnastics facility, similar but much larger than the familiar “The Little Gym”. Yesterday, when I picked him up, my husband was with me and he stayed with the twins in the car while I collected Big Brother. Today, he’s back at work and I have to do the job on my own. I can see it now. “R” is going to try to get into that gym. “S” is going to just stop in his tracks, causing me to drag him inside the facility. Because of these fears, I’m going prepared. The leashes are in the car and I’m going to put them on these two before heading into the building. That’s going to cause it’s own battle and we’ll already be on a losing path before heading in. But the need to contain them outweighs the possibility that they will behave when they get inside. I’m actually almost hoping for rain so that I have the excuse to keep them in the car while they bring Big Brother to me.
And what will these people think of me? These two look like they are 6 years old at first glance because they are so tall (even though they are only 4.5). 6 year olds aren’t led by these leashes (oops….I mean harnesses) — they are designed for 2 year olds. 6 year olds aren’t given gummy bears every few minutes for good behavior. There is no parent that will be there today who knows us. No one knows that we are an autism family. No one knows that my kids behave more like 2 or 3 year olds despite how they may appear at first glance.
People have asked me what autism is like on a daily basis. This is probably one of the better examples. This is what it feels like. Knowing that you are about to step out into the world with children who one on the outside would think should know better, but don’t. Knowing that, unless they are familiar with autism, if we have an “A-moment” people will probably be whispering behind my back once they assume I can no longer hear them (if I’m lucky — there are some who don’t care if I hear or not). Knowing that others consider me a sub-standard parent because of the behavior of my children, even though in many cases, it is beyond my kids’ control or understanding.
It really shouldn’t bother me. Not after all this time.
But it does. And it probably always will.