I am the proud mommy of 2 beautiful children—my daughter is a beautiful, outgoing, and smart pre-teen while my son is a gorgeous, smart, and funny 6 year old. He’s on the spectrum, she’s not. Being a mommy though trumps the spectrum or having even a neurotypical child in that I have my hopes, dreams, and worries about both of their futures and the relationships they will have although those are very different for each child. See they are both my babies—a fact she finds embarrassing and he finds inaccurate because after all he is a “big boy” now. Indulge me in a few examples.
Sleepovers. Even though she’s 12 I still worry that she will get homesick, sick during the night, or if she’s warm enough during the night when she stays at a friend’s house. With him, I worry that he’ll never get the chance to pack his little overnight bag and debate over which toys he has to take with him to show his friend or which pillow is cool enough to take with him.
Best friends. She’s amazingly outgoing but she’s also very outspoken and I worry that she’ll go through her share of best friends over the years as she struggles to find someone who really understands her. Along the way I’m sure she will get her heart broken and I can only hope that I will find the right words or that my hug will be enough to get her through the pain. He has loyalty like no other and rather than cast a wide net of friends, he keeps one or two kids really close to him each year. I know the friends he makes each year need him as much as he needs them. I’m sure there will still be heartache along the way and I can only hope that I can find a way to explain and help him understand the hurt.
Peer pressure. I worry that she’ll succumb to the desire of her friends; will it be alcohol, a dare, or the realization that good grades aren’t cool. Will she remember all of our conversations and more importantly will our voices ring louder in her mind than those of her friends? With him I don’t worry so much because my literal thinker knows that a rule is a rule is a rule and his autism actually drives him to work as hard as he possibly can no matter what he is doing.
Dances. I wonder what how she will react to her first dance invitation and if she will overcome her dress aversion long enough to put on her first pair of heels. I know she’ll look beautiful and I can’t wait to be one of “those parents” lined up outside of the school taking dozens of pictures; without a doubt I will sign up as a parent volunteer. I wonder though if he’ll ever consider a dance or if the environment with its loud music and bright lights will be too much of a sensory overload for him to really consider it; without a doubt I will be the parent hosting a non-dance event at our household and will be taking dozens of pictures.
First dates. Will I know the first person who asks her out? What plans will they make? How will her dad react to the news? On the other hand, will he ever have those special feelings for someone? If so , will he find the words to ask them out? And again will I have the words for each of them, no matter where their feelings take them. For her it will be having something that rings true and demonstrates I understand where she is while for him it will literally be finding words that make sense and help him understand the emotions that are so difficult for him.
Prom. I know without a doubt that she will find a way to rock a zebra striped prom dress while her friends are wearing pastel; she will stand out in the crowd because that is who she is. I don’t know if he’ll make it to the prom but he’ll also stand out because that is who he is. They will stand out for very different reasons but I hope both are equally accepted.
By now, I hope you are seeing a pattern. I have just as many worries for my neurotypical child as I do my child on the spectrum and I have just as many dreams for my child on the spectrum as I do my neurotypical child. They will have people come in and out of their lives and their relationships will be varied. There will be special people, heartaches, and a lot of learning moments as they grow into young adults. I don’t have all of the answers now and I won’t have all of the answers in the future either. I love and accept my children for who they are and what I want most in the world is for them to be happy. Neurotypical or on the spectrum, both of my children are incredibly special people who deserve to be loved and surrounded by individuals who understand and appreciate both their strengths and their weaknesses. My job is to do my best to prepare them to go out into the world and find those equally special friends and partners. Biased? Yep, after all my babies will always be my babies.