April means Autism Awareness and Acceptance month and I felt compelled to write about a realization I recently had about my oldest son, D who has autism. My realization was that he’s not a hero, he’s a person. I want to say that first and foremost, I got permission from him to write this post about him because at some point in the journey, it became his story to tell. I also got his permission because I’m trying to be better about boundaries when it comes to writing about the people in my life. I could actually write more about boundaries but that’s another blog post.
My oldest son was diagnosed at the age of 5 and I was 22. I’ve written about him in a previous post about how he was my hero because of all of the obstacles he’s conquered and how proud I am of him because of that. Here’s that blogpost:
One thing that I didn’t address in that post was how receiving this diagnosis meant me receiving a new identity, a mom with a child on the autism spectrum. Or we are often called autism warrior moms or whatever is trendy at the time. From the age of 22, this identity was deeply ingrained within me. I’ve lost count of how many articles or books I’ve read about autism. I’ve lost count of how many parent teacher conferences or IEP meetings I’ve attended having to fight or advocate for services for my son. I’ve lost count of how many therapists or counselors my son has had. You get my point. Being a mom to a child with autism is not easy. It’s hard, really hard. I’ve mentioned before how my child started to flourish between 3rd and 4th grade and he went on to be successful in his academic career throughout high school. Throughout all of this, I didn’t realize it but I put my child on a pedestal. I don’t know if it was the BPD or me being super excited about my son’s progress. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good and healthy thing to encourage my son and support him; but at some point idealizing him put an unhealthy amount of pressure that started to feel like a burden. I won’t say what happened next in this story but I will say that he’s now thriving as a regular 23 year old. I realized this week that at some point I stopped being an autism warrior mom. I think that I understood this sometime in 2016 after my son turned 18 but really accepted it this week. It’s weird when I used to start talking about myself, being a autism warrior mom would be one of the first things I would share and now I don’t feel the need to. When someone who knows me and my son mentions he’s quiet, I’m just like “well he’s just shy”. Like I first mentioned in this post; it’s just no longer my story to share. When I talk about my son, I just say “ he’s D, pretty awesome most of the time but kind of annoying at times.” I’ve also let go of this idealization of him I had. I still admire him and love him for who he is but he’s not a hero; he’s a person.
He’s a person with his own set of issues and insecurities. He’s a person with goals and plans for the future. And talking to him, he wants to be seen that way. I also want to mention that I’m not speaking for all the moms with children with autism, I’m speaking just for myself. Getting here has been difficult but it’s been an important part of the process of me becoming not just a better mother, but a better person as well.