Some days, Prozac is just not enough. Today is one of those days. What I’m going to share with you does not make me proud – as it’s the kind of thing that happens all the time to lots of Moms (especially those of us with kids who have special needs) and 99% of the time I can blow it off like no one’s business. Today is not one of those days.
This “encounter” happened this morning in the preschool pick-up line, and for whatever reason, I can’t shake the ugly feelings no matter how hard I’ve tried. So, I sent my trio off to the Science Museum with Dad, poured myself a margarita from a bottle that was originally opened sometime this summer and is not as fresh as I’d like, spent a few minutes on my red couch deciding whether or not I really wanted to put this down on paper, and now here I am.
Here’s my deal – some Moms are just jerks. Maybe you can envision who I’m talking about – the Moms who are way too concerned with how perfect their kid is, who need to talk about how amazingly bright or advanced he/she may be, what wait-lists the poor kid is on for schools, the crazy amount of classes/lessons/hobbies their poor kid is over-scheduled for, etc. They are in the know about every kid in school, and pump their kids for information that even 8th graders should not care about anymore. Generally, much to my despair, these Moms are way too cute, snappy dressers, and weigh exactly what they should without exercise or effort of any kind. Damn I dislike them – even before ugly things happen.
Full disclosure – I don’t share with everyone that Ada is on the autism spectrum – especially at her preschool. While I have no shame sharing it, it just has not come up naturally in conversation, nor has there been any reason to throw it out there in everyday chat in the kid pick-up line. Frankly, unless there is some reason or need, why? Strangely enough, Ada has a therapist who accompanies her at preschool every day. Ada does not even know that this person is a therapist, as this person has never been to our home, etc. This is something in the therapy world known as a “blind therapist”, because neither Ada nor her classmates know that the person is there for her. I’m fairly certain most of the kids and parents just think it is another teacher in the classroom, and unless Ada needs help with something (which happens less and less) that is how she spends her time. Frankly, it is amazing and wonderful that Ada is in a place where this is as much help as she needs at this point. We’re working hard so that in Kindergarten, it is hopeful she can begin school needing little if any help at all. This is a tremendously different situation than we faced and continue to face with Elliott. But Ada’s a girl, and that’s a whole different animal when it comes to the social scene in school.
I’ve shared this before, but another reason I don’t feel as comfortable chatting about Ada is that I don’t always want to be perceived as the Mom who can only talk about autism. I own that I have a lot of anxiety about that – because even though autism is a big part of my life, it’s not all that I am, and I dislike that at times, I know that’s what I’ve projected to others. I’m self-conscious about that, and often find myself weighing what I should or shouldn’t say – especially since I’m all about spreading awareness, but need to balance that with my own sense of appropriateness. With Elliott, I had fewer options. Wherever we go, people can sense within about a half-second that something is not as it should be. I guess that does not sound very nice, but I don’t mean it in a negative way. In spite of his differences, he is an incredibly confident and outgoing young man. He makes his way in the world because of his differences, and not in spite of them. He’s far from shy, got a killer smile, and likes to hug total strangers. To be frank, he has many fans out there, and even when his attempts make me sweat with discomfort as I struggle with my own social boundaries, I force myself to allow him to make his own way in the world (within reason of course). What he lacks in the area of social filter, he makes up for in tenacity. I’m very proud, and even a tinge envious of this.
(Starting margarita #2 – this may be trouble). Ok, so here I am in the preschool pick-up line this morning about 3 or 4 people behind this parent that I’m less than fond of who happens to be outspoken about just about everything. Keep in mind that because our school district did not have school today, I had both Elliott & Henry along with me. Considering that both boys attended preschool there, and Elliott did Kindergarten there (twice, but who’s counting), they were kind of jazzed about being in the building again. Elliott immediately approached 2 or 3 Moms to tell them that when he grows up, he’s going to become a civil engineer so that he can deal with the irritating traffic light situation in front of the preschool. He also explained to them, in vivid detail, the route that we chose to drive to the preschool from our home, including street names and approximate wait times.
Out of the blue, said Mom starts asking almost every parent in line whether or not their child had fun at her kid’s birthday party, which had apparently happened very recently. It became clear to me very quickly that Ada was likely one of the only (if not the only) kid from class not included, and that icky feeling down deep in my gut began to ache. Believe me; I need to own my insecurities here. I get that you can’t include everyone at every party – though in preschool, we always have. I get that maybe it was random, and had nothing to do with autism – maybe they are just jerks in general. I also get that Ada knows nothing about this, and it will never have to hurt her the way it hurt me in that line this morning. But I can’t help feeling ugliness about it. Not only was it completely inappropriate for her to be talking in front of me to every parent who was invited (she needs to revisit her social filter), but I need to get over my negativity about her for Ada’s sake.
It didn’t help that Elliott was spouting off about a myriad of random discussion topics in his way too loud voice while this was all going on. Because even though 99% of the time, I can roll with the punches, at that moment I just felt sad for how different our family is, and that our differences are going to cause some additional social heart-break for our kids and in turn for me. All day, I’ve just not been able to shake these ugly feelings, and I’m ticked about that too. Lord knows we’ve been through worse – like when Elliott at age 2 barreled into a 90-year-old woman at Lake Harriet, and she nearly ended up in the hospital. Heck, we have a million fun little memories like that one to share. This in the big scheme of things is nothing, but for some reason, I’m just ticked at his creepy Mom.
Why does she get to worry about what schools offer the best gifted and talented programs and I need to be content to cry for joy when we don’t ask someone at Target how old they are? I know – that was completely jerky, and I have no idea how awful or potentially complicated her life is. Everyone has their issues – while autism is what our family struggles with, everyone faces challenges. I swear I have compassion for the struggles we all face. It’s just that today, I need to dislike the way she excluded my baby – whether it was about autism or not.
I never like to stray too far away from realizing that if things had turned out differently, I could easily be like her (true – I’d be tons funnier than her and hopefully not quite as snarky) but I could have been a Mom worried about the things she is worried about instead of appropriate social interactions, eye contact, or special ed. test scores. But I’m not, and some days, that just sucks Today is one of those days.