Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Parenting is Hard. Full Stop.

I saw another one of those 'why can't we say it's hard?' posts the other day and I've been thinking about it ever since.

We can say parenting is hard. That's really not up for debate. Anyone who has ever had kids knows it's true. What we can't say is,"Parenting this child is hard."

My offspring are a mix of spectrummy and neurotypical so I have experienced the challenges that come with parenting both. Yes, when my neurotypical son was four I could take a quick shower without fearing that he would tear the house apart or injure himself. Yet I know parents of other neurotypical kids who could not say the same. All kids are different.

Autistic kids are more likely to face bullying which my son has encountered little of. Instead he's the sounding board for too many of his troubled peers. He even has kids he hardly knows messaging him because they 'heard he was good to talk to'. He has needed help in the past dealing with the trauma of everyone else's trauma (sexual assaults, abuse, all the stuff professionals get training to deal with). That was painful and hard. Every bit as stressful as dealing with an autism meltdown.

"But fighting for services for my autistic child is hard!"
So is agonizing over how you're going to find funding for your neurotypical child's college.
Being poor sucks regardless of your child's neurology.

I won't deny that there are challenges to raising an autistic child that you don't necessarily see with a neurotypical child but the same can be said in reverse. I worry just as much about my son's future as I do my little girl's. In fact, I think I worry a little more about his because the world will expect him to do it all on his own. He'll also likely be the one providing support for Evie when her father and I are gone. Of course he adores her and doesn't see her as a burden.

There's also a huge difference between,"Holy crap, my kid just tore the house apart!", and,"My kid just smeared the contents of his diaper all over his bedroom walls!" Both occur with kids of any neurology but the latter is an assault on their dignity when expressed publicly. The world doesn't need to know your child's toileting issues. Many autistic children toilet train late or not at all. It's not the end of the world and they don't need to be publicly humiliated for it.

"My autistic child hits/kicks/bites me!"
Again, I've known parents of neurotypical kids who could say the same.

I get it. I do. We all want encouragement and acknowledgment for all we do as parents but it's not a walk in the park for anyone. Parents of autistic children are not automatically saints or martyrs and it's an insult to our kids when we insist or expect to be treated as such. What message is that sending them?

So...which one comes with the most challenges?
It depends on the day.

*Photo credit: Brooke Goodwin
**Image description: In the background is a smiling 16 year old boy with short brown hair with a tail in back, wearing a black tee shirt. In the foreground is a 4 year old girl with short blond hair wearing a Little Mermaid tee shirt. Both are smiling widely.

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