ORIGINALLY POSTED: APRIL 12, 2012
April 12th: Autism has taught me caution when hyping an exciting event that may not happen.
Some people aren’t dependable. We’re adults (well most us), we understand that sometimes people are gonna flake out on something important to us. People are not gonna show up, they will come up with lame excuses they see as valid or won’t call at all. Some people can’t put themselves second to someone else. When push comes to shove, they just aren’t there to back you up. We all have these types of people in our lives. People who really infuriate us. People who don’t always deserve our forgiveness for missing certain events. Knowing that people can’t be depended on is easy for us. You invite them, they never come, never have a good reason, and so you stop inviting them altogether.
For parents of kids with autism, we sometimes find ourselves in unique situations. When people aren’t dependable, it can throw our kids into A tailspin of fits, tantrums, hypersensitivity and chaos. Our poor children do not understand why you said (so and so) was coming to visit and then didn’t. Our children do not understand that sometimes things come up preventing an event from occurring. They don’t understand that people can love without showing support. It’s harder for our kids when people let them down. It’s harder on us, the picker uppers of flailing children, to comfort them when an event doesn’t take placed as planned for days, weeks or even months before. It’s hard to be vague about things, so I’ll give you an example from several years ago:
I was pregnant with my son at the time, before we knew our daughter had autism. I was months before I was due, but I was so excited to have my mom coming to visit after the baby was born. At that point, I hadn’t seen her in more than three years, though we’d tried to get her to come visit us, it never worked out. I was telling K all about her “Mima” (pronounced ME-mah), and getting her excited to see Mima for the first time in so long. For weeks, I told K that her Mima was coming. Two weeks before I was due, the doctors began to get concerned that LJ was too big (K was over nine pounds), so they wanted to run some additional testing to see if he was healthy enough for an induction. I told my mom that on Monday I would have the test and they would tell me if when the baby would be born. LJ had other plans, as babies often due. My water broke early Friday morning before we had time to set my mom’s plans to come. I delivered him later that morning. I never got a call from my mom, no text messages, nothing. All weekend I sat in the hospital crying because my mom couldn’t even bother to congratulate me on the birth of my second child. She called me late Monday night and told me she wasn’t coming to visit. She couldn’t handle seeing her grandchildren and then leaving them. (Those really were her words.) She told me that while most grandparents run up and down the street cheering to all who will listen, she laid in bed mourning. (Again, her words.) So, in the end, she didn’t come. In fact, the first time she met my son was the summer of 2011 just before his second birthday. The point is, while I was heartbroken that my mother refused to come see me after so long, couldn’t make the effort to see her grandchildren and came up with some really lame excuses, I had to deal with the birth of a new baby and the three-year old big sister who didn’t understand why any of this was happening. Thankfully, there were few issues getting used to the new baby, but it taught me a valuable lesson: Unless, she’s in the driveway, don’t tell the kids Mima is coming to see them. There have been other times when we told K that someone was coming to see her and for one reason or another it didn’t happen. We have learned that if this is the case, to simply stop talking about it. If we don’t bring it up, she doesn’t know it’s not happening. She forgets it was even an option and moves on to other things.
Please understand, I love my mother very much. She did her very best as a mother with the very least of resources. I’m grateful for the things she has done in my life. She makes me a better person and a better mother every day. Loving someone doesn’t make them dependable, however, and sometimes even the people we love can’t be counted on all the time. This was just one of the examples of people who have let us down for visits or special occasions. It’s tough, but when it comes down to it, not talking about a trip we may take or a visitor we may have is much simpler than having to let K down if plans don’t work out. The fights, the fits and the tantrums just aren’t worth it to have her heart-broken.
(AUTHORS NOTE: As of this post, April 13, 2013, the only time my mother has seen my son was the one time in 2011 just before his second birthday. He’ll be four this summer and she has seen him once, despite living four hours away from us.)