Asperger's, Asperger's syndrome, Aspie, autism, autism spectrum, children, fae, fairy, fiction, hobs, kids, Kristina Wojtaszek, moms who write, motherhood, parent bloggers, parental advice, self doubt, social disorders, Solomon's Friend, World Weaver Press
Today I’m going to tell a true story, which is something I don’t often do. It’s actually the story behind the fantasy fiction piece I wrote for Fae, but it’s true nonetheless. In fact, when my editor made me aware of the call for submissions to a new fairy anthology, I had a good long stare down with my email, debating whether or not to close it out and dismiss the whole idea, cutting yet another distraction from my non-life. Because at that time, I was doing little more than what was necessary to survive each day. In fact, I was in such a state of depression that I doubted I could write anything worthwhile, especially a work of fantasy. Fairies? What place did they have in my gray day to day, where I felt I was no longer cutting it as a mom?
Being an active stay at home mom is by far the toughest job I’ve ever had. Add to that a medical condition that causes unrelenting pain and fatigue and almost 1300 miles between myself and the loving support of the rest of my family, and I was emotionally overwhelmed at best. But what had me on the verge of a break down was the fact that I felt utterly incapable of connecting with my 6 year old son. Melt downs, panic attacks, and blowups were daily occurrences, and they weren’t all mine. You see, my son falls into that blurry area of the autistic spectrum that isn’t quite autism; he’s a wickedly smart, deceivingly social, big-eyed cutie who happens to have Asperger’s syndrome. And I’m a highly emotional, overly sensitive, disturbingly imaginative neurotypical. Misunderstandings are par for this course, and at the time that I wrote Solomon’s Friend, we were experiencing them on an almost hourly basis.
But I couldn’t let the fearie realm slip entirely from my grasp. Besides, I desperately needed an outlet for all the motherly guilt that was welling up inside of me, and in stepping away and attempting to view our relationship from an outsider’s perspective, I finally found a voice of reason. I put that voice in the guise of a smart-mouthed hob whose sage advice was everything I needed to hear myself. While not everything Solly does and says in the story is something my own son has said or done, his mother, Kadie, is a true reflection of me. And I suspect she has a lot in common with other parents of children on the spectrum; namely self doubt, guilt, gnawing worry, isolation and uncertainty for the future. In allowing my other-worldly hob his cynicism of the typical human, I was able to view my son, and myself, as something more than imperfect.
I think this is an extremely important thing for parents of children on the spectrum to do– to take a big step back from the advertised “norms” of society and open our eyes to a new perspective. Because it doesn’t take more than an online connection to become overly aware of the social norms of childhood today. You’d have to be a cave dweller to not be aware of every developmental milestones and all the screenings that are obsessed over from the moment your child is born. Meanwhile, all our parent friends are loading up our Facebook news pages with picture-perfect updates of their own children (who are all doing splendidly in school, at home, and in every sport, class or project they encounter). And asking Google for the simplest kid-friendly advice will inundate you with child-oriented advertising and thousands of overly energetic parent-bloggers and Pinterest goddesses who have all the time and patience in the world to do things right. Is it any wonder that we see the differences in our own children as glaring failures? And those perceived failures are burdened by us alone, usually in silence, as we turn our lives inside out in an often unsupported effort to help them.
I don’t have many answers myself, and the day to day frustrations and communication gaps are still an ongoing part of life with my son, but I’m challenging myself to find the amazing in our relationship, and I am ever grateful for those parents and online communities who do engage in honest dialogue about raising children on the spectrum. Though it’s only a bit of fairy-inspired fiction, I hope my story is yet one more honestly encouraging tale for parents that can relate, allowing them to see beyond the glamour of social stigmas, and to realize what Hobby already knows; that they’ve been doing the best for their children all along, simply by loving them.