“Mom, you have two weird daughters.” Says Naya who is eight.
“Three, sweets, actually.”, I reply.
“Nah, Tutu’s not that weird yet.” Perhaps one of my favourite things she’s ever said.
People ask me how Tutu is doing all the time; a wonderful question that is nice to hear – normally. Each time, the question prompts me to think about whether I answer about Téa as a typical kid “she’s good! Happy, busy, funny as all get out” or whether to answer about Téa as a kid who faces innumerable challenges as a result of having Autism, “She’s good, working hard and we’re seeing progress.”
Speaking about her as the later hurts my heart.
It feels as though I am somehow speaking about the status of a project rather than my own daughter; as you can imagine, that’s a mighty odd way to feel when you’re talking about your kids.
Having given this a lot of thought, there are 3 ideas that struck me as particularly useful that hopefully will help you or other parents you know who find themselves at times caught in a weird place too.
1. Your child is a kid like all other kids.
They are not foreign, or alien, or different than you or their siblings. Their state of being (whether it’s a disorder, or disability, or delay) is a characteristic that will define them just as any other characteristic defines each of us. I am impatient, struggle with anxiety and am annoyingly bad at math. Maybe one of your children has ADD, or severe allergies, Dyslexia. Maybe they are missing a limb or can’t speak/hear/see.
2. You will expand to meet the new normal.
They will enrich your life and help you find a purpose or philosophy that might have remained out of reach, and they will definitely help you find your inner warrior. Maybe reading this you are still in the phase of wishing whatever is their challenge was on everyone else and not your little one; I’ve been there. I didn’t speak to friends (save one) for months; if I had, I would have wished the genetic disorder and Autism on their kid…happily taking on the role of doting/supportive friend. This phase will pass. And at one point you will need to decide it needs to be over because you have kids to raise and love and a life to experience.
3. Talk to and with, not about your kids.
No matter who we’re with or what I am answering, I include Téa in the conversation. “Téa, I’m going to fill so-and-so in on how you’re doing, is that okay? If you want to add something.” I assume she can understand me. I assume she will find a way to communicate with more than fleeting eye contact and a sound I have decided means “yes” and “more”. Because I have no proof she doesn’t understand and more than a gut feeling that she can organize some of what I say into useful information. The smart tip to “fake it till you make it” is what I live by it with Tutu. You’ll find it useful too – if only so your heart hurts a little less.
As a pin my dad bought me when I was 6 read: “why be normal”