“It’s hard to explain what it’s like to be the parent of an autistic kid. A lot of times when you try to explain the struggles, others will say things like, ‘Yeah, my kid does that too’ or ‘All kids do that.’
For years comments like this made me believe I was a bad mom. Because if this is how all kids are, why am I at the end of my rope? Why can’t I get her to talk or stop crying or sleep?
Getting her diagnosed was so heartbreaking yet so validating at the same time. Finally, I had an answer. Finally I could say, ‘No, she’s not like other kids and there is a reason this has been so hard. I am not a bad mom, I am a mom of a child who has autism.’ But I still struggled to feel like I was failing in every way with her.
I had this friend who was a foster mom and has had all different kinds of kids with challenges and needs. I was watching her being the super mom she is and I said to her, ‘How do you do it? I only have one kid and I can barely handle it.’
Her response has stuck with me to this day, and has been so healing. She said, ‘Pietze, you have a child that is autistic, you couldn’t do what I’m doing because your one child requires so much from you, your hands are completely full. Don’t compare my situation to yours because they are apples to oranges.’
When my son came along a few years later and began to develop in a neurotypical way, it was a new level of validation and heartbreak. I could see right in front of me everyday how different it was raising them. It became painfully clear how much harder EVERYTHING is when you have a child with special needs.
Watching him grow and learn, speak and communicate, and connect with us in a typical way gave me a whole new level of compassion for the young mom who thought she was failing, and for little Yanna who had to fight 20 times harder than normal kids for every little thing. Neither one of us are bad, we are both doing our best with autism.
I don’t think I’m a bad mom anymore, I can clearly see how autism affects our lives and how it shows up. That’s why now when people say to me, ‘All kids are like this,’ I just smile and nod, knowing it took me years to come to terms with how it’s not like other kids and how hard it actually is.
If someone is telling you what it’s like raising their kids, normal or not…don’t assume you know. Don’t try to minimize their struggles by normalizing it. The truth is, that’s not what they need.
If you actually want to help them, what they really need is someone who will sit in the pain with them, cry with them, ask questions, seek to understand, be compassionate, validate it, be a witness to it.
Then, don’t feel like you need to fix it or make it better, in most cases they just need to know they aren’t alone and they aren’t a bad parent. In fact, they probably are an amazing one and they need to hear it!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Pietze Duffield and originally appeared here. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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