As written by Margaret Hay from her blog @A&Me
I am sometimes seen as rude.
Maybe it is because when I bump into you when out, I often just say “hi” and then rush off without waiting to ask how you are.
Or maybe it is because when I do stop to talk, I don’t give you the eye contact, rather staring over your shoulder into the distance. Nodding at a remark or slotting in a “yes” or something to warrant my interest.
I don’t sit with you and the other parents in the coffee area, and “chat” and drink tea.
I don’t relax.
Instead I stand on the side-lines not “socializing” with you and the others.
And it is not because I don’t want to.
It is not because I am not interested. Or have nothing to share.
It is because I am a mum to a boy who needs me.
If he hurts himself, he cannot tell anyone. A stranger bending down to ask, “Are you ok, what’s wrong?” will be met with a blank stare or a repetition of their question.
I watch in case my son needs the toilet, I know the signs and when to intervene. Even though he is seven and toilet trained, he needs my help and won’t find me to ask.
I watch in case he pushes another child, not out of violence or bad behavior, but as a method of communication when words are not present.
I watch for when he needs help climbing a new piece of equipment, or finding his way down a new path, or to do an unfamiliar activity. He needs support and someone to show him the method, the process, the way.
I show him over and over again and then watch in pride as he masters it.
I watch for times when other children approach him, and ask him questions. They don’t understand why he ignores them or doesn’t respond to their requests to “Come and play with us”. I am my son’s voice and advocate for autism to the future generation.
I watch for staff or other parents who tell my son “You are not allowed there” or try to shout instructions to a boy who can’t process them. To a boy who comes across as naughty when he ignores their commands.
I watch for signs of when he has had enough. Because if I don’t, he will just leave the building, the venue, the attraction.
He will leave to go to the car, because that is how he gets home.
He won’t approach me and tell me with words like your children. He won’t pull my arm and ask, “Can we go?”
No, he will just leave. Leave out the open doors which are unguarded, and open to the dangerous world.
I watch for his safety.
I watch to be his voice.
And I watch to see his breakthroughs. His achievements in things I never thought he would be able to do.
So I am not being rude, or distant or uninterested when we bump into each other in public.
I would love to pause and catch-up, possibly order a coffee or sit and let my kids run free.
But I need to put my son first. Because those times when I have lost sight of him. When I have disengaged for one second, the feeling in my stomach has been intolerable. Unbearable. Indescribable.
Maybe one day I can sit and chat. Maybe one day we can gossip over a cuppa.
Maybe one day.
But until then, please be patient. Please understand. I am his mum!