IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME. WELL, IT MIGHT BE A LITTLE BIT YOU.
BY JANE FLYNN
You see, I know I’m not easy to get to know. I’m sure I come across as flakey and distant. Even when we find ourselves in situations where you can’t avoid smiling politely and attempting small talk; my attention is never with you 100%. I am always strung so tightly, scanning the environment for triggers, on high alert for the next crisis.
The few times we have attempted the playground after kinder, I have always had to leave after five minutes, as my daughters eagerness to play with your children is always overridden by her anxiety and over stimulation. Maybe you think I’m one of ‘those’ helicopter parents, hovering in the background, just waiting?
At every birthday party, when you happily drop your child off, I’m there. Sitting toward the back, or in a corner. Monitoring the room, trying to anticipate what will happen next. Will those balloons pop? Is the dry ice going to start again or will that laser light shine in that certain direction that my daughter hates? (disco parties are it-and-a -bit for five year olds right now) Sometimes, on really bad days, we have to leave. “I’m sorry, thanks so much for the invite, but we’re not having a good day and we’re going to have to go home.” It’s always ‘we’, because we are one and the same in these kinds of situations. I am absorbing my daughters anxiety. I feel her fear. I am her advocate. “We’re going to have to leave now.”
I try and time kinder pick ups so that I don’t have to wait out the front. It’s not often that any of you really attempt to talk to me, but even if you do, I struggle to know what to say.
You see, my daughter is autistic. And your everyday chit-chat is different to my everyday chit-chat. Every conversation we have, her autism weighs in, because that is who she is.
Please don’t think I’m ashamed of this and that is why I struggle to bring it up. It is actually the opposite of that. I am so incredibly proud of the person that she is. But that five minute conversation we have, in passing, can never do justice to that. Because all you will hear is autistic. I won’t get a chance to continue- my daughter is autistic, and she is such a unique individual. She has amazing insight, and sees the world in ways I can only imagine. She is incredibly intelligent and has a memory like you wouldn’t believe. She loves geography, animals, space. This kid has a thirst for knowledge that is insatiable. She is quirky and funny. Affectionate and compassionate. Everything she feels is HUGE. Love, fear, happiness, sadness. She feels it all on such a scale, it takes my breath away.
Here’s the thing, and this is where it is kind of up to you; I am not easy to know. My life is complicated and messy, whilst being ridiculously ordered and inflexible. I am a contradiction. But at the same time, I think I would make a good friend. No matter how insecure and anxious I feel, I always try to greet you all with a smile and a kind word. I hold the door open for you, I rattle my brain for something coherent to say, even if it is just about the weather. (Luckily, we live in Melbourne!)
If you just took a minute or five, I’m sure you would see that I have a sense of humour. Give it a bit longer and you will see that I am passionate about what I believe in, yet at the same time, totally not afraid to take the piss out of myself (or you, if we are really good friends). I am loyal and kind, fierce and afraid. My daughter and I may appear different, but give us a chance, and I’m sure you will realise that is actually a good thing.
And if you are not one of my kinder mums, but a kinder or school mum all the same, how about taking a chance on that odd, helicopter, distracted mum? She might not have a blog, and actually have to keep all this inside her own head (can you imagine?!) Maybe she is standing outside kinder or school, wishing she could make a connection but not knowing how to cross that divide she has created in her mind. Maybe she is a special needs parent. Maybe she is just shy. Maybe she is really lucky and both, like me.
With love, (and a little bit of hope)