On our last trip to California, I was cuddling my friend Melanie’s three-month-old daughter (her first baby) when Melanie gestured toward Martin and asked, “What would you say has been your favorite age?”
Melanie knows Martin is recovering from autism, so I could answer: “It’s weird for me. My parenting journey hasn’t been traditional. Every day he can relate in ways he couldn’t before, and can communicate more, and can have more conversations, and play more games, so I would say each age he hits is my new favorite age.”
Later, reflecting, I questioned the implication of my response. If I enjoy parenting more—to be honest: if I enjoy our whole relationship more—as Martin inches toward recovery, does that mean that I value neurotypicality more than appreciating Martin wherever he is on the journey? Does my focus on his future take away from our today? If we had never discovered biomed, if Martin still lacked functional language and threw constant fits, would I resent parenting my own child?
Years ago, I described my own failure to “grieve.” Autism parents are often told to let go of the children they thought they had (i.e., the neurotypical children with standard futures) in order to embrace the child they do have (i.e., the children with autism and divergent futures). As soon as I realized that recovery is possible, I set aside the grieving process in favor of fighting. Throughout that fight, I’ve maintained that I’m not trying to change who my son is, only to dig his true nature out from under all that autism. I’ve also maintained that I love Martin fully and completely, with or without autism, whatever his future holds, however we have to parent him. All that is true.
But something else is also true, and I reckon it may be the most controversial declaration I’ve made on this blog. At least, judging from my impulse to go hide under a blanket and pretend no one will ever read this, it is my most controversial declaration. Here goes: I think it is better to have the chance to live without autism. Whatever unusual ways of seeing the world autism can bring, neurotypicality is generally preferable. We humans become fulfilled unto ourselves by relating to others, whether through physical affection, cyberspace communications, books, poems, common goals. Autism hindered Martin’s ability to relate to me, and mine to relate to him. That is why his life and mine, our common and intertwined life, is getting better as his autism fades.
To anyone living with autism and offended by this post, I apologize. This is my opinion, and based on my experience with my son. Any opinion is subject to change, and I freely admit that participating in a recovery journey may be usurping joy I would otherwise find day-to-day if I were to accept Martin’s autism as who he is, instead of what burdens him.
Maybe I’m saying I know why I’m Finding My Kid. I’m Finding My Kid to make life better.
I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.