Saturday was another AutDar day. At the park I noticed a barely-verbal eight-year-old girl playing awkwardly with a tree branch. When I commented to Stu, "She's one of ours," he responded, "Even I could tell that."
I struck up a conversation with her father. My point of entry was "You look so familiar, didn't we meet at Support Group?" He seemed like a lovely man, he was full of suggestions of resources in the community, he twice offered me his wife's phone number to discuss Kiddo's fabulous public school.
But I couldn't bring myself to take the number.
"I'm sure I'll be seeing you around," I said.
The truth is, I feel a little funny around families of kids more severely affected by autism than my son. When I see children who can not speak, why can not blend into society as well as my child, I feel like I have no business complaining about anything having to do with the hand we've been dealt. Then I realize I still have all those feelings of frustration and anger and disappointment that I walk around with every day, and I feel like I'm supposed to justify myself. I want to say, I know your life on the spectrum is harder than mine will ever be, but that doesn't mean mine is easy. But this isn't a contest of suffering, so why the hell do I feel like I have to justify my feelings to anyone?
I know that nobody is actually looking at me thinking "what's her problem, she has no business complaining," but I have an active paranoid imagination. I always have. When I was a kid, I spent several years convinced that people were only being nice to me because my mother must have told them I had a terminal illness and they all felt sorry for me.*
I've only participated in the support group I mentioned above two or three times because I felt stuck between worlds. Most of the families who participate regularly have lower-functioning children, and their needs are so different from ours that I felt like I had little to contribute to the conversation. But when I'm around typical kids and their families, I feel lost because Ryan's needs and abilities are so very different, and I have absolutely nothing to talk about with them.
I wish I felt evolved enough to have taken that guy's number, but I still have some growing up to do before I can play nicely with others. I think I couldn't bring myself to admit I might actually belong in his circle of friends. It's a club nobody wants to join, but it sounded kind of nice - his wife wasn't at the park because she and her special-needs-mommy friends had taken a girls-only overnight trip for the weekend. The husband said the ladies only take that trip once a year.
Maybe next year I'll be ready to join them.
* For the record: I am not now, nor have I ever been, terminally ill.