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Thank you Kate from Finding Cooper’s Voice for sharing my work!
My husband and I often ask ourselves, “Why did this happen to us?”
Is there a lesson that the universe is trying to teach us by giving us two children on the autism spectrum?
Tonight, I think I figured it out.
At the first party, I finally got closure about losing a friend after she made explicit comments. She thinks my child doesn’t have autism because she is not intellectually delayed and makes eye contact.
My child has behavior issues (not autism) and needs discipline.
I recently felt bad for cutting ties with this family after her husband complained about our daughter being spoiled.
I worried earlier that maybe I misjudged the situation or was overly sensitive. I was willing to give them another chance and put it behind us when I first ran into them at the party. I was truly ready to do that for the sake of my child being friends with their child…until her comments confirmed that I was not crazy.
For the first time, I didn’t feel sad about losing those friends.
At the second party, my daughter played nicely with children older and younger. She shared, took turns, and was polite—without prompting. It was beautiful, like everything we worked on in therapy had put on a recital.
As the night went on, I noticed my niece’s friends bullied the younger children. They said,
“You’re gross and ugly! Nobody likes you. Nobody wants you here and you can’t be in our secret club!”
My daughter and another girl cried.
The girls ran upstairs and I followed slowly behind them, knowing this would endure. They continued to bully the little girls and locked them out.
One of the mean girls locked the younger girls in a dark bathroom and giggled while they cried. I gathered the younger girls and lead them to play in the basement. But they clung to the older girls like magnets wanting to play dress up and fight over LOL dolls.
Later on, my husband intervened as well.
I could see my daughter’s frustration begin to boil and I had that gut feeling that she wasn’t going to tolerate much more from the mean girls. We were getting ready to leave when I heard her demanding an apology from the one in the red dress.
The girl said something mean instead. When I heard a scream, I already knew my daughter hit her and all I felt was proud that it hadn’t happened hours earlier. This was a milestone for her.
I didn’t make her apologize because I didn’t want her to tolerate being bullied. It was late and we just decided to leave.
On the ride home I thought about it. My niece is only 7 and needed to impress these girls to remain part of a click, even if it meant being nasty to her family and other friends.
I get that this is typical. And I get that being a kid is hard. I’m not judging.
Being a parent is hard too when you have to tolerate other parents who have mean little kids they ignore at a party while drinking top-shelf liquor in the corner all night.
I get having to keep the peace when your kids go to school together. Play sports. Dance. Camp. Live in the same town. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Our world is so different.
What I realized tonight is that I have the freedom to write people off. We’re not bound to coaching sports or being class mom.
We don’t have to worry about being in a click anymore or just being civil enough to tolerate one.
Our kids barely have any friends and they don’t play sports. But maybe that’s the point.
We can work on who they will become without the interference of trying to impress nasty little children. This is more difficult to teach than empathy. I feel like we nearly nailed empathy since my daughter was so willing to forgive those girls and play with them again with a simple apology.
The lesson the universe had handed us is this.
Autism has altered our path and made us better parents. More aware parents. More compassionate people.
I’m not sure we would have been if this didn’t happen to us. I’m not sure what kind of children we would have raised.
We might have been those parents drinking in the kitchen while our kids bullied others. But we’re trying to raise nice kids (who stand up for themselves and think for themselves).
This is why it happened to us. Autism reminds us of who we should be.