When Ally was young, I made mom-friends and had her involved with other kids. They played and went to the park. Everyone always complimented Ally’s imagination and how engaged she was.
Her perfect curls and piercing blue eyes.
The first two years of parenting seemed normal.
We hosted an annual “noon year’s eve” party at our house for the kids and Ally had lots of “friends” to go trick or treating with.
Being a mom seemed so social and I never worried about being isolated.
I had a kid that slept.
Sure, she was fussy and got into her moods but not much felt out of the ordinary realm of her being a strong-willed child.
I had a kid that did not rip through my cabinets or get into the chemicals under the sink.
I thought that made her a good kid, not a delayed kid.
But things became clearer as the other kids excelled and Ally fell behind.
I remember when a bunch of the neighborhood kids rode bikes together for the first time. They all had tricycles or toddler bikes with training wheels. Their first bike rides were identical. None of them could pedal and steer at the same time.
But as the weeks went by, the other kids got the hang of it and were able to pedal and steer at the same time but Ally rode her bike like it was the first time, every time.
She got frustrated and disinterested. Something as simple as learning to ride her bike turned into screaming fits and frustration. This led to me carrying her and her bike two blocks home while she hit me, bit me, and scratched me. This happened a lot.
She still can’t ride a bike.
This time last year I was feeling alone and isolated as my entire life fell apart.
Ally got kicked out of the last daycare.
We struggled to find affordable babysitters.
I lost my job.
People blamed us for everything.
Her behaviors were our fault.
Her meltdowns were my fault.
Advocating for my child was rude.
It made people uncomfortable.
Made them angry.
Made me the bad guy.
I started writing about our struggles more openly and that is when things got easier.
Last year, I never thought that isolation would make things easier.
But it did.
I didn’t have to apologize to people anymore for my daughter’s behaviors if we weren’t around anyone.
Or stress out about what people would say, what they would think, or how they would react.
It was easier to eliminate all of that and focus on her in the weeds of grief.
I am thankful for hitting rock bottom because coming back from it has changed me.
I am not that person who apologizes to people for my child’s autism anymore.
Or the person who lets people convince me she doesn’t have autism.
Or the person that lets people make me feel like a bad parent.
Not a day goes by that I regret cutting people out of my life.
Or miss the people who cut me out of theirs.
Being a good parent is not about training your children to become who you want them to be, or who their grandparents want them to be.
It is not about being able to ride a bike.
It is not about comparing your child to other children or holding grudges against people for their child’s behavior at a party.
It is about embracing the child that you have and building them up to be who they are, even if that person is not who you dreamed they would be when you were pregnant.
This year, I have found people who get it and those people have found me. Even though it feels like we are moving forward in a way that is parallel to others, forward is forward.