My mom's intense belief in fairness (and before you go thinking that at least her perseveration was fairness, remember that a desire to see everyone treated equally drove her into a depression that could have killed her. Her experience of needing fairness hurt her, and she is amazing for reminding herself daily to smile, keep on putting one foot in front of the other and be the change) and teaching the world--as a comedian her fart jokes always led to ozone information and her penis jokes led to hilarious and important jokes of judgments and intentional self-healing--could be exhausting. Her willingness to forgive while coupled with perfectly appropriate punishments was so different from any of my friends' families.
Because of the autism in our house we prioritized different than most. The question was never "what will be the easier mess to clean-up after" but rather "what will benefit most of the family the quickest". Hence, we were a loud, messy, laughing and crazy group.
There just wasn't a lot of room for cruelty in our home. Unfortunately, it happened anyway, in my head.
Sometimes my mom would stand up in the middle of a conversation at a coffee shop and exclaim, "It's too cold. I have to go now." No gradual easing into it. Just "Gotta. Go. Now." What we didn't know at the time was that up until that point she had been dealing with a myriad of sensory overload. She couldn't tell us because as far as she knew the world she was experiencing was the same as ours. I would be embarrassed at her rudeness in these moments and blame her--always in my mind--for needing attention. When my mom could not stand casual conversation with my friends parents and therefor walk away rudely, I would despise her snobby attitude. When my mom would drive past our destination six or seven times because she was hyper-focused on an idea that might come together and make the world a fairer place, I would charge her with trying to seem like an absent minded genius.
I had these thoughts and more. Worse were some of the things I thought about my brothers. Suffice it to say that when my mom would insist I see adorable little boys struggling with challenges they could overcome, I considered my mom to be playing the role of martyr, refusing to see the truth.
I'm not proud of these thoughts, but they were there. What I am proud of is that I was mostly able to be kind. That I have almost always been very supportive to my mom and willing to open my eyes to the beautiful possibilities she always insisted were there.
I am proud that three of my four brothers are no longer diagnosable as autistic. That my brother who still is at home is happily learning, albeit very slowly. I am proud that my mom has been able to turn her passion for autism and fairness into a global autism/brain expert career, one woman musical comedy show, book and internet reality show (still filming). I am proud that I have taught my own boys the value of kindness and believing in everyone despite appearances or difference. And the value of forgiving your self-centered childish brain for having self-centered childish thoughts.
Our theme for learning these important lessons was autism. Having an undiagnosed autistic mom taught me to be fair, kind and unassuming.
It taught me to see outside the box, because a box is no place for a person.
It taught me to forgive myself and learn from my mistakes.
Because of autism I have started writing, sharing and being myself loudly. I have chosen a motto for my Facebook page that rings true and reminds me daily how lucky our difficulties can make us.
Motto: Autism asks challenging questions, begs us to think outside the box and then, Autism Answers.