I have been thinking a lot about diagnosis lately. Sure, because of the hullabaloo with poor maureen and my own Avoidant Personality Disorder. But also because of my son.
My son is adorable. He’s got this head of soft blonde hair and big blue eyes (that did not come from his father or me.) He’s smart, like problem solving smart. Like “hide that pen all you want I will still get it” smart. He’s funny. Nothing makes him laugh harder than getting a pillow to the face in a pillow fight. He loves his trampoline and flying through the house with his dad. But he is also different.
He was always a little bit different. At first John and I didn’t notice because he is our only child. So to us, this was just normal. But then doctors asked us questions about “milestones” that we couldn’t answer. No, he doesn’t talk. No, he doesn’t answer to his name. “No, he doesn’t name his body parts or animals, but we didn’t really prepare him for that. We didn’t know there was going to be some farm animal quiz in his immediate future.”
Two days ago, my son was diagnosed with Autism. For some people this would be a shock. But I stay at home with him all day, and I’ve seen the flapping hands, the hours of sorting his toys, the spinning, and most of all I have heard the absence of his words (sure, he shouts and giggles and has the best kind of nonsense, but he doesn’t call me Mommy.)
We told our families and friends, and they were extremely supportive. My mom immediately got him set up for therapy for when we are in town for my consultant theatre work. My sister sent dietary advice. My in-laws came to visit and said they loved him no matter what. I got a little under the weather during their visit so while John and my father-in-law went to a movie, my mother-in-law and I stayed home with the Little Prince.
After a while we started talking about it. And with the utmost empathy and sweetness, she asked me, “Have you had a good cry, yet?”
I bristled a bit and said, “No, and I never will.”
I understand why people might grieve a bit. But all you’re grieving is the idea you had in your head. Maybe the ease you wanted for him in his life. The closest thing I can think of is when I found out that he wasn’t going to be a girl. Once I knew that he was a boy, images of my childhood dolls, dress up and girly afternoons of tutus and tea went out the window (I’m not saying he can’t do those things as a boy, but you know what I mean.) Your grief is about you and has nothing to do with him.
My son is the same little boy he was at the beginning of the week. The only difference is in how we can help him live a happy life. That is it. Other people will not see it so simply, they’ll tell us what we have to do, or what we did to cause it, or how to cure it. Some may even smugly declare that there is no such thing, after all, no one was autistic 50 years ago. This generation is so soft. He just needs to toughen up. (Pfft…) Sartre said, “Hell is other people.” Usually I’d agree with him, but for us I’d like to amend that to say, “Hell is other people’s opinions.” And fortunately for us, none of that matters. Just him.