All the above seems well and good within our world together, but as she grows older and as I integrate her in with society, I am noticing a shift within others. I'm noticing the kids who ignore her, the children who walk away, give her dirty looks and stares and I'm also noticing their parents doing this as well. These are the parents who won't even strike up a conversation with you after you've said "hello", but as soon as another person walks in the room, they're all over them like jelly on toast. I sense their anxiety, them being uncomfortable, their fears. I sense their assumptions, their judgments. I sense their lack of awareness and acceptance because it's easier to say nothing at all and look away than to become educated and supportive.
Frankly, I don't give a shit about having small talk with strangers who I can already sense their feelings of disinterest, but what I do care about is the message that they're sending to their own children, especially when it pertains to acceptance of others differences.
Right now, Autumn has no clue that the rejected behaviors displayed by other children can be hurtful. That's the beauty behind her autism- she keeps going and going. Nothing or no one is going to damper her spirits or make her feel less. No one, right now, at this moment, but as her mom, I'm fearful for her future and how humans can be towards one another. Will someday she realize this behavior and start to think to herself "what is wrong with me?" I'm praying that she doesn't, that the autistic side of her keeps her innocent, unknowing of the hurtfulness and pain that can be caused by others words, their assumptions, fears, and rejections. I want her to always stay my happy, strong-willed, confident girl who doesn't become broken by the unrealistic expectations of a glorified, very selfish society like many who are reading this have.
For instance, yesterday in conversation, my mom stated that I was so much like Autumn when I was young. The little girl who always included everyone. The little girl who loved people, who cared and tried to make friends with all only to be pushed to the side and rejected by others because I rocked, I dressed different, was "weird" (that was the start). Mom said it's because my emotions were so easy to read in my face and people could possibly read them and know which buttons to push. So for the past decade, I've worked on portraying the "tough girl, I won't take crap from anyone" persona, a fighter, someone always having to justify and stand up for herself and the people around her even if that meant loosing friends in the process. And boy, has it been exhilarating and empowering. My confidence in life has never been better. I look at myself in the mirror daily and smile because I love me. It just stinks that it's taken me this long to be in this place in order to love myself again.
Being a fighter for most of my life has been exhausting though. I'm at the point that I just don't want to do it anymore, but now I find myself not really fighting for myself as much, but fighting for my daughter. Whether that "fight" is with her teachers and therapists, our family members, coworkers, strangers, other kids parents, the battles continue. However, I'm learning to also pick and choose which battles to go into as some things are better left unsaid and some battles will never be won, no matter how hard I try.
My husband often compares my personality to the main character from the movies, "Kill Bill 1 & 2". I suppose the heart in me is definitely like "the black mamba" as I would do anything to protect Autumn and that no one is going to get in my way. That will never change. She's one of the great loves of my life.
Overall, I can only hope that as she grows up, she won't allow others to tear her down like I did. That she'll be stronger than I ever was. That she won't need reassurance or justification for the choices she makes in life and damn it, she won't give two shits if those kids don't want to play with her or join her in her own adventures. I want her to be the girl who continues to include everyone, to love others despite their differences, to accept all and to continue to show how much good is within the world and that people with autism CAN be anything they want in life and that they won't be defined by the DSM or a bunch of assumptions made by an uneducated and fearful society. She will be it all, believe me, she already is! Look at her, tell me she isn't special, tell me she isn't good enough, beautiful enough, just try...good luck!
(Aka Mama Butterfly, Grizzly Bear, Bald Eagle...Lionesss...yeah you get the point 😉)