I Don’t Need a College Degree to Understand This About My Son With Autism
My husband doesn’t have a college degree. I’m not passing judgment, just supplying a bit of background information. You see, when I do something dumb, he sometimes makes a snarky comment about the “usefulness” of my degree. Or, if I share an anecdote about something ridiculous at work, he might snort incredulously, “And these people are college graduates?”
Truth be told, I can be a snob, too. I’m not above thinking my degree gives me an edge.
When I was pregnant, I felt a combination of fear and bravado. I’d never planned on having children (Note to self: a bachelor’s degree is not a contraceptive.), and I’d never thought of myself as a mother. But I had nine months to mentally prepare. I treated pregnancy like a 400-level course with childbirth as the final exam. I read all the books that I could. I researched like there could be a pop quiz at any moment.
As I imagined what my life was going to become, I often assured myself I could handle it. Why? Because I didn’t have just any old degree – I majored in education and then taught elementary children for almost seven years. I took graduate classes and participated in countless workshops, lectures and other forms of professional development. Surely, if anyone can be prepared for parenthood, it has to be a teacher, right?
See what I mean about some people with college degrees not being too bright?
I was an itinerant teacher back in my former life. That meant I traveled between classrooms and schools. In those seven years of teaching, I worked at fifteen different schools and taught thousands of different students. Now that I’ve learned of its prevalence, one might assume I interacted with at least a few students with autism spectrum disorder. I only remember one.
Now that I’m a mother, I realize how little I really know about anything. But if going to college and being a teacher prepared me for anything, it’s to be a lifelong learner. I’m not disappointed I don’t know it all. In fact, I look forward to learning and discovering new things with my child.
Becoming a parent, especially the parent of a child with autism, has been a humbling experience. These days, I often think how woefully unprepared I was for motherhood. It’s not the life I imagined while my son grew inside me. It was not the life I anticipated when he was born and hit those early developmental milestones. It’s not the life I expected when I mistook his spinning for dancing or believed that his interest in lining up objects was just how all children played.
It’s been three years since my son’s diagnosis. I cried that day, but not because the doctor confirmed what we already expected. I didn’t cry over the loss of the life I had been imagining. Instead, I cried when I heard the psychologist read remarks written by our son’s teacher on an evaluation form:
“Philip is easy to love.”
It doesn’t take a college degree to appreciate that.
A version of this post originally appeared on That Cynking Feeling.
Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.
And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.