I Don't Have a Child on the Autism Spectrum, But You Don't Struggle Alone


At first, you appeared to be just another mother letting her child release energy on a hot, humid morning. We engaged in brief conversation while sipping coffee as the children climbed through tunnels and giggled down the slides. When another child informed you that your daughter had removed her pants in the tunnels above, you hid your face and apologized to me. As you explained that she was on the autism spectrum, you asked for forgiveness for something that was out of your control. It seemed to me that you had met unaccepting minds during your journey thus far; but I was not going to be one those people. There was no need to apologize.

Our paths crossed at a difficult time in my life. You wouldn’t know by my appearance, but I’ve been dealing with a debilitating condition for 12 years that has recently become much worse. My body has been plagued with an illness that has had no name, despite over a decade of extensive medical testing. You may think this has nothing to do with your daughter, but let me explain why it does.

 

We all deal with something in this life. Some of us struggle more than others, making life seem unfair and daunting. I saw you there, patiently providing the support your daughter needed in a moment of unpredictability. I wanted to give you a hug. I wanted to tell you that it was alright; no one was judging you or your family. In that moment, I felt I could relate to you; not because I had been in your shoes, but because I had struggled in my life to depths that can feel isolating. My life struggles allowed me to empathize with yours; an ability unique to human beings.

You reminded me that I don’t struggle alone. You reminded me that our world is a place of heterogeneity, and while we may feel we stand out from our surroundings, there’s always someone who can see past the facade to empathize with our individual situations. I know my letter won’t make your parenting, or your daughter’s journey any easier, but I hope you remember me the next time you find yourself in an unpredictable situation. Your calm and loving parenting is admired, and does not go unnoticed. And, lastly, thank you for reminding me that in the middle of a world that demands perfection, we are all just perfectly imperfect human beings.

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