One quiet Saturday morning my Asperger’s daughter was having a meltdown for whatever the reason. It was so common at that time that I don’t even remember the reason.
Just one of those Saturday morning when everything is calm in our household and suddenly, from nowhere came that sound. That sound that we recognize among every other sound. The sound of my then 8 year-old child mad about everyone and everything around her. Her little brother passed in front of the TV or she couldn’t find two socks alike, or I asked her to brush her teeth… But it was one of those mornings.
Then, totally unexpectedly one of my relative called. She hardly never calls. Why on Earth did she called at that moment. At the exact moment when I am trying to calm everyone down, trying to wipe some tears, giving timeout or feeling like a referee during an UFC match.
The damn phone rang and I answered. Why? I’ll never know. My household sounded just like a jungle. Extenuated I succeeded in reaching for the phone through this mess and heard the inquiring: « What’s wrong? » Trying to make it feels like it was nothing I told her: « Nothing, just a meltdown. Kiddos #1 is really mad… ».
And then she heard my daughter, shouting names at the other members of the family from another room. And then it started. The criticisms. Non-stop criticisms. I tried to save the situation, to justify my kid’s meltdown but it was in vain. Why did I feel the need to explain the situation to an outsider? I shouldn’t. Why on Earth do we feel the need to justify our actions or those of people around us when it is not necessary and nobody else’s business? Sometimes the human being is weirdly wired. Those are the times when I feel some kind of peace for my daughter’s Asperger syndrome since she doesn’t feel obligated to justify herself. Never.
Insulting My Child
And then came the bomb. The unexpected bomb. The reason why I shouldn’t have answered the phone at the first place. Why I should have continue taking care of my children instead of answering that stupid phone.
« Your daughter is so rude! You can’t hide it. Everybody knows it. Everyone is talking about it. Blablabla… »
I don’t even remember what she said next except that everybody else around us had the same opinion. And at that moment, when I needed to step up the most to defend my family and my daughter I was without a word. I was silent and mumbled something like « yeah yeah », trying to escape this mean conversation and black hole of wickedness.
Claiming You Never Said Something
I hung up the phone and called another relative to have her exact thoughts about the hurtful words I just heard. She was busy with other people and just told me she didn’t have time to talk about it and that is was totally false. She didn’t sound very convincing by the way. And she never talked about it ever again. I have brought it up a couple of times till recently and every time she skips the subject and is telling me I heard wrong and that my detractor certainly never said such things. But I heard it right. And my husband witnessed it. She said those things.
Getting As Autism Diagnosis
At that time we didn’t know that may daughter had Aspergers. We were seeing psychologists and other specialists and they were sure about the ADHD, the impulsivity, the aggressiveness, but that was it for the moment. My daughter was not rude. We did not screw up her education. It wasn’t a case of bad parenting. We just happened to have a daughter with special needs. Needs that do not show up. Like an invisible set of needs.
But around us nobody took the time to try to understand her behavior or her meltdown. Instead it was so much easier to blame us for her bad conduct. Us the bad parents; those who can’t get any respect from their own daughter; those who are not strict enough or are too tolerant. And it is still. We are still trying to educate people around us about her condition and her needs and her actions because it does not always seem justified. But they can’t help it. Every time she says something weird or mean (without understanding how hurtful her words can be); or every time she has an uncontrolled outburst of anger, I get this look. We get this look. The disapproving look that judges us as parents, me as a mother, or us as a family.
And those looks don’t always come from perfect strangers.
They are closer than they appear.