I thought having autism might free my son from my perpetual comparing but apparently not; as we all sat together in his group session for children with communication and socialising difficulties, I studied the only girl in the group. She’s a gentle soul, afflicted with over receptive senses that suppress her. She contorts her body to try and cope, making the space she is in and the world she struggles to understand as small as possible. She is completely silent apart from the delightful tinkle of laughter she emits when she’s being tickled and I’ve never seen a child so mesmerised by shaving foam. What I can see is a calm, passive, non-aggressive, quiet and amenable little girl – the very opposite of my boy – and for just a few guilt-ridden moments, I stare at her and wish that he could be more like her.
I see her for a snapshot of her life, once a week, and can only see enviable qualities that my son doesn’t have. What I don’t see is how long it takes to get her dressed. I don’t see her screaming in pain as she’s being washed. I don’t see her frozen in fear at the sound of a plane. I don’t see how very small her universe must be in order for her to cope. I’m guessing at these things of course. But we all have desperate moments.
Perhaps in a tiny snapshot of life, there’ll be someone looking at my boy and only seeing a passionate, curious, energetic, enthusiastic and happy child and perhaps wishing that their passive, introvert, quiet and shy kid was more like him. I wish that someone was me but it isn’t. In the fog of exhaustion, it is sometimes just too hard.
Now I’ve got it off my chest, I could make a solemn vow, from this moment on, to stop making comparisons when times get tricky…but I won’t. It’s a promise I know I will break and that will only add to the mountain of guilt that I was bequeathed the moment I became a parent. No…I will let the thoughts in. I will take a moment to look at them, accept their truth, and then let them float on by without further attention. I will remind myself that everything passes. I will remind myself that I am doing the best I can. I will remind myself that everything will be okay. I will remind myself that I am that someone (very nearly) all of the time.