An #ActuallyAutistic view of Thanksgiving Hell

One of the earliest memories I have is one that disturbs me to this day.

I was at the crosswalk at school – I think this was kindergarten – and looked across the road to see some kid just getting pummeled by a couple other kids. It turned out that the reason for the beating was that the victim had a small bag of candy, and the bullies wanted it.

I can’t even describe the despair I felt when I found out what had happened. Candy was such a stupid, little thing… I was mortified that these kids were willing to treat another person like THAT, for… nothing. They say we’re not supposed to feel empathy, but… man, even to this day, that image upsets me to a point where I can’t even spit out the words for it.

I’ve said before… I grew up not only being treated like an alien, but sometimes seriously wondering if I got dropped off on the wrong planet. That morning? Had I actually been an alien, that would have been the point I radioed back home and told “my people” that there was no hope for this planet. Seriously.

Anyway, I bring this up because Black Friday reminds me of that morning. People pepper spraying each other, shoving, trampling, a couple people getting shot… over what? Saving some money on a TV? Just seems like a widespread, adult version of those kids with the candy. Ridiculous. I’ll never understand people.

Anyway, let’s talk about last night. By “talk”, I mean “I have to rant”

I’ll be frank here – when you’re autistic, family gatherings SUCK. Too much noise, hysteria, people are in your space, nothing’s where it is supposed to be, and it’s just not FUN. There’s an increased pressure to be “normal”, while you’re feeling like crawling under the bed and hiding until the chaos disappears.

My adult autistic friends – some of whom have spawned little junior auties – they get this. Watching twitter last night, I saw a lot of mentions of hiding in a room, hanging out in the basement… even one guy who took his autistic kid out to his truck and watched Netflix on his phone. That? That is awesome.

Unfortunately, twitter was also full of neurotypical “advocate” parents of autistics who were less than cool about it. One woman went so far as to call her autistic son “passive aggressive” for hiding in his room.

What. The. Hell?!

People, you can’t be all pro-acceptance for 98% of the year, then turn on your poor kid and TORTURE THEM. You want to be an advocate? Let your kid hide in his room if he wants. Would it be “passive aggressive” if YOUR parents tried to guilt trip you into stabbing yourself in the face repeatedly, and you declined? No? Then stop doing it to your kid. Oh, and if you force your autistic kid to do something they’re not comfortable with, it’ll be at LEAST 2x as bad the next time. Consent and autonomy are important things – Chill!

By the way, tweeting your disappointment in your kid last night? (This is directed at SEVERAL people) You realize you’re on a public account, right? My mother would have said a lot of the same things that some of you did last night, but at least when I was a kid, there wasn’t Twitter. There wasn’t written evidence of my mother broadcasting her disappointment in me being WHO I AM to the entire planet, that I could easily happen upon someday.

I am beyond disgusted with a good handful of people right now.

Parents of autistic kids: This time of year really sucks for us. There is a ton of noise, lights, noise, stressed out people, noise, pressure, and more noise. What is fun for you, sometimes is tantamount to outright torture for your kid. CHILL OUT already.

If your kid wants to hide in his/her room, or the basement, or WHATEVER during family gatherings, let him/her. Contrary to what you may believe, they’re not “missing out” on anything. If left to their own devices, they’re not going to wake up the next morning and regret not spending more time playing with their obnoxious neurotypical cousins, or whatever. Left to their own devices, they’ll wake up that next morning short of the trauma that their allistic parents could have put them through, for their own selfish purposes.

I can’t emphasize this enough: Forcing your autistic kid to participate in holiday festivities that they’re not comfortable with – you’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for yourself. Subjecting them to holiday gatherings they don’t want to be a part of isn’t going to give them some warm, gushy, Hallmark-type holiday memories. All it will do is show them that you are more concerned with what other people think, than the well-being of your kid.

Trust me. I’m in my early 30s, and none of the holiday-induced forced socialization of my childhood has magically morphed into anything other than just wishing my parents had accepted me for who I am. I’m guessing that most of my adult autistic friends who holed up away from the racket yesterday feel the same!

Ok, so that probably all came off really negative. Let me try to balance it with a bit of positive.

If you are autistic, or parent of an autistic kid… you should follow @aspieside on twitter. She’s an allistic parent of an aspie boy, and she’s pretty awesome – even if it’s a bit weird for me to read her posts.

For one, her son reminds me of me. He has some of the same “quirks” I had as a kid – which feels a bit bizarre to read about now, given how much of a “freak” I was at the time. It’s weird – but cool – to read about someone I’ve never met, that – OMG – sounds like me.

Secondly… if there was a textbook perfect way to parent an autistic kid, she’d probably be the author of it. My own mother’s way of handling me was pretty much the opposite of “perfect”, so it gets a bit weird to read her too. I’m so happy for her kid, that SOMEONE is being raised right. I’m happy that there is this stunning example of a allistic able to relate to her autistic kid – it’s such a rarity. She speaks his language so well, I sort of question her neurotypicality!

Reading her posts are also sort of bittersweet, because it does dredge up some crappy feelings about my own childhood. I wish my mom had been even HALF as good with me, as she is with her kid. Yup, I’m a bit envious!

So… if you’re one of the neurotypical parents that act like those I mention in the first half of this entry… try to learn from her before it’s too late. My mother was one of you. She never accepted me for who I am, never made any effort to understand me, and she has resented me for my whole life. While I spent 30 years wishing and hoping for her to eventually come around, I’ve recently realized that it’s a lost cause. We will never have a relationship.

The sad thing is, had she tried at ALL when I was a kid, she may not have resented me so much. Things could have been very different today, with just a little effort a couple decades ago. Had she been tweeting her disappointment in me to the world, it wouldn’t have taken me a full 30 years to resent her right back.

I’ll stop ranting now…

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