People often talk about their non-neurotypical children as if they were robbed of their ‘real’ child. And while I can understand the frustration and loss involved with raising a child who may never speak to you, or spends hours in a room screaming-
That is their real child, and there is no untangling how their brain works from the person. It doesn’t mean that they can’t connect with that child as a person.
And demanding their ‘real’ child is essentially the changeling myth, in reverse: the child they birthed in exchange for one that is near identical, but ‘normal’.
I do not exist as a neurotypical person. A person that was physically identical to me but lacking my illnesses, my idiosyncrasies, my way of looking at the world-that would not be me, and could never be.
This post was born from the fact that I feel as if said hypothetical identical stranger was swapped for me at birth, and my neurotypical double was raised by a pair of very confused lesbians who obsessively collect trains, line their walls with bookshelves and chose a sperm donor who they hoped would produce a child that was a little like them.
So my family has me, an atheist neuroatypical bookish nerd who seems to lack anything in common with them. And until recently, I accepted my black sheep status, because despite a lack of understanding, I thought I was loved.
But yesterday, the topic of my young transgender cousin came up. She’s going to be a senior in high school, and both of my aunts insist on calling her by her old name and with male pronouns. It clearly hurts her feelings, and my aunt’s only response was she doesn’t want ‘someone like that’ in our family.
My young cousin has good grades, a part time job, and the most trouble she’s ever gotten in involved marijuana. (Like many other teenagers in America, she smokes it with her friends.)
By comparison, my two older cousins have stolen cars and wrecked them, gotten involved with underage girls, leeched off their parents, started fights, thrown things and sworn at their mother-but there’s no mention of cutting them off.
I had to come to the realization that the ‘me’ that my family loves is in fact not me at all, but the me that is related to them and passes for normal. The me that I would recognize as myself-the bisexual neuroatypical woman who likes collecting notebooks and dark chocolate-doesn’t exist for them.
There was a time that I wished that what was so different about me would go away-that I wouldn’t startle so easily, that I wouldn’t count patterns on the ceiling, get overwhelmed so easily by crowds.
Then I realized that if I pull at enough of those differences I would unravel myself. So many of those things being gone would mean that I would disappear.
So I came to accept them-even if living with them is less than ideal.
So, for those who feel like they don’t fit in with their family-who feel like the person who is embraced is a shadow or puppet show-
See if you can find a new family.
People who know who you are. All of who you are. Spend time with them.
Take time getting to know yourself.
Minimize time with your relatives.
Constantly holding up a mask and smile is exhausting. Don’t do it.