I recently discovered something about myself that is very profound and tough to admit – I am not perfect. It honestly feels freeing to write those words.
I’ve wasted so much energy throughout my life trying to achieve perfection in literally everything I do and in my own mind “measure up” to other people living seemingly similar lives to mine. It’s exhausting.
I’m not sure why it’s often engrained in us at a young age to strive for perfection, be the best and have the most. Our societal obsession with perfection is mentally and emotionally detrimental to our health. That amount of pressure can break your spirit and set a standard that is impossible to be satisfied with.
Being informed that my child has severe autism was quite humbling and shattered the picturesque image of the immaculate, white picket fence life I’d planned for.
It was never my intention, but from the day of Skyler’s autism diagnosis, I fell into the trap of comparing him to other autistic children, his age and beyond.
I’m ashamed to say I let the incredible accomplishments of those families consume my every thought. I would think “That child is as severe as Skyler and he is now speaking several words! Why isn’t Skyler talking? It’s not fair. We did all the same therapies as that family did!”
I recall many conversations with God where I pleaded with Him to let Skyler ‘catch up’ and start checking off the boxes to the many milestones that had long passed us by.
Lacking this understanding back then, my sole focus on what Skyler ‘should’ be doing according to experts and comparison to peers, clouded my perspective and stole my joy.
He worked extremely hard to overcome so many obstacles and I likely overlooked their significance because I was chasing something bigger.
Admittedly, a significant portion of my life has been wasted scrolling through social media, idolizing and comparing our autism journey & experiences to other families that I truly know nothing about.
Although it’s taken me an embarrassing number of years to grasp this concept, I’ve finally learned that for me, comparison leads to jealousy and causes me to devalue myself. Someone else’s highlight reel of their best moments, if I’m not careful, challenges my happiness and reshapes my opinion of my life.
What I wouldn’t give to go back and share my new found wisdom with my younger self.
I would tell her not to set unrealistically high standards and expectations for herself and Skyler.
I would tell her not to blame herself or Skyler when his skills don’t progress as quickly as she thinks they should.
I would tell her to enjoy every laugh, smile and moment of Skyler’s childhood because the time flies by far too quickly.
I would tell her to slow down and observe the lessons of courage, resilience and strength that Skyler is teaching her daily.
I would tell her to be thankful that she was chosen to love and guide Skyler through this life.
I would tell her that she’s an exceptional parent and rather than compare her life to others, seek reassurance in a mirror.
While it used to irritate me to admit that I’ve made mistakes as a parent, the acceptance of that very fact has given me the peace and grace I need to finally relax and absorb the special achievements Skyler has made in his own way and on his own time.
Sharing our autism journey with countless other autism parents across the globe through my writing and public speaking has led to connections I was so desperately seeking. In doing so, I’ve replaced the burdens of jealousy & self-comparison with support, guidance and lifelong friendships.
When we are all honest about the frustrations, struggles and self-doubt we suffer from as autism parents, it generates a relatable and supportive network that the masses can benefit from.
If parenting a child on the autism spectrum has taught me anything, it’s that I can’t possibly predict or control every outcome nor can I measure Skyler’s progress and development against other autistic children.
At the end of the day, it’s not about mirroring someone else’s life or being perfect. It’s a call to action to appreciate the amazing life I get to live.
I now know that my soul’s purpose is to encourage, love and walk hand in hand with Skyler throughout this unpredictable autism journey.
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