I have had about 12,000 unwanted human interactions as the result of having an autistic kid. Sometimes it’s with a doctor who is asking me for minute details of her development that there is NO WAY IN HELL I will be able to recall, sometimes these interactions are with the police when my child has run off from the family camping trip and we have no idea where she is, unfortunately most are total strangers who feel the need to tell me that they know someone with autism as if that absolves them from taking my time from a human who requires constant supervision.
Since I no longer live with my daughter I am blissfully free to cruise the world unencumbered by another human who was never a fan of going anywhere but a McDonald’s Playplace or a hotel swimming pool. I will sometimes go to Marshalls and look for an hours at guest towels. There was a time where I knew every single towel…autism does have a genetic component you know.
Our time together has been reduced to the once a week YMCA pool visits. She loves to get into the water and I’m able to use their extra wide shower stalls to shave her armpits so it’s a fairly pragmatic trip. Most of the regular Y people happily ignore us and that is just great with me. There are a few ladies who insist on getting very close to my 23 year old but intellectually 5 year old daughter and yell ridiculous questions at her. I attempt to facilitate the conversation and I only don’t leave her alone because my daughter has hit people before. Should I say “be careful she hits?” Nah….the conversation that statement may start is just too much for me and I’m 1/2 afraid that I may end up actually hitting someone. Autism=genetic.
Occasionally I’ll get a weird look from someone in the locker room because my daughter will break into a preschool song which looks extra creepy out of a grown’ish woman. I ask her to whisper because it’s only polite. There is a “family” locker room that would probably be more appropriate but screaming children (no judgment, kids occasionally scream) make my daughter’s behavior really unpredictable and I would hate for her to hit a kid, it’s never happened yet but I wouldn’t risk it. So we use the adult women’s locker room, mostly people respect that I have to assist another person and just let me be.
However, this week I was stuck in the pool with a chatty Cathy, my daughter asked her one question and opened the floodgates. It was as if this woman had just spent a week at a silent yoga retreat and just HAD to make contact with the outside world. She was, of course wearing a shirt in the indoor pool which usually a huge red flag–I should have seen it coming.
And after about 30 seconds of conversation, she felt compelled to ask me what I thought God’s plan was in bringing my daughter into the world. So now I’m a spokeswoman for God. I SHOULD have said that I am a firm believer in Sweet, Sweet Satan and that I was late to a human sacrifice but it was nice talking to you… Instead I was honest.
I have three kids, this one is the only kid who has already created dozens of jobs for hardworking americans and will continue to do so for the rest of her life. She only asks for things that she really wants and never wastes anything. She’s more useful to society than the resource wasting children I see at Claires buying plastic crap for their hair. She makes people see that there are different ways of thinking and living. She has never said an unkind word about anyone. She is a refreshingly unique person.
She fired back with a long, pointless story about the disabled kids in her synagogue. About how she always acknowledges them. I just looked at her. She also asked me if I thought my daughter would ever get married. WTF? I wasn’t being nice, and I think she could sense it. Don’t ask me to participate in a weird game of competitive suffering with you lady. We’re strangers in bathing suits.
My daughter seemingly didn’t care that this woman was talking. She doesn’t care about too much as long as she’s not hungry and the pool is opened. For just a minute I was jealous of her disability, her graceful ability to know the right awkward thing to say to the Chatty Cathy’s of the world to make them uninterested in talking to her. I admired the autistic commitment to self preservation.
In this world of selfishness and endless wants, maybe these autistic people are brought here to slow down the rate of consumption, the amount of useless conversation, the endless baby showers. They force us to take care of them and occasionally be our better selves.