Autism · family · Life

Family get-togethers and my perceived shame…

I recently attended a gathering of family to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday (the fact that they held it one week before my 40th without so much as a peep in my direction has not been overlooked). It was an interesting gathering that consisted of mostly the elders in the family, with few exceptions, at a chain buffet restaurant; my grandmother’s favorite food is fried okra, and there are very few places to find that in central California. Now, knowing that we would be at a place that serves msg laden cardboard, with absolutely no nutritional value or flavor, I opted to leave the kids with their dad; thus, saving me the hassle of explaining to my kids (and all the family in attendance) that this particular chain restaurant cannot be ingested by us (and shouldn’t be by anyone else) because it would cause any number of behavioral issues for weeks to come. Instead, I enlisted the help of one of my younger brothers to provide me with support and company for the journey; it was a lovely, rainy, stupid driver filled, 3 hour journey there and ditto for the return trip.

Me being the people person that I am, (please note the HEAVY sarcasm there) I choose to spend 90% of the 3.5 hours of family enjoyment huddled with said brother and a cousin whom I adore. The others there were either not real close (read, related directly to my grandmother, but no one I speak to outside of these events) or members of the family that are hard to talk to due to age gaps, differing lifestyles or opinions. Let’s not forget the fact that I’m just a full time mom, and no one knows how to accept that as a worthwhile profession, and is instead, looked at with disdain; it’s the one thing about the whole feminist movement that irks me to no end (another post perhaps).

Everyone asked after the whereabouts of my children, to which, I strait up lied… “Their sick”, I said, “horrible cold, snot, vomit and the runs, y’all don’t want none of that.” The actual truths here; 1, I didn’t want my kids to sit in the car for 6-8 hours in one day. 2, they can’t eat that bullsh!T food. And 3, I didn’t want to try and explain, for the 8000th time my son’s Autism to people I only see once every 3-6 years, (or worse, hear all about how “normal” my daughter seems compared to him).

This is my perceived shame…

Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, I am NOT ashamed of my son! To me he is perfectly fine exactly the way he is. I just don’t want or need people judging me as a parent, family or otherwise. I am not Wonder Woman or Supergirl (hell, I’m not even dastardly enough to be the villian in this case), I am just a mom, doing her best with what she’s been handed.

I try to take my kids to see their great grandma 3-5 times a year, she’s only 2 hours away, and not getting any younger… But every time we go, I have to listen to all the ways I’ve failed my son (because, you know, he’s not potty trained or communicating like other kids his age). After a few days of being bereted I get really, really, upset; at her, at myself, at anyone within ear shot. So, we generally keep our visits to a couple days, every 3-4 months (for sanity’s sake).

My own mother is not much better, but she is her own post (or 100), and we’ll touch on that later.

I wanted to discuss a young child that was present, whom they claimed had Autism (but I doubt), because it is not really my place. I did my best however, to offer my knowledge of dietary intervention, knowing full well I was being ignored. My family has this habit of ignoring me because I don’t have an MD next to my name. Nevermind the fact that I have studied nutrition for the past 6 years (while 99% of MDs get an hour or less); their loss, I guess.

And so, I spent the time watching the clock and wishing it was over before it started (or that I had never gone in the first place), and desperately wishing the restaurant had a bar. I remember when I was young, we had family gatherings every year or two; big todos, with lots of people from all branches of the tree. Back then, they were (or seemed to be, from my perspective), fun; always at someone’s house or hall we rented. They felt more relaxed, comfortable, and easy going. And now, I dread them, absolutely, and without question, DREAD; sweaty palms, anxiety, nausea inducing dread. Sadly, it is my perceived shame that causes this reaction, and it should never be this way.

Until the day comes that I no longer feel like others, especially family, are judging me and my children for everything, I will have to learn to pick and choose my battles; and which family functions to attend. I know I am doing right by my son, and I should not have to explain myself to anyone, about anything. So I sit here in my perceived shame, hoping for that non-judgemental day to arrive, with my wine…And it’ll have to do.


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