by Sarah Maizes
LOS ANGELES, CA- As the mother of a child with autism…
I don’t have anything else to add to that, but I got your attention didn’t I? Don’t feel like a sucker. You’re not the only one.
It has come to my attention that whenever I say “As the mother of a child with autism…” people instantly pay attention. They presume I’m wise and sagely, and they’ll take virtually anything I say as gospel. It’s quite fabulous really.
The statement could be followed with something as simple as “…I like kids chewable vitamins” and people will take this into serious consideration. “Hmmm…maybe chewables ARE better for kids than gummies. I mean, she would know, her child has autism.”
I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t plan on having a child with autism. I didn’t want to have a child with autism, but lo and behold, I do. And it sucks. But when you have a child with special needs and you’ve put in the hours and years of dedication to the process of helping that child as I have, shouldn’t I enjoy a few of the perks?
Well, people thinking I am really smart is one of them.
When I say “As the mother of a child with autism, I buy mostly organic fruit.” It is met with a collective “Oooooooooooo.”
When I say “As the mother of a child with autism, I have my kids ride their bikes at least twice a week.” I hear a united “Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.”
Believe me, I don’t actually think I’m saying anything interesting or even noteworthy. I’m usually not. And God knows, whatever I’m yapping about is almost always unsubstantiated. I’m a busy woman. Sure my kid has autism, but that doesn’t mean I know any more than the average bear.
But people can’t help but think I have something valuable to say. It appears to be a natural gut reaction to think “Oh, she’s the mother of a child with autism. She must know a lot about child development.” Or, “Wow, her kid has autism. That sucks. Even if I don’t agree with her, I feel sorry for her and I’m going to give her whatever she wants.”
I’d love to say I’m above it, but I’m not.
It’s wonderful. If I’m at school and I want my daughter to have a better seat in class, I just say “As the mother of an autistic child, I think mine should sit in front.” If I’m out with friends at a movie I can say with great authority, “As the mother of an autistic child, I think the characters were extremely well-drawn.” Or, let’s say we’re driving to the valley and I just don’t want to be stuck on side streets. I’ll say “As the mother of an autistic child, I think we should take the highway.”
I suppose I shouldn’t expose myself to the world and tell people I’ve figured this out, and I certainly shouldn’t use my own family’s misfortune to take advantage of others when I can get away with it.
But I did, and I do. And now, I’m headed out to dinner with some friends. I’d like to have a couple of cocktails, so I’m thinking I’ll casually ask “who wants to be the designated driver?” We’ll all look at each other and then I’ll point to one of them and say “As the mother of an autistic child, I really think you should be the one driving.”
And it will work.
At long last, I’ve found my silver lining.