I walk by with Abby and they all swoon over her cuteness. They love on her and tell her she’s so cute and then all look at me like, “Wow! Better you than me!” We talk for a little while. One of them informs me that Casey stuck his little container with monarch caterpillars RIGHT in her face and then spent 20 minutes talking about the whole life cycle. “He’s very smart,” she says, willing me to climb on their ladder, if for no other reason than she wants me to say something she can one-up.
Just to stop that crazy train, I did something I don’t actually do too often. I said, “He sure is, and he’s autistic.” I let them chew on that for a minute. One plus one is a pretty simple equation, but it usually takes people a little bit to put it together that yes, I have a child with autism and a child with Down syndrome. I hate that moment. I hate that I know that, 9 times out of 10, that person is probably on the verge of pitying me.
Because this is their worst-case scenario. At least, in their heads it is. But what you don’t see until you’re in the Special Needs world, is that the batshit crazy one-upping soccer moms exist there, too. I’ll be dammed if I don’t know A LOT of parents with special needs that got the diagnosis of their child and thought, “well then, I’m going to make him the best damn child with (autism/Down syndrome/Cerebral Palsy/Eczema/etc) there ever was! WAY BETTER THAN YOUR SN CHILD!”
Which is totally great. All parents should shoot for the moon with their kids. They really should. And all kids should be proud of their parents’ accomplishments. And all parents, in the end, should just be okay with the fact that no matter what they do, their kid is probably going to end up being mediocre.
I said it. There’s a good chance your child isn’t going to be in the NBA or a member of Mensa. There’s a good chance that everything you’re doing right now is going to make your kid the smartest damn kindergartener ever…and the most bored.
One time at a family function when Carter was 2, he put a bowl over his head and ran head first into a wall. He fell backwards and laughed hysterically. My sister, who is quite possibly the funniest person I know, patted him on his head as she walked by and said, “…but you will be good at sports…” as a jab to the fact that he probably wasn’t going to be the smartest kid in his non-prenatal-acceptance-receiving preschool. And you know what? He’s in third grade now and….drum roll please….he’s an average student! Yay! Average! And, he’s fantastic at sports. He might even play in the NBA.
But probably not.
What am I getting at here? To give up? To not push like crazy to do what you think is best for your kids? Nope. Just a simple reminder that it’s not about you. Your child’s accomplishments will never make up for what you didn’t do in your life, they’ll never make you taller than your dad, and they’ll never really impress the person you’re trying to “one-up” because either they’re not listening to you because they are trying to think of their next ladder rung, or, they don’t give a damn because they’re secure enough to see how completely insecure you are.
And I’m not saying that you don’t get all excited when something super fantastic happens. You can call everyone. But no one calls everyone, so you can TEXT everyone. Tear up every social network. Because accomplishments in any sphere of parenting are what keep us going when everything else super sucks. But there’s a difference between you telling someone to praise YOUR KID and you telling someone to PRAISE YOURSELF.
Just try not to be too disappointed the first time your child comes home with a “B”. When your son with Asperger’s doesn’t end up creating a social network. When your daughter doesn’t win the pageant you should have never entered her in because it’s creepy. Realize that we want our kids to do their best in whatever arena of life they enter into, not your best. If they are happy and challenged and impossibly mediocre, good for you. You’re normal.
…unless you’re still hearing voices.