Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Parents and children

Aspergers has only been part of the vocabulary for the past ten years or so. The diagnosis may have been invented much earlier, but when I was a child nobody knew about Aspergers. We hadn’t even heard of autism until Rain Man.
I think that my grandfather was irritated with my mother. She was a girl and he wished for a boy, but also I think he was put off by some of her traits such as being stubborn, anxious, black-and-white, introvert, a bit paranoid and other characteristics that he had himself. My grandfather had a few interests and could go on and on about them. He also took refuge in the kitchen. I don’t know how common this is, but I see numerous examples of parents being very irritated with their children when the children remind them of themselves. And that was the case for my mother and her father. What they had in common was quite a few Aspie-traits.

My mother did many things to spite her parents. A lot of her actions have been driven by anger. She felt neglected as a child and I believe she never really forgave her father for that. Her response to the demands of her surroundings was to be as different as she possibly could. She despised those people that fitted in, people wearing fashion clothes, watching soccer matches, reading gossip magazines and all the other things ‘people’ did. Then she had two children: a boy that displayed so many of the characteristics that she had herself. And a girl (that would be me) that was so eager to fit in that nobody noticed she also had those characteristics. My mother has always had an attitude of surprise and disapproval towards me. I think my need to fit in is seen by her as betrayal. Because her thing was to not fit in, and demonstrate against those that did. My brother on the other hand, did not fit in. Maybe he wanted to if he could. But the gender difference in how Aspergers manifests is the key to understanding why my brother and I developed so differently.

My mother could relate to my brother and never really related to me. I had, after all, rejected her project of not fitting in. What she doesn’t know is that I didn’t. I was close though. I have been so worn out by parties because I tried so hard to be like the others. And I have spent hours, days even, contemplating what I should have said or – in particular – not said. But I went to the party or function or whatever it was. And I tried, because I wanted to. This is probably what my mother despised of.

My point is that I see Aspie parents acting in two different ways towards their children with Aspergers (nobody of course said the A-word). Either they form a strong alliance with the child, as my mother did with my brother. She protected him like she had wished for protection (and perhaps understanding) as a child.
I have been mad at my youngest son many times. My parents have suggested that I was sad because he was different. I think most parents experience a kind of sorrow when their child appears to be less than perfect. During the past year or so I have come to understand that my youngest son is much more like me than I thought. And my sorrow related to his being different is in fact related to me being different. I experience him going through the same challenges that I did. Only, there was no such thing as Aspergers then, and I was a girl and much better at hiding under the radar.

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