I Didn’t Know

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I’ve been reading books that were written by people with Autism. I thought it would help me to understand the world from their point of view. In some aspects, I like to think I have grown in knowledge, and that it was beneficial. But in other areas; it has hurt my mama heart, in ways I didn’t expect.

One of the aspects of Autism, is that the person has a misunderstanding or complete lack of understanding about emotions. I knew this, from watching Little Man go through experiences of life as a 2 year old. When he falls down, and should be in pain, he gets up and walk away. When I laugh, he looks pained and begins to cry. He holds in the tears and tries to suck in the crying as hard as he can. He looks confused and frustrated over his body’s reaction to his stimulus. One of the books that I read, described a scenario in which the boy with Autism was being picked on. He looked at their faces and couldn’t recognize their emotions or why they were doing what they were doing. Reading this, horror filled me. From my perspective, I could understand completely what the boys were not only doing, but what each subtle movement and facial expression meant. I could hear words in my own head of “oh no, bad situation.” But the boy, did not. Luckily he was able to defend himself, but it was not the first or last time he would need to do so.

While I am thankful for the author explaining this from his point of view, it also made me more scared and sad than I have ever been before. Knowing that he will not understand his own emotions, is sadness at its highest. The confusion and frustration that will come from not understanding his own body and mind, is frightening. But just as awful, is how he will not only not be able to understand other people’s emotions, but he will not understand people’s intentions behind those emotions. When I laugh, he has no idea that it makes me happy to laugh, that my face is saying I am excited. I don’t know if it is the sound of my laugh, the look on my face when I laugh…I just don’t know. He doesn’t cry when anyone else laughs, just me. But he does it when strangers laugh around him, especially women. Why? I don’t know. I don’t know and I don’t know how to make him feel better (since he hates physical contact when he cries).

That’s one of the hardest parts, coming from a mom’s perspective; you can’t hold your baby while they cry. He doesn’t let me hold him while he cries. I don’t know what to do for him, words don’t matter. He’s stuck in a scary mind where he can’t understand what he is feeling, he doesn’t understand his tears, and he can’t accept comfort. What a scary world he lives in. What a scary world; one in which you can’t understand your own emotions, or the emotions of others.

I fear for his safety, I fear for his sanity. I know that when he gets older, I will find a way to get him into martial arts of some kind. I want to make sure he can protect himself, if needed. But he won’t understand why he is protecting himself. He won’t understand why people are making fun of him, picking on him, and desire to hurt him. And while I can understand and explain as best as I can; he will never truly feel how they feel. Feeling other people’s emotions is one of the greatest gifts and curses a person can have. Understanding where someone else comes from, gives you the ability to talk to them, reason with them, and share with them on a deep level. Not being able to see from another’s perspective, not only hurts you, but them as well.

He will live in this world of pain, frustration, sadness, joy, laughter, madness, and never understand it. It will be such a naivete that in some ways, he will be like a child. And there is nothing I can do, except explain from the earliest age, to recognize his emotions and help him put words and meaning to them.

I wish I could cuddle my baby and make the tears go away. I wish my laughter didn’t frighten him. But some wishes, are never meant to come true.

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