For my entire childhood, I felt I deserved to be hit, to be mocked, verbally and emotionally. The friends I had as a child, or neighbors we were pawned off on, seemed infinitely kind and I wished that one of them would adopt me. I was afraid of my mother and would flinch when she came near me. I even told myself for many years that my mom did the best she could. That I deserved it and she was stressed out. I believed she loved us and even craved her approval. Stockholm Syndrome.
The ideas such as “get along shirts” and other forms of child shaming are rampant, and cheered by much of the public. Our society is, by and large, doing it wrong. There is no non-judgemental way to put it. Our children should be given more understanding, more kindness, more compassion because they are younger and completely dependent on us. Preying upon that vulnerability for laughs or sharing their humiliation publicly for commiseration is not okay. If you would not like someone to do it to you, please don’t do it to your child or condone it being done to any other child.
When my children were babies, I was constantly told I was spoiling them by sleeping with them, not letting them cry it out and feeding them as much or often as needed. I see it as responding to a need, intuitively, in the same way I would do my best to respond to anyone in need. We live in democracy with our children. This doesn’t mean our lives are perfect. It means when issues arise, we work them out together, compassionately, collaboratively. We are guides, not authority figures. Their brains are still developing and they are learning how to navigate complicated emotions. We help them when they show they need it.
Since their diagnoses and my own, I have learned so much from other Autistic self advocates as well as many parents who embrace their children’s neurology. I believe fully, and without question, that children are deserving of respect, dignity and autonomy over their own bodies right now. They need not wait until they are adults to have these rights afforded to them. For us, for me, the cycle is broken. My children are free.