“We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.” -Robert Fulghum
When some friends were helping my husband and I design our wedding invitations, this is the quote they came up with to describe our love; “mutually satisfying weirdness”. To be fair, it is accurate. See, my husband has been diagnosed with Autism. When he was in his late teens he saw a psychologist who brought up the possibility of Autism with him, but who also said that the current diagnostic manual didn’t allow for a diagnosis at his age because “if you’ve made it to nearly 20 without a diagnosis, you probably don’t need one”. Much later, nearly 10 years later, the diagnostic manual has been changed and he has his diagnosis.
I had an eerily similar experience at the age of 18. My mother and stepfather had broached the topic with me and organised an appointment with a psychologist to consider a diagnosis. I was so against it. It felt like a rejection, like they were trying to get me labeled so that they could explain away my weirdness and excuse themselves of the fact that they didn’t understand me. I was told the same thing as my future husband; “I’d have diagnosed you as a child, but you’ve made it this far so you probably don’t need a diagnosis”. There was also the additional difficulty of my being female.
7 years later and I’m much more open to the idea that I might be Autistic. I probably am. We don’t have the funds for me to get a diagnosis at the moment. I plan to be at home with our children for quite a while longer, so we don’t have to consider the supports I might need in place in the workplace. I may never make it back to a conventional job and that’s ok with me. I love spending time living and learning through life with our kids and having my own pursuits in the quiet moments. I also may never get a diagnosis and that’s ok. Learning about Autism has given me the prompts I need to learn more about myself and that’s most of the help that I needed.
We have 4 children; 2 are my stepchildren and 2 are ours together. With our children being born of 2 Autistic parents, they will likely be neurodivergent and even the older ones may be. In our day to day life, it doesn’t matter to us because all our children are individuals and their needs, whether they come from a typical or divergent neurology, are just as important as everyone else’s.
Meeting my husband, we quickly fell into our mutually satisfying weirdness. After a few months as friends, I met his kids. Within a few weeks of that we fell for each other and got engaged. By the time we’d been together 6 months we were married and pregnant too. The difference that our relationship made to my life is obvious when I lay out all the events, but one of the biggest changes was invisible; I began to not only accept myself in all my weirdness- just as I accept my husband in his, but also learn about this particular brand of weirdness and start to work with it.
I learned about myself that I need time to recover after being social, even though I love it. I also know that I like to listen to music because at least it’s familiar background noise; if I have to listen to outside noises from inside my house, my mind works on overdrive to pick out and understand every little vehicle noise, mechanical whir and the noises of the neighbor’s playful child. I have anxiety that occasionally gets so bad that I feel physical symptoms and sometimes the cause might not seem “bad enough” for a reaction as strong as that. My husband doesn’t have these challenges; his are entirely different. I’ve learned about those too.
In parenting our children we also embrace their weirdness- whether it’s Autistic weirdness or not. One child likes to have his sandwich cut a certain way (is it a triangle day today?); one gets anxious in crowds so we wear her in a preschool carrier to ease her anxiety; another has such different needs in relation to her sleep that some nights she’s awake past 1 am.
So this is where I’m at, not only parenting children who may or may not be neurodivergent, but also in a house with neurodivergent parents. By embracing our mutual weirdness we choose to live in joy, and isn’t that the dream?