" What do you mean?"
" What did I do wrong to make people not like me?"
" You didn't do anything wrong. You are a kind,lovable child. The right people see that. Its the wrong ones that do not."
This sadly was a conversation I had with my 9 year old daughter, who is on the spectrum last night.
I can't tell you how many times it breaks my heart to have a conversation like this with my autistic child. A child that doesn't understand the social sphere around hers. I see her trying to understand. The gears and emotions turning inside that little head of her. Trying so desperately to understand the why and the how of things. And for any parent, it can be hard to stand back and let our children face adversity to make them learn a lesson that will help them into adulthood. That not everyone is going to like you. It doesn't matter if you are the perfect cup of tea, there will always be that one person who will find fault in you.
But this lesson is hard for those who don't pick up on the social cues given to them. They start to internalizing things. They start to think that there is something actually wrong with them. All those insecurities of why can't people see me and like me, plague them. They start to be ashamed of themselves, when there is no need. That self confidence and self esteem plummets. And as parents, we watch as we see our child become shells of themselves. I understand that rejection is a way of life. And even for some adults, its a hard pill to swallow.
I read an article this morning about how to be a friend to a person with autism. It was a fantastic article. But something resonated with me. How about how to be a friend in general. Everyone has their quirks. Everyone. How about trying to look past what makes a person different. I know I preach that more times than I want to admit. But its the sad truth of it.
I watch as my child is rejected and pushed away. Told no or be told that she isn't the desired person other children want to play with. I watch the hurt that comes across her face. As she might not understand the reasoning behind the rejection, the emotion is still there. I get that she is a somewhat shy child, and that some times play isn't what other expected, but she is still a child. A child with feelings. A child that often gets her feelings hurt. I think that people forget that. That just because she understands the world differently, that she is somewhat immune to it all. Guess what, She is not. She takes it all in.
For most of her life, she has lived in the shadow of her more outgoing brother. My eldest is the social butterfly. He is the buffer. But he is also a brother that was my daughter's voice when she didn't have one. He is the brother that tries to include her when she is pushed away or when he sees her by herself. Now that she is coming into her own, she is being more vocal about how she feels. The joys, the sadness and the times she is angry. Which as a parent is a blessing to see. But with that blessing comes watching the whole wide range of emotions she is discovering.
Teaching children to be kind isn't a hardship.It isn't like trying to teach a university level physics problem. Teaching them to be aware of the growing world around them isn't a hardship.
No parent wants hear from their child that they think there is something wrong them because others can't accept them for who they are.
If this lands me in trouble, remember I am advocating for my children. As I don't think any one of you would like to have the conversation with your own children that I have had with my child on why society won't accept them. And trying desperately to make her see that she is worth someone's time.