Thank you for the Christmas card. It was nice of you to send me one though I couldn’t help but wonder if your card was just a polite response to the one I sent you. I don’t know why we do it; this business of sending cards to each other when we hardly see one another. I guess it’s just part of that silly card-swapping nonsense that happens at Christmas time.
I read your comment about “catching up in the new year” but I don’t think you mean it and even if you did, I’m not sure I have anything to say to you anymore. Ever since we were new mums you were always the one who said you would call but never did or who would turn up out of the blue when you said you couldn’t make it. It didn’t bother me back then. I went along with your relaxed attitude because I enjoyed your company and we got on.
Life was also easier back then while my daughter was containable in her pushchair and my son was hanging off his toddler reigns. Only just manageable though. It didn’t take long before the challenges of autism and aspergers started to impact on my life and your ‘relaxed’ nature started to become a problem for us.
You see my children thrive on routine, particularly my son. Any change upsets him greatly as it did that time when we had arranged for you and your family to visit us. My son was so looking forward to it. He was so excited. I rang you to confirm things but you claimed to know nothing about our get together and reassured me that we would get together in the future. So vague as usual. I was disappointed in you and sad that you could be so flippant with our friendship. I was sad for my children too; they used to love you and your family. It was too much for my son to bear; he had a meltdown.
You probably don’t understand what I mean by meltdown because you know nothing about autism. A meltdown is not a tantrum or bad behaviour. It’s when my son’s brain doesn’t function well and he is unable to reason and communicate properly. He becomes inconsolable and destructive and a risk to himself. Watching my son’s distress is terrible. I can’t look at him, talk to him, hug him or even hold his hand which goes against all the things I want to do as a mother. Ordinary motherly love does not work in this instance; my love for my son comes from knowing that I have to wait for him to calm down, a wait that can feel agonisingly long. As it was, it took the whole weekend for my son to recover.
I suppose I ought to sit down and talk to you about our challenges but you have proven that our friendship isn’t strong enough for that. When I bumped into you and your friend the other day your aloofness confirmed to me how you only want to be friends with mums whose children are playmates with your children. Of course my children aren’t one of those playmates because they don’t know how to play with other children. There again, you don’t give my children a chance to practice do you? You never invited my children to your children’s parties did you? You never invited them to sleepovers or play dates either? I wonder why that was. Did we not fit in with your cosy group of mothers and children? Were my children too ‘different’ for you?
As it is, I am too tired to talk to you anymore. My days are a whirlwind of dealing with my children, a vocation that absorbs so much time and energy that I cannot work outside the home. I know you’ve been puzzling about that for a while now. You’ve asked me so many questions about my ‘career’ (or rather the lack of it) that it’s obvious you’re having great trouble understanding why I continue to stay at home.
I can understand it in a way. You probably think that because my children look ‘normal’ they do not need any more care than your children but the reality is that they both have an autism spectrum disorder, a lifelong disability that affects my children’s ability to communicate, to interact with others and to cope with a change in routine. It means I have to communicate to them in ways that they will understand. Their social difficulties mean I have to take time to teach them the social rules but even then there is no surety they will learn them and apply them. Their inflexibility means I have to prepare for every change so we can’t just get up and go out. Then there are the sensory issues that accompany ASD; how things look, feel, taste, sound, smell – they all affect my children in different ways and at different times. Do you know how much distress raw carrot can cause my daughter if she gets the slightest sensation of the vegetable on her tongue? Do you know how brushing my son’s teeth can cause him pain, such is the sensation? These are just some of the things we have to deal with on a daily basis.
It’s exhausting and overwhelming and leaves me little time and energy for myself let alone to catch up with friends. Maybe one day in the future when life (hopefully) gets a bit easier I’ll catch up with you then. There again, maybe not.