I won’t lie to you—I have raised all five of my children with a certain degree of protection. I don’t think I am over protective—I think I held back a bit on that one—but I have always had it in my mind that children should be children as long as they can and want to be. The thing is—it is a hard world out there—why let them be exposed to the elements much before they have to? What is the harm in letting them be carefree a little longer—relish in the innocence of their youth until they say I am ready to take it on?
My oldest daughter is 13. She’s on the autism spectrum with a diagnosis of PDD-NOS. If you’ve followed some of my previous blogs—you know she is very high functioning and most people don’t get that she’s different from other kids her age, until they’ve been around her a bit. Then they almost notice two things. They notice that she is very literal, while common with kids on the spectrum, this is very evident as you talk to her more and more. And they also notice that she still views this world through the eyes of an innocent younger child. In many ways, she has not matured like other girls her age, and her innocence lingers. She likes hip music and cute boys—but that is about as far as it goes. To actually kiss a boy would elicit a an “EWWW THAT’S GROSS!” from her lips—something she would unabashedly admit without reservation. At the age when girls begin to actually think about their first kiss, my daughter just thinks boys are cute to look at but doesn’t want to go anywhere near them. Didn’t you know? Cooties do still exist—and it is rampant!!
(I know, I know—many girls have HAD their first kiss at this age—but this Mom just can’t go there.)
My daughter is almost as tall as I am—before it is all said and done, I’m sure she will be taller than I. The perception is that she’s a young lady and I do think there is a certain expectation that she should be a bit more advanced—especially among her peers. At first glance—she looks like a rather normal maturing teen—but to get to know her is to understand that she still looks at this world through innocent eyes. I’m not saying this is a bad thing—much the opposite—I find it a rather refreshing thing in many ways. The only “downside” to it, is she then has a very hard time relating to other girls her age, who would seemingly sell their soul to become 21 tomorrow. As a mom, this part of it can be frustrating, heartbreaking, and seemingly cruel at times. Especially when she asks me, “why don’t they want to be my friend?”
I think because she is so high functioning—she is aware that others see her as “different” and on some deep level it really, really bothers her.
You know, in a way, I’m glad some of these girls don’t' friend her because that could give them the chance to negatively influence her or take advantage of her innocence. But in another way—I just want to scream at the others for not accepting her for who she really is. I want to jump up and down until someone gets that it isn’t fair—this damn thing called Autism and its related disorders. It isn’t fair that it makes her feel unwanted and unloved at times by kids her age—all because her innocence is still very much in tact.
The kicker? It doesn’t get any easier as she gets older. It somehow just seems to get worse.
Solutions? I’m not sure if I have the right ones. But the first is: Acceptance. That she is who she is—and I love her and I love how she views this world. To help her accept who she is—a young lady who is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” That she is exactly who she is supposed to be and that those who don’t accept her—just aren’t worth being friends with. Most days she’s okay with it—but not always. In the meantime, she hangs on to that innocent view for yet another day. And for the most part, my heart smiles—that she still embraces it.