Holiday Mom: Meredith

Holiday Mom: MeredithHello my Holiday Child,

I’m the mother of an autistic 11-year-old. Some people view autism through the lens of disease – they think autistic people are broken and need to be fixed. I choose to see autism as an example of neurodiversity: there are so many ways to exist in this world, so many colors, and life’s rainbow wouldn’t look as beautiful without all of us.

The best analogy I’ve ever heard on the subject of neurodiversity involves toast. Imagine your brain is a machine, made of gears and wires and plastic, and when you put all that stuff together, you get a toaster. Now imagine that most people have toasters for brains. They may be toaster ovens or two-slot models, they may make light toast or dark toast, but they all serve the same basic function. In such a world, a person’s worth would likely be judged by how well he could make toast.

Now imagine someone comes along with a head full of gears and wires and plastic, only when you put all that stuff together, you get a hair dryer. Hair dryers are terrific, and way better for styling hair than a toaster would ever be, but they make very strange toast. The person with the hair dryer-brain might feel inadequate in the toast-making department. The toaster-brains might shun him because his toast is bad. But boy, are they going to be grateful he’s around when their hair is wet.

You can cry about how inadequate your toast-making skills are, or you can embrace your hair dryer and be the best hair dryer you can be. I think of my brain as a flat iron – I’ll never be a real toaster, but I can pass for a mini panini press for brief periods until I overheat.

I’ll probably never meet you, but I’ll bet you’re quite a hair dryer. Maybe you’re one of those fancy Dyson Supersonic models, or maybe you’re that reliable Conair that’s stayed by my side for the last 20 years. I’m sure anyone with hair would see how amazing you are if they were given the chance to get to know you.

Something I’ve learned from raising an autistic child is to take nothing for granted. My son may blither nonsensically much of the time, but I’m so grateful he has language, and that occasionally he can use words to tell me what he needs or even how he feels. I’m grateful that he is healthy and generally happy.

Mostly, I’m grateful my son feels free to wave his freak flag. I don’t know if he’s aware yet that he is profoundly different from most of the kids in his middle school, but at this point, he acts like his true self (I’m pretty sure he’s a blender) no matter where he goes and doesn’t appear to notice if some toasters give him the side eye. His typical classmates have come to know him for the lovable, silly, clever kid he is. I worry that someday he will become self-conscious, that he will feel pressured to act more like a toaster, but for now, he is unapologetically himself in a way I wish I, and everyone, could be.

I hope that you achieve that same sense of freedom he must feel, proud of yourself and all you are capable of doing. I hope you build a community of friends who recognize how special you are, and how much you have to offer the world. I hope you always find the courage to advocate for yourself. And I hope that your can look for and appreciate the goodness in others, no matter what the gears and wires in their heads produce, just as I hope they will see the goodness within you.

Happy holidays,

Mama Meredith

13 comments

  1. Kelara says:

    Dear Mama Meredith,

    I’m an out bisexual woman who’s had a lot of luck as far as family goes when it comes to my queerness, but still carries scars when it comes to my neuroatypicality. It’s “just” one of the ones that passes for normal, but when you’re told you’re lazy or have bad character for things you can’t help, it [fouls] you up.

    So, Mama Meredith, your letter made me cry. I’m mostly here on this site to give hugs to my younger queer siblings, but this time, this letter was for me. Thank you. And that flatiron image will cheer me for days.

    Much love from your all-grown-up kid. <3

  2. Mikey says:

    Meredith, thank you so much for writing that letter. i’m a 13 year old trans gay boy who is a high functioning autistic, and because i pass as neurotypical most of the time, i just have to sit quietly as my peers make awful jokes about people like me. some days i have to force myself to not stim, just so that other people don’t notice it. my parents are very unaccepting and transphobic, and it’s very easy to feel alone.
    thank you,
    Mikey

    • Lisbeth says:

      Hi Mikey,

      I’m not Meredith, but i wanted to reach out. I’m also disabled, and I also pass as neurotypical. Once you get out of secondary school, things get much easier. A lot of your classmates are still figuring themselves out, and part of that is testing boundaries. Things get better.

      I’m sorry you can’t be yourself at home or at school, and I hope that changes for you soon.

      Best wishes,
      L

    • Mama Meredith says:

      My heart hurts for you, Mikey. Kids can be so cruel. I myself was bullied mercilessly throughout high school. But I found my tribe – the drama kids at the local teen center – and knowing they considered me cool helped me tune out the garbage I had to deal with at school. Then I went to college and found no bullying at all – it was a totally accepting environment. It really does get better, I promise.

      Also, as an autistic person you probably have some amazing superpowers your classmates would kill for. Maybe you have an awesome memory (man, I wish I did…), or you’re great at noticing details, or you have some sort of musical ability. Someday you’ll figure out how to harness whatever superpower you have, and you can use it to take over the world.

      Interesting side note: I learned recently that there is a high correlation between trans identity and ASDs – autistic individuals are more likely to identify as trans than the rest of the population. Point is, there are a lot of folks out there like you, so you’re in good company :)

  3. Santana B says:

    Hi Momma Meredith
    I’m not in my youth anymore but I am a 30 year old Lesbain without my mama because she died but she was never really around anyways but your story was so inspiring to me in a lot of ways my family puts me down everyday for being the real me and it gets harder to go on everyday but I read your story and it spoke to me it gave me the courage to keep holding on and I would like to thank you for that much peace and love

    Santana

  4. kail says:

    i wish my parents were supportive like this. i’m 15 asexual and panromantic and my parents told me it was inappropriate to bring my girlfriend at the time to homecoming because i’m also a girl. my brother makes fun of me all the time and my friend told me i was basically a walking sin. i am so grateful for this website because it makes me feel so loved :)

    • Mama Meredith says:

      Kail, you sound like a beautiful person. I’m so happy for you that you’ve found a girlfriend who is special enough to you that you would want to introduce her to your family.

      That person you’re calling your “friend” sounds like a jerk. I wouldn’t waste too much time or energy on them. You can do so much better.

  5. Judith G says:

    Thank You for being one of the few parents to accept their child. I am 18 years old and bisexual. Sadly when I came out to my parents about liking a girl they slapped me and called me names. Names that hurt beyond comprehension. They have isolated me from every single friend I had. Now I am in college but they refuse to give me liberty. I cannot even drive or work. Your metaphorical story made me feel comfortable to be myself. I am still me but maybe a little better in some things they don’t understand yet. I just really wanted to say thank you for taking the time to upload things to this site.

    • Mama Meredith says:

      It can be hard to let go of your own toaster-life expectations, or the toaster-life expectations of others. I remember for my first couple of years of college, whenever I would come home during a school break my mom and I would go through this awkward dance – I had gotten used to having the freedom to do XYZ, which was at odds with the house rules she had established over the previous 18 years. It took us a few years to establish the new normal for our relationship, respecting both my status as an adult and her status as my mother (not to mention the whole tenant-landlord dynamic…). We’ve both done a lot of growing up over the years, and now she feels perfectly comfortable cursing like a sailor in my presence and telling me I should drink more :)

  6. Mirjam says:

    Dear Mama Meredith, I just loved your blog. I wished I had come up with your words to discribe the toasters, the difference in hair dryers, the fact that you’re a panini maker and your precious boy is a blender! I love blenders 😉 It made me wonder about my son; I gave it some thought and I am pretty sure he is an airfryer..
    Thank you so much for sharing your flag, keep proudly waving your weird flag, I will surely wave along! Love, Mirjam
    the Netherlands

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