We’re all guilty of it. We compare ourselves to everyone, our children to their peers, our spouses to our friends’ spouses. We measure our houses, our cars, our jobs against others’. Everyone gets sucked into “Keeping Up with the Joneses” sometimes.
It’s an especially dangerous game to play when you have a high functioning autistic child. He sometimes seems like he should be able to do what everyone else is capable of, which makes it that much more painful when he can’t. Actually, it doesn’t hurt any less when it is obvious that he isn’t going to be able to do what the other kids are doing.
I find myself constantly explaining to people—practical strangers—that Yoshi is different, lest they form their own opinions about why he is different. It feels like I am making excuses, like I am defending him. I do it even when no one has said anything. It’s a preemptive attempt against judgment.
Let’s put all the cards on the table here. Am I defending him or am I defending myself against their judgment? Definitely some of both, if I’m being honest. I don’t want to feel like we’re somehow less. Different, not less.
I don’t know if these other people are paying attention to the differences between our children, but I know. They’re comparing our kids, just like I am. And my kid looks broken.
There is a reason. These other people don’t need to know what it is. I don’t need to tell them. And yet, I find myself doing it anyway. I wish that I could hold my head high and walk away without saying anything. I’ll work on it.
The comparisons in my life don’t end there, of course. We are constantly comparing Yoshi to where he was so that we can say, “He’s come so far!” Strictly speaking, it is the truth, but it is another tactic to make ourselves feel better when he is falling short of the mark in some way.
“He’s come so far!”
We use that one (“He’s come so far!”) to give ourselves hope, as well. Look at how far he has come, imagine how far he can go. It just takes time. There are dark moments—looking ahead—but it makes the future seem brighter.
We compare the professionals in Yoshi’s life. It’s a two-sided coin though. Sometimes I revel in my comparisons, sometimes it depresses me.
I spend a lot of time rehashing specific appointments with the old doctor after we leave the office of the new one. I am specifically comparing their methods, the way I feel when we leave their office, the way they treat Yoshi
As I fill my husband in on the current appointment, we swap stories about the old guy. “Do you remember when Dr. X used to…?” Yes. Yes, I do. And I hated it. I’m so glad that we have moved on. (Or I didn’t hate it, I’m not glad, and now I miss him.)
We have control over the doctors in our lives. If a therapist isn’t a good fit, we look for another one. Once we find a good doctor, we don’t usually have to leave and find a new one if we don’t want to. (Sometimes circumstances change and we have to move on for one reason or another though.) Teachers? No control.
Of course, he spends far more time with his teachers than he does with any doctor and having a good or not great teacher affects our lives quite a bit. I have loved most of Yoshi’s teachers. Some of them have been better for him than others. One year, I didn’t realize it wasn’t a great year until I had the next year to compare it to.
That’s a lie. I knew it wasn’t great. I just didn’t realize how not great it was. I compare teachers. I can’t help it. Difficult years (read: teachers) make good teachers seem even better. On the flip side, great teachers make the bad ones stand out that much more.
None of that really matters. Teachers are something that you have to grit your teeth and get through. Try to find something positive and solider on.
It’s the worst kind of comparison, the one that makes our current situation feel crummy. When Yoshi is coming out behind his peers, this teacher isn’t as good as last year’s, this therapist isn’t as good as one we had before. I’m happy for the other kids; I’m delighted that we had the experience with the great teachers and doctors. Except…
It’s much better to leave a doctor’s office with bad news but still feel okay because you like the way this guy delivered the news so much more than the last one. Life is easier when Yoshi is coming apart at school but his teacher is not only amazing, she’s so much better than the last one. It’s a nice thing in your pocket to be positive about when everything else is negative.
Especially compared to the times when things are going poorly—with lesser individuals in play. I do a terrible thing where I compound my negativity because I sit around and think about how much better our [fill-in-the-blank] from before would have handled it.
Our old therapist didn’t do that…
Our old teacher was better at…
Our old neurologist…
Comparisons are part of being a human. We want to see how we measure up. We want to make the best choices. How do you do that without breaking out the scales? All the same, I wish I could stop.
At the end of the day, our lives don’t look like everyone else’s.
It is likely that Yoshi will never be capable of what his peers are in some areas of his life. I need to stop feeling defensive about that. We will always encounter people that are more difficult to work with—not everyone in this world will make my heart sing. It’s best to equip Yoshi with the skills to handle that now.
At the end of the day our lives don’t look like everyone else’s. Everyone has their own story to tell. Yoshi has different strengths—that maybe you can’t see. I can take that knowledge to bed with me every night. I can try to let that be enough.
Ha! I know myself well enough to know that I will never stop comparing. I will never stop feeling defensive. I will never stop lamenting the good ones that got away. Yes, even though I know it’s dangerous.
But a girl can dream, right?
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