There is a freedom that comes with having children around. It starts with their lack of expectations. Those big, round eyes don’t have an idea of who I should be, they haven’t developed those advanced skills of pre-conceptions and pigeonholing.
Children love it when you listen. They love it when you try to answer their questions. They love honesty. They love fascination.
Children love all my best traits.
Yesterday we had a family day out to an aquarium. When I told people we were going, some nodded a knowing nod and pigeonholed it as “something for the kids to do”.
Because it is. My children love water, they love fish, they love lights. And so do I.
There are many things that I do, because I’m autistic, that are easier to get away with when you have children around. I love to sing. I love to make up mindless doggerel about whatever it is I’m doing, and turn it into a ditty as I wander. It’s a great way to keep my mind focused and for staving off tendrils of distraction that can lead to over analysis and worry.
I try not to sing when I’m “adulting”, but when the children are there? Well, I’m probably just an enthusiastic mother, doing it for them. They find it hilarious, they join in. If I stop then they urge me to do more. I live in the land of song, it would be rude not to.
And so I sang my way around the aquarium, and I ran with them from exhibit to exhibit. When a mother apologised for her son’s enthusiasm, as he flapped his arms outside the shark tank, with a gentle, “He’s a little overexcited”, I grinned at him and did the same, saying, “He should be! It’s exciting!” and we all smiled.
I pointed at all the rays, and stared, eyes-unfocused at the jellyfish tank. I found all the poison-dart frogs, and I soaked up their venomous skin with my eyes.
We took turns skipping from tank to tank, my husband smiling proudly at our joy in everything. We shared facts and loves. We made fish noises and went round and around the shark tank looking for the Moray Eel.
The otters were asleep, so we did some otter whistling to assure them that they were right to hide. We curled our fingers like seahorse tails, and reminisced about finding mermaid’s purses on the beach at home.
As we left I felt like skipping, and so we did, all the way to the car.
A lot of my autism is enthusiasm, passionate and raw and immediate. Containing it takes some effort. It’s exhausting. Not letting my brain focus on singing, means it looks for other things to keep it occupied. It will focus on variables and risk analysis, and catastrophising, instead of connecting and interacting with the world.
We all need to let our fascination out at times, children are a parent’s secret weapon against other adult’s judgement.
I’m working towards being so secure in myself, that I won’t need them around to be me anymore. It is my plan. That and being an old lady who wears purple and does what she damn well pleases. Those futures fill me with joy.
I have spent a lifetime learning to contain all my best bits, and it has left me isolated and confused. It’s time I gave the world a chance to judge me properly, not on how well or poorly I mask, but on who I am. Warts and poison-dart frogs and all.