I love my son. My love for him spreads from the depths of my heart and beyond the reach of our universe. I adore him. But I would be lying to you all if I hadn’t asked myself the question “what if I had a neurotypical child?” more than once. This life is far from what I imagined it to be. It’s tougher, more complicated, a LOT more tiring and a lot more emotionally challenging than I ever dreamed. So yes, occasionally my mind wonders and I dare to vision what our life would be like at this very second if kiddo was neurotypical and didn’t have his autism.
Like right now it’s Saturday afternoon. He’s tired after an energetic morning of swimming, and so am I. I’d love to sit and snuggle up and watch a family film to recover. But it won’t happen. Kiddo has an average attention span of 1 minute, so hour long films are pretty much out of the question. And I caught myself thinking “we’d be able to do that if he was neurotypical”. Other examples include when he won’t go to sleep at night, when he can’t cope at a soft play or he doesn’t understand when a child wants to play with him. The list is pretty long, and I’ve decided not to feel guilty about it all. It’s normal. Of course we as parents wonder what our lives would have been like if our child didn’t have disabilities. We are surrounded by examples of it every single day! I still wonder what kind of relationship kiddo would have had with my Mum if she was still with us.
But then I wonder, what would I miss out on if my child wasn’t autistic? Those late snuggles where he looks me deep in one eye, trying to find comfort and warmth as his brain just won’t let him rest and sleep. The look of pure passion on his face when he sees a steam train. The relief and excitement of being able to bounce on a trampoline or bouncy castle – it’s an appreciation that no neurotypical child has. They can’t have it. Their brain just isn’t wired that way.
I stepped on a mega block this week and cursed. If kiddo didn’t have his obsession with tipping out boxes of toys, would I be able to walk through my hallway unobstructed? Maybe. What I do know is if he wasn’t here at all, I’d glide through my house and not even a spec of dust would be disturbed. What a lonely and quiet world that would be. No thanks.
Alongside the neurotypical “what if?” questions, I find myself asking “what if he was able to talk?” Or “what if he didn’t have his coordination problems?”. Would he play sport? Would he be in mainstream school?
Writing this I realise just how energy sucking it is. But it’s normal, I can’t help it. Our extended family is growing, our friends are having more children. If kiddo was neurotypical would I have another baby by now? I’m surrounded by the “what ifs?” every single day.
But the biggest “what if” I face is ” What if kiddo was neurotypical? Would I still be the same person I am today?” The answer is no. Absolutely not. I wouldn’t be as resilient, I wouldn’t be as patient, I wouldn’t have the fight I have inside me today. I certainly wouldn’t be as tired… You see it’s not the easy paths in life that truly define who you are. It’s not the expected journeys, or the typical routes that the average person navigates. It’s the unexpected, the surprising and the downright tough experiences that bring out the personality traits you didn’t even know existed inside you. The skills and the passion that you didn’t know were just waiting for that challenge in life, just simmering below the surface for when they were needed most. This past 2 years I’ve learnt more about myself and changed more than I ever realised was possible. And had kiddo been born neurotypical, I would never have discovered these things about myself.
So I guess the question I leave you with is not “what if my child was neurotypical?” but “what if we hadn’t had such a life changing experience?”. Now that’s a question to ponder. One thing is for sure, I wouldn’t have the friends I have today. And I wouldn’t change those people for the world. And my relationship with kiddo wouldn’t be as deep, as patient and as interesting as it is now. In fact, thank God he isn’t neurotypical. Because this is a life I just don’t want to miss.
Thanks for reading,