As hard as it might be to believe it, but I am starting to understand things a bit better about how I was treated as a child.
I am starting to realise as I am getting older that both of my parents were not really normal at all, I had my suspicions about my dad, but he was lovely, I kind of felt my mother was also a bit odd but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it… I presumed she was a bit off because she too, had a hard life – but no, there was more.
I may be entirely wrong with my suspicions, but it is making me wonder…
I’ll get to the gist shall I?
I have been reading a book called “An adult with an autism diagnosis” by Gillan Drew, because I wanted to better understand my son Henry’s autism diagnosis better. But as I was reading the book I realise more and more that the book was describing my parents!
Both had their obsessions, extreme OCD, both self-neglected when things went into turmoil in their lives, both were excessively awkward with strangers and would never leave the house if it meant leaving a specific three mile radius and would abandon trips altogether if they needed an alternate route because of roadworks or accidents.
Both had irrational ideas and were easily triggered into aggressive mood swings that held grudges sometimes for months and in some cases forever!
They also took everything literally, they never questioned what they were told and they were both excessively stubborn about any knowledge that they had.
Multi-tasking was also a trait none of them had; they were easily flustered whenever they had to do more than one thing at a time and were easily irritated by sudden changes of plan. Everything in their lives were run by a tight schedule and outside of that schedule they were easily lost and confused.
The main trait of autistic parents according to the book is emotional distance from people, especially their children, though they focus on them a lot and they will do everything for the child in usually a suffocating manner, they often neglect their emotional needs. They often fail to comfort their child, or cuddle them or support them verbally, but are quick to criticisms if it is outside of their idea of perfection.
I remember my parents thinking that cuddles was silly, get off, what do you think you are doing? Do you think that is appropriate? I remember my parents cancelling things if it meant that their dinner had to wait even by fifteen minutes, because the idea of not eating dinner by 4:30pm every day except Sunday was alien to them!
I know a lot of the time my mother would refer on the telephone to relatives she respected about the behaviour of all of her children and based on their advice she would change her parenting method quickly and react to whatever was suggested to her.
Throughout most of my childhood the parenting was delegated as much as possible, I was passed onto relative to relative a lot of the time and in between that she arranged for live in help in the form of au pairs and home helps.
Sometimes my mum would let me get away with things because in her opinion she didn’t see that something was wrong, if someone mentioned that it was wrong to her she’d instantly panic and respond in a very aggressive and often violent manner in the embarrassment that someone else had judged her.
All of these things are very much like a high on the spectrum autistic parent.
This would totally explain to me the constant inconsistencies in her parenting style and her ways and how extreme she was.
I know she hasn’t been diagnosed with autism because she has lived in a time where those things were not widely known, but I do know that my mother went to a prove school and was expelled for her behaviour a lot of the time and she had psychiatric tests a lot throughout her childhood because of her strangeness.
My dad isn’t so high up in the spectrum I think; I think he is just socially awkward and easily manipulated by my mother.
My mother had what I called “flaps” she often had to try and control herself, it is making total sense to me now and it is a confusing emotion to consider forgiving her because she may have had this condition and didn’t know any better!
Seriously, that is what is going through my head right now.
Her behaviour on many occasions was inexcusable, but I never once considered that she isolated me because she was suffering from social anxieties herself – because throughout my childhood she kept saying it was I who was not normal and that she simply didn’t socialise because she didn’t have the time or energy because of running a family and a home along with ridiculous work schedules.
I didn’t realise when I grew up that most of the people she socialised with were in actual fact distant relatives and not friends at all!
This fact only came about near the end of my nans life as she revealed several family friends to be 3rd to fifth cousins and then it was confirmed on GenesReunited on more than one occasion that it was true!
Yet growing up I was led to believe my mum was cool and extroverted and wild, because of her stories and ways.
How she berated me for being a strange creature who was the complete opposite to her. She said she feared that I was too trusting of strangers and that I didn’t know how to properly behave in public as I am too forward and innocent all at once, that strangers would get mixed signals from me!
Every therapist I have ever gone to has felt that socially there doesn’t seem to be anything amiss – that perhaps some of my problems are based around my mother putting scary thoughts into my head – but to them they thought I was rather mature and worldly and acting very appropriately in fact splendidly.
It’s very strange to consider I got this book to understand my son, but instead it made me understand my mother!
I remember growing up and hearing my mother ask me why I would do such and such and to have me explain things to her almost constantly and she would always ask me why I reacted that way!
I often used to cry about not being cuddled or having attention as much as other children with their parents – she honestly looked awkward and frustrated and often said “why is that important? I don’t like to do this, so you should respect that – why can’t you just understand I am not the cuddly sort of mother”?
It was bad enough her rejecting me, but when I was around ten years old my dad started to say he won’t cuddle me anymore because my mother finds it inappropriate now!
Henry doesn’t like cuddles either he doesnt understand how they are important in families.
She was always asking me why about everything –why is this important to you, I don’t think that should be, you should think this way instead (her way).
She’d also never understood how people had their own hobbies, likes and dislikes and would easily get offended if you said you didn’t like something that she liked.
She always tried to tell me that as we have a mother and daughter relationship, it is the daughters duty to be as much like her mother as possible, therefore I should endeavour to dress like her, think like her, choose the same hobbies as her and want to be with her as much as possible doing things as a team!
She couldn’t fathom for the life of her that things don’t work out that way!
She was so self-absorbed that for years I didn’t realise that brushing teeth and washing outside of the once a week on a Sunday bath was important, until other relatives I lived with raised concerns about my hygiene standards when I was thirteen!
When I told my mother about this conversation, she said that she presumed I would know to have done it, because she did it to me right up until I was 5yrs old and she presumed that I would carry it on now I knew the basics… no children don’t work like that… children don’t understand those sorts of things unless you tell them specifically and remind them regularly!
When I moved in with Paul in 2009 my mother couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t have the usual meal time schedules, why I had breakfast now whereas in London I never had one – why I don’t do lunch at 12:15pm sharp instead it floats around 1pm to 3pm and why on Earth is dinner anywhere between 6:30pm and 8pm when it should be 4:30pm?
Why do I now have an 11:15pm bedtime and a 5:45am wake up time?
Why do I insist in going out at 8am every morning for a long walk?
Why do I want to have yellow and purple walls instead of ivory white?
Why am I wearing pink instead of black and white all the time suddenly?
Why… why… why…
Why can’t I be like her?
She couldn’t cope with all the changes, the idea of travelling up to visit me made her ill because it was an hour and twenty minute car journey, a whole 87 miles too far!
The panic of me leaving home caused her to phone me approximately twenty five times a day!
When she temporarily moved in with me because I wasn’t coping a the last month of pregnancy as I needed bed rest due to chronic oedema and blood pressure – she went around the house changing furniture to her taste, painting my walls her colours and throwing out anything she found ugly whether I wanted to keep it or not, whether they were special things of Paul’s or not too!
She couldn’t understand when I had my baby, that my baby was priority over everything, including her! She was hurt and often whimpered and cried if I ignored her to attend to my baby, because I never used to just ignore and abandon her when she spoke to me. She really didn’t understand the transition!
All of this makes me wonder if my mother was a high functioning autistic person.
It makes me wonder if she deserved my sympathy because she really didn’t understand anything at all and still probably doesn’t understand why I decided I had enough of her controlling, aggressive and oftentimes childish ways.
I remember before I decided to wash my hands of her, I told Paul; my mother is harder work than our two year old over there! He is a doddle; she is driving me around the twist and endangering him with her stupid antics!
Thanks for reading!