Ifs, Shoulds, and I-know-betters

Come on, we all do it. We sit on the sidelines and watch other people and we think ifs, shoulds and I-know-betters. That's a good portion of the conflict within the autism community.

We're certain our answers are better, that our knowledge-base is more extensive, that if only we were doing that, we'd be doing it so much better. That's why Sanctimommy is both bitingly funny and disturbingly guilt-inducing.

Not only do we engage in this behavior throughout our day, we are of course on the receiving end. It hurts the most, hits the hardest when it is our supposed support system that lights into us, when our family fails us and blames us for our children's autism, issues, behaviors, or even worse fails to see that the autism is very real and instead thinks that our children are brats.

"If I had him..."

"You should...."

"Well, I know that..."


It's hard to be on the receiving end of that kind of judgmentally-uninformed opinions. After all, how many people who offer this kind of advice have actually lived around the clock with our children and us and seen our children clearly--how wonderful, how funny, how sweet, how challenged, how frustrated they are, how hard life is for them, how the world often recoils at them, how overwhelming and confusing the world can be for them?

And yet, even though we know how hard it is, we find ourselves doing the same thing with other families in similar situations. Sometimes we're overt, aggressive, and pushy, and we do the ifs, the shoulds, the I-know-betters right to their faces or on their facebook walls, and our words drip with condescension and judgment. Sometimes we just say it to ourselves, pat ourselves on our backs and smile a smug, satisfied smile as we think to ourselves how much better we're doing it.

It's the easy thing to do, you know. We're human, we're certain we're right, and if others disagree with us, they must be wrong. We bemoan how black and white autistic thinking can be, forgetting that human thinking is black and white. It's not an autistic trait--it's a human trait.

We have to actively work to live in the gray, to concede that we could be wrong, that there could be multiple ways of handling the same issue, and that all of those ways might be just fine.

Imagine that: multiple paths, multiple ways of living, no one wrong way or one right way, but individualized ways. Hmmm. Hard to be condescending if we live in the gray, but so much easier to be compassionate. We have to consciously place ourselves in that gray area, though, with mindfullness. It's not the easy way to go, and it means letting go of smug satisfaction and certainty, and it's a continual process.

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