The Trap of Comparing my Autistic Son with Other Kids
“Comparison is the Thief of Joy” – Theodore Roosevelt. As busy Dads, we all fall into the lazy habit of mindlessly scrolling through our social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For me, it is a voyeuristic escape and a window into the lives of my personal network of friends, co-workers, and even celebrities. Though as I’ve learned, the posts to these social media forums are typically the “highlight reel”: only the best, only the most digitally altered photos, only the kids’ most recent accomplishments, and – let’s be honest – a significant amount of exaggeration - are posted online. Even armed with this knowledge, I find myself slipping into some bad mental habits. I’ve resented some of my friends for the endless bragging I witness online, especially with their kids. As we’ve seen with the recent university admissions scandal involving Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, parents aren’t above using their kids as a form of status symbol.
One “friend” on Facebook was particularly ruthless in relentless posts about how perfect her kids were. A typical post would look like this: Logan finally committed to Vanderbilt University as a Lincoln academic merit scholar. It was such a difficult decision as he’d been accepted into Princeton, Northwestern, and Georgia Tech. He must get his smarts from his Dad – LOL! Cody continues his domination on the lacrosse field. He’s joined a travelling team and plays the most difficult weekend league in the southeast. His coach says he’s a shoo-in for Johns Hopkins and Duke. He also must take after his Dad – LOL! The twins, Ava and Sophia, are still the social butterflies of Summit County. It’s non-stop sleepovers every weekend somewhere in the neighborhood – LOL. Good thing too because us Moms get together with a bottle of Chardonnay and can catch up on Real Housewives. LOL. So blessed to have such amazing kids…..
If I were to write an honest social media post about my son, it might go something like this: My son and I spent Sunday reviewing in granular detail every statistic of every player in the Patriots – Dolphins game. There were no birthday parties for him to attend, as he is typically no longer invited to any of them. He’s never been invited to a sleepover and we don’t go to the movies, since he has no real interest in any story with a narrative. He also doesn’t play in any team sports, as his lack of gross motor skills and fine motor skills make him a liability to his teammates. Our weekend was marked by consistency and routine, a deliberate practice in our household to keep my son in the best place possible for him.
The accomplishments that I celebrate would never be posted online – his ability to get a snack for himself, picking out his own clothes and getting dressed on his own, going to a restaurant and using the rest room independently without his Dad. These are the small incremental successes I savor privately.
My message to those parents who brag endlessly about how their kids are all above average in everything – please stop! You kill the self-esteem of Dads like me……