Something happened this weekend and I can't seem to shake it.
Still days later, I'm replaying it in my mind and wondering how I could have dealt with it differently, what could I have said, how do I react in the future when this happens again?
I was at a dinner party, thrown by my dearest friend who invited some women that she is friends with while I was in town visiting her. A lesbian couple.
The food was fantastic, and up to this point the conversation was clicking along. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. And then one of the women, whom we will call Tara, begins to tell a story about a friend of theirs who is autistic. I may have scooted closer to the end of my seat, a sure sign of being engaged and interested in what she had to say. Head tilted slightly, smiling encouragingly in their direction. And then Tara begins to mock and make fun of their friend and her ritualistic routines and lifestyle. I feel as though I've been struck in the stomach. This is not where I thought the conversation was going. I'm at a loss of words and trying to find a way to interject and warn them to shut up because they are breaking bread with a mom of an autistic child! But I can't make words leave my mouth and Tara won't stop talking for anyone to interject. And then my dear friend who is hosting this party finds the moment to say "Gretchen's oldest son is on the spectrum and he's really great and...."
Tara doesn't get it and she continues.
I feel so stunned that I'm concentrating on not crying because I'm the type of person that can either go to tears or yell in these moments when I feel like I've had the wind taken from me. I start to explain how awesome Logan is and that his routines and styles of learning are fascinating. I explain how Logan was obsessed with Thomas the Train and how I used that to teach him about actual trains and the routes they take and geography. And she mocked me and continued to make fun of autistic people to my face and it seemed to go on forever but I'm sure in reality it only lasted a few minutes. My friend thankfully stopped the conversation and shuffled them outside for a cigarette while I gathered dishes and began to wash them while crying in the kitchen and downing a glass of wine. Or two.
And I don't know what angers me more...the things Tara said or that my friend didn't warn them that this is a hot button topic for me or that she even has to warn a lesbian couple to not make fun of other people.
Or that she didn't stand up for me the way I had hoped she would.
Once the party was over I confronted her about it and she apologized profusely, as any adult would and agreed that if she invited a friend over that was physically disabled she would have warned her guests but that she feels like Logan is doing so much better and she doesn't think of him like that.
She kept saying that.
And sure Logan is doing great! He's making huge strides. But that doesn't discount all the work that goes into it. He's always going to be autistic. Just because he's not having huge public meltdowns anymore doesn't mean that he's not finding this world difficult to function in. It doesn't mean that my job is any easier in being his parent.
I'm really trying to concentrate on how this scenario could have played out differently. What can I do in the future? Because I know that this will happen again, I'll meet another ignorant person who is judgmental and uneducated about autism and though I want to be an advocate for my son I can't stand when I am in situations where I have to explain him and justify his actions, I feel as though I am trying to sell them something.
Maybe it is as simple as excusing myself, removing myself from the situation.
Maybe I can't be the token autism mom and enlighten everyone that I come across.
I do however hope that in the future my friends will also choose differently.