I’m not a lover of small talk, the ‘are you okay’s’ and the ‘how’ve you been-s.’ It’s kind and polite but I’d much rather a more deep and meaningful conversation. When I first noticed her it started off with half a smile upon our passing. Then it became a quiet ‘hi’ and a smile which soon progressed to a smile and a ‘hello.’ A lady passes us most mornings on route to school, happy, smiling and completely free of judgement at the sight of me, sometimes stressed and often in a hurry, a young girl with three young boys in toe. A few weeks passed quite standardly, weeks of smiles, hello’s and blasé comments about the weather, be it pouring with rain or warm beaming sunshine there was always something to say. I wasn’t a lover of small talk until one day this lady said something to me that took me by surprise.
“Are all three yours?” she said.
“Yes they are.” I smiled……. grinning and bearing inside, knowing from a familiar recurring experience how this line often follows… ‘You’ve got your hands full!’ they say… ‘Corrr you’re brave!’ they tell me… ‘You’re young aren’t you?’ they gasp.
But she didn’t.
“Well done” she smiled and off she went.
Well done? It took me a few seconds to fully register her response. The look of surprise must have been clear on my face. It’s not often I am lost for words, I don’t actually remember what it was I said back to her. I hope it was thank you.
This lady, I don’t know her. I don’t even know her name but I know that I liked her instantly.
It takes a lot of hard work to keep an Autism family smiling. She doesn’t know this mum diffuses 3 fights and 5 meltdowns by 7 30am. She doesn’t know how sometimes this mum looses her patience or that sometimes she wishes she could have a day to herself and then feels selfish for it. She doesn’t know that even when this mum finds the time to get things done she’s too exhausted to even think about it. She doesn’t know that homework is often done last-minute and school books sometimes go unread because keeping her children calm and anxiety free takes priority.
She may or may not know about Autism. She may or may not see an Autism mum trying to keep her little boy emotionally together. She may or may not see how hard this mum tries to listen intently to what her other children are trying to say while her Autistic son screeches, desperate for her undivided attention. She may or may not have overheard her eldest angry and frustrated, telling her that morning ‘mummy, you never listen to me!’ because she’s trying to hush the other so she can hear him better.
She couldn’t have guessed that I sacrifice my own needs for the sake of my children’s. She couldn’t have guessed that I neglect my hair. It hasn’t been cut for months and would need to be cut into a bob to rid all those split ends. She couldn’t have guest my skin is neglected too, sensitive, dry and pasty from the lack of sun, sand and sea air. Guess what my nails are too, they aren’t neatly manicured like they always used to be.
She couldn’t have guessed that I often skip meals because I don’t have the time to stop and my work schedule means I eat late at night. She couldn’t have guessed that for me going to work is a welcome relief from the responsibilities being a special needs mother brings me. Work is busy and sometimes stressful but it is respite to this tired mum. She couldn’t have guessed that having my own financial freedom, to have time where I am called by my first name (not mummy) and am able to multitask in a more productive way is important to than not having it at all.
This lady took a look at me, saw me for what I really am and not what I beat myself up for not being. Not an age, not a number of children, no assumptions, no judgement.
Just a mother that is doing her very best.
Three beautiful boys smiling and happy.