Embracing the Unicorn as a Gift!
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Learning how to embrace the intricate and complex gifts we have been given in our children as the amazing gifts they are!
Biggest Mistake: Trying to Tame a Unicorn
Growing up as a black blue collar family, image and perception was very important. We did not share the struggles that went on inside our home to anyone that was outside the house. There was fear of sharing too much or relaxing enough to let anyone peek behind the curtain. Maybe this was influenced from the generational survival tactics by Blacks in America to avoid stereotypes and interference by teachers, social workers, or law enforcement. Thus we were taught to manage and police our bodies at an early age and in turn try to instill this same survival tactic to our own children. The challenge was all three of our children had been diagnosed with autism, so managing their bodies fell second to recognizing the signs a meltdown was coming or ensuring daily routines were kept in tact.
However, as we tried to continue life as normal, attending family reunions, birthday parties, and holiday gatherings, the questions came and suggested "remedies" were offered. Long time friends became annoyed with some of the behaviors, grandparents mentioned the word "spoiled" and suggested spanking, and kids in the same age group did not gravitate towards ours. I tried coaching the kids before events on how to better fit in or how to try and engage with other kids. During that time mental health, developmental disabilities, and other deviations from the "norm" were not openly discussed and accepted in the black community. So I stressed myself, husband, and the kids out trying to give them a sense of community with individuals that may never understand or accept them in the first place. What I did not realize at the time, was that I was conditioning my children to not show up in spaces as their authentic selves, something I did not value until several rounds of therapy, spiritual direction, and restorative justice healing circles. In fact, I was actually clipping their wings and asking them to be blend in with a herd of horses, when they were meant to be unicorns.
Embrace, Celebrate, Educate!
Once we understood we had three children that would have to navigate being black with autism while living in America our focus changed. We stopped trying to help them fit into spaces. Instead we began helping them carve out their own spaces and started educating friends and family. They are pursuing interests in music, media, and technology. They are not into sports or big social groups, and love reenacting movies and shows with each other. The shift from minimizing to celebrating has provided a freedom to embrace the multi-layered complexity of who they are journeying to become. My prayer is that we started this transition early enough to aid them in becoming the best versions of their authentic selves. I pray that we will continue to trust the process, providing guidance and support when needed. And, I pray other families will experience the life giving moment...when you can look at your child and say "Ah...I get it now...and I support you...go be great!"