I believe we are closer to understanding the genetics behind autism, but there is still not one thing that scientists can point their finger at and say, "Oh yes, this is the cause of autism." There was a time though that "experts" did point their finger and AWEnestly, I wish someone would have jumped up and broke said "experts" pointing finger.
In the 1950's and throughout much of the 60's and 70's, the finger was pointed at the mother in the so called Refrigerator Mother Theory. Now, I'm no scientist, but even I can tell you that the Refrigerator Mother Theory is about as believable as Big Foot. Sorry, for all you Big Foot believers out there. Guess I should have given a spoiler alert warning
Oh Leo, Leo, Leo (shaking my head), those were some pretty harsh words even for 1960. I'm trying to cut Leo some slack as I realize that today we know so much more about the inner workings of the brain than we did back in the 60's, but AWEnestly Leo, the mothers? What a cheap shot.
Since Leo is no longer with us, I will try not to say the things my passionate heart feels and my truck driver mouth longs to scream from the roof tops, but wow, this dude really got it wrong and in the process of proclaiming such a horrible assumption, theory, hypothesis, a lot of wonderful mothers suffered needlessly. All I can think of is the guilt those poor mothers of the 50's, 60's and 70's endured. Not only did they have a child they could not understand, and did not fit the "norm", they were made to believe they were at fault.
All mothers have guilt, it comes with the territory. In the hospital when they hand you this beautiful (ok, sometimes they aren't beautiful right away) baby, you also are given this 500 pound medal that you wear around your neck for as long as you roam the Earth, called guilt. No one tells you about maternal guilt in those perky, cheery childbirth classes. They only tell you once you hold your baby in your arms you will "forget about the pain of childbirth". I didn't forget. Liars.
I wish someone, preferably the mother, would have wacked these "experts" on the head with their refrigerator door while serving them a cup of tea in their 1950's apron. The terrible, cruel irony is that autistic children often lack the ability of emotional reciprocity, but, instead of looking at the child, these doctors and scientists chose to point the finger at mom. After all, it was the 1950's, a mother's job was to raise happy, well-adjusted children. If that didn't happen, well of course it must be the mother's fault. We mother's should have shoulders the size of linebackers.
Why, you may wonder, do I play musical beds with children who can wipe their own bums, get their own ice cream and know their way around iTunes better than me? Because I was NEVER able to let my babies cry themselves to sleep. Nope, I just couldn't do it, regardless of how many times the pediatrician and my mother-in-law assured me they would be "just fine". I'm not judging anyone who used the old cry it out or Ferber Method, in fact on nights when I'm dying to watch True Blood, Girls, Game of Thrones or some other terribly inappropriate, adult only television show, I curse the day I didn't let those little buggers work out their tiny baby lungs. Sigh...I just couldn't do it.
Yes, just like his brother who came before him and his sister who came after, Ryan was snuggled, cuddled, and loved to the point of me having dry, cracked, chapped lips for the first twelve months of his life from constantly kissing his sweet smelling, soft, peach fuzzy head. If one day a psychiatrist develops a theory that autism is caused by mothers who smother their children with love, kisses and snuggles which then forces the child to "withdrawal or turn away from" the overprotective, crazy in love, helicopter mother, well I would stand before judge and jury and plead "Guilty".
Yes, even at age 11, I lay down every night with my beautiful boy who wraps his arms around my neck and in his best Furbish accent orders, "tickle kah", or tickle please. This boy who demands hugs, loves and "snuggle time" and who pounces on me with an indignant proclamation of "I didn't get enough of this today" as he hugs me and tells me "I love my Mommy, I love my Mommy, I love my Mommy". This perfect boy never lacked warmth. Dan and I have never needed to be "defrosted". Ryan has known nothing, but warmth and love from the second he entered the world kicking, screaming, and angry.
Refrigerator mother, my a**. I have no idea what causes autism, but using THE one person who would lay down her own life to offer her child a better one, well that was one hell of a scapegoat Leo. So since Leo isn't here to offer his deepest and humblest apologies to the mothers who spent their lives submerged in guilt and shame, I feel it is my duty to do so. As a mother who even today feels guilt and wonders, "what if", but has never once had a finger pointed at me blaming my lack of love, warmth or connection for my son's struggles, I offer my deepest most heart felt apologies.
I'm sorry your child couldn't scream, "I'm in here, help me!" even when you could see it in their eyes and believed it in your heart like only a mother could. I'm sorry that when you took a stand and shared your belief the experts dismissed you and called you "psychotic". I'm sorry there wasn't a time machine to transport you and your child 6 decades into the future where today there is more acceptance and understanding of your child's uniqueness. I'm just........sorry.
For the stifled voices of the past, the scared timid voices yet to come, we voices of the present must make our children be heard every month, not just in April. The image of my son being placed in an institution where electric shock therapy and restraints were the norm for someone who hated to be touched is enough to decimate my heart and put a fire in my soul and make me grow much, much HOTTER.
We are the HOT Mom's of the past, present and future and although we may be tired, frustrated and bruised from banging our head against the proverbial brick wall, we must forge on. We are NOT ice cold refrigerators, we are commercial grade ovens who give off more heat than the average GE household oven. This is because we are aware that all too often, our "kitchen" may be the only place our unique children feel such warmth in a world where 60 years later, differences are still misunderstood. Our warmth may be the difference between success and failure, acceptance and bigotry and this heat we burn may be the key for our children to be understood and not turned away.
And although I would love to be Heidi Klum "HAWT", Heidi's heat will one day burn out as she ages (oh crap, sorry Heidi, no you aren't immune to aging. Guess I should have had another spoiler alert in here for you), just like the rest of us. The warmth and heat that make me HOT, and all the mothers like me, will burn forever and make a much bigger impact than the winner of America's Next Top Model.
So suck it Leo.