Took Amy into our local town last weekend where we had a bite to eat in a small cafe. She's at that age now where everything I do seems to embarrass her. If she sees kids her own age without their parents, she's constantly looking round at them in the hope they won't notice how cringe worthy it is being seen out in public with her 42 year old mum, oh ancient, embarrassing one. I just smile and pretend not to notice but our recent outing had me pointing out that being with your mum isn't as bad as it might look to a pre-teen. The girls she was wary of were sat a few tables away and looked about the same age as Amy. They had their own purses with money in and were ordering their own food. They were well behaved and polite, they were also street-wise. They'd obviously been eating out together for quite some time and were, I would hazard a guess, middle school girls who spend every waking moment together, have at least one sleep over a week and don't need to be constantly supervised.
Being a pre-teen and autistic is so bloody hard. She wants to be like the others, but she knows she isn't. She wants to be let loose in town with her friends, but she knows she can't. She wants to spend time at her friends' houses, having sleep overs, meeting boys, doing all those girly things that teens do. But girls her age don't want to babysit their peers. They don't want to knock about with a girl-friend who needs to be supervised by a parent. Amy has a few friends and her best friend lives quite some distance away. The few friends she has in the area have their own circle of friends and it wouldn't be fair of me to expect their parents to take care of my daughter. You may think this sounds ridiculous. But it isn't. It's real life. It's something I've had to accept, come to terms with, adjust to. When I see girls Amy's age knocking about round town together, enjoying each other's company, talking about boys, about nail varnish, about who's house they're going to sleep at tonight, the wave that is the autism diagnosis washes over me once more. I've spent many years jumping over it, ignoring it, swimming through it. Now, as my girl gets older and her needs become more complex, that wave becomes tidal. And I have to find even more strength to get me through the next five years.