My new office is in my mother’s house, so she’s often there when I release a progress report on my recent work session, which I’ve been doing on my social media sites. A few days ago, after releasing a report, I came upstairs and my mother greeted me with, “You’ve finished another chapter! Great! Congratulations!”
That started a conversation about the book I am writing and I decided to share a chapter with her. She was effusive with her praise, as mothers are prone to be, and then said something that caught my attention.
“Well, you need to tell where Willy was in order to show how far he’s come.”
I processed this for a moment. No doubt I was shaking my head from the start. Still, it took me a while to come up with the words that went with the denial.
“I’m not writing Willy’s story. It’s my story. It’s not about the boys. It’s about me. It’s about what I did with it.”
This is an important distinction.
I write about my children. I write about them a lot. But I’m never telling their story, because their story must be told through the way they process the experiences they have. I don’t presume to get inside their head and voice what’s in there. I tell my story. I tell my story as a parent. I tell my story as someone who is neurologically different, but not diagnosably autistic. I tell my story as someone who had to learn to advocate for my children.
And that is the crux of this book. Going into this whole autism thing, I had no idea what I was doing or what I was dealing with. I’ve read a lot of stories from parents who took charge from the get-go, but I wasn’t one of them. Based on the people I’ve talked to, most of us weren’t one of them. So, on the one hand, I’m telling my story for those parents who don’t know what to do when they start out.
More than that, the place that I went is also different than the norm, because I am different from the norm. So, I’m telling my story for all those parents who don’t jump on the I’ll-do-anything-to-cure-my-child’s-autism bandwagon.
My children are central characters in my story, but this is my story. It’s not because I’m arrogant. I certainly don’t think I’m more important than my children. But I can’t tell their story. I can only tell my story, because I am only in my head, processing my experiences. If I were telling “their” story, it would be fiction, not memoir, because I’d be making unknowable assumptions on what they were experiencing. Furthermore, I am telling my story because I believe (and I’m not alone in this) that telling my story will be a service to others, particularly a service to parents who want to serve their children.
Someday maybe my children will tell their own story. It may not be in words, though, but that’s part of the point. Me, I will tell my story, and I’ll tell it in words, because that’s the story I have the authority to tell.