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Abstract/Statement

It is often stated that parenting is "the toughest job you'll ever love." And it certainly doesn't come with an instruction manual. However, though we will falter, because of our love for our children, most of us learn a lot on the journey. This growth helps us to develop the skills and understanding needed, as parents, to be able to effectively guide, support, and nurture our children. Such knowledge, though beneficial for all families, is critical within neurodiverse households.

So what do you do when you just don't have it? What do you do when you have as much (if not more) to "unlearn" as you do to learn? How do you navigate neurodiverse parenthood in a way that builds and positively affirms your child(ren) when you don't have the faintest clue what that is even like? How do you prevent trauma and pain from taking root in a child's life when you have yet to shed your own?

"Don't Be Like Me" is an unsent letter to my amazing daughters that I wrote on a particularly difficult evening that depicts the lasting toll of society's ableism and abuse on me to this very day. Though it is somewhat melancholy and self-deprecating, it is also determined and hopeful. For it is that very acute, unrelenting pain from my past that provides the internal fuel for my Herculean efforts to spare them from ever having to hurt like this; live like this. They will NOT be like me, because the cycle will be broken. They will be spared, and they will blossom--in all their neurodivergent glory.

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