Yesterday, I revealed that NHL was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. In addition, we’re pretty sure that I have Asperger’s as well. When we figured this out, I found myself questioning everything I did. Suddenly, I wondered whether I did certain things because of me or because of the Asperger’s. As I internalized that these were one and the same, another problem presented itself: Guilt.
Asperger’s has a strong genetic component. If Mom or Dad has Asperger’s, there’s a good chance that Junior will have it too. NHL is so much like a little version of myself: Socially awkward, prone to babbling on about interests whether or not anyone is listening, has trouble looking people in the eyes, has trouble tossing out a plan and winging it, etc. His Asperger’s Syndrome – for better or worse – comes from me. Or, to put it the way I began to think about the situation: It’s all my fault.
All those years of not knowing what was going on? My fault. The problems he’s had in school? Because of me. His future struggles with the neuro-typical world? Blame me.
Of course, I knew that it wasn’t like I gave him these genes on purpose. I didn’t sort through my genetic code tossing out some "good genes" to make room for Asperger’s. This was just the roll of the genetic dice. There is no blame to place here just like there isn’t any blame assigned to NHL having my blue eyes or JSL having the same chin dimple I have. Still, a portion of my brain refused to give up the guilt.
As parents, we never want to see our kids come to harm. If there was a magical button that, while pressed, would ensure that kids would have a perfect life, we would spend the rest of our days leaning heavily on said button. It hurts us when they feel pain or sorrow. And if said pain/sorrow is somehow attributable to us? Even in the most indirect of ways? Devastating!
I have let go of most of my guilt. Deep inside I’ll always feel a tiny bit of guilt, but I’ve learned to ignore that voice. I suppose that overcoming the feelings of guilt was part of coming to terms with the diagnosis. Now, instead, I focus on how I can best help my son navigate the often confusing Land of the Neuro-Typical.
Have you ever felt guilty about something your kids inherited from you?
Note: The DNA image above was created by netalloy and is available from OpenClipArt.org.