I bet you thought this blog would address kids with autism who lie. Nope. It’s about parents (of kids with autism) who lie. And I’ll be the first to come clean on this:

I am a lying liar who lies. . .

This realization came to me the day after Thanksgiving as I was sitting at the drive- through window of Starbucks with my daughter not-so-happily vocalizing in response to the interruption to her car ride. The barista asked me if we were on our way to holiday shop and somehow a feeble “yes, we are” came out of my mouth. Boldface lie. We were no more getting near a mall than Superman getting near Kryptonite.

Yes, I know, we all do it. We fib during small talk to be polite, to fit in. Some of us also do it to end a conversation or prevent one from even starting. So much of what used to be private is now so very public. Today it seems one’s barista knows as much as one’s therapist about the intimate details of one’s life. TMI (too much information) is my mantra.

But I digress – back to lying. I have absolutely no science to back this up but I suspect that parents of kids with autism might be more prone to telling little while lies. Why you ask? If you are said parent, you don’t need an explanation. If you are not, here’s why. . .

We are expected to know everything about our child.

There are so many things about our child and our life that are difficult to capture or explain. We are asked repeatedly why our kids do what they do and while we know them better than anyone, we don’t have them all figured out. No one does. I easily offer up, “I don’t know” but sometimes I just really want to know! I take educated guesses but I am far from certain. I don’t think technically this is lying though.

We want to be good parents.

It’s hard to admit that we don’t have everything figured out. We so often hear good people – teachers and therapists – tell us to do this or that and it sounds so doggone easy, but in reality, it is anything but. So when asked about efforts in doing things, we may say we have done them or done them successfully when that isn’t quite the case. We may have tried valiantly and failed. Or we may have been too tired to try. Or we forgot what you told us to try. We’re weary.

We want some normalcy and privacy.

When so many providers are involved with our child, it sometimes feels like living in a fishbowl, with someone analyzing our every move. We put our kids under the autism microscope and tend to question everything we see and hear from them. As a result, we sometimes make a conscious decision to stop analyzing and just let our child be, behaviors and all. We may tell you all is well when it isn’t.  We may not be able to take in any more advice at the moment. And maybe sometimes we just wish we were able to do the things that many people do the day after Thanksgiving – such as go shopping with my teenage daughter.

There is a downside of being less than perfectly honest.

There can be consequences for withholding information. If parents aren’t forthcoming with others about the stress they are under, they may not get the support they need. And they need all the support they can get.

If parents report that all is well and it really isn’t, a provider may believe that therapy is no longer needed and plan to discharge before it is indicated. It may also skew data that is being tracked on a strategy or plan thus making its efficacy hard to measure. We need effective plans and strategies for our kids.

If parents leave out pieces of information, it could possibly have more significant impact. I remember when I found my toddler daughter with a marker in her mouth. I simultaneously grabbed it from her, washed her mouth out with a washcloth and dialed poison control. When asked specifics about the incident, I struggled with admitting that it was a sharpie – the more “permanent” type of ink. This is what raced though my mind: “What kind of mom lets her child have a sharpie? Didn’t I read that smelling those things causes loss of brain cells? What is going to happen to her now that she has it in her mouth?” The fear of being judged pulled me in one direction while the fear of something serious resulting pulled me in the opposite direction. When asked by her doctor years ago if she was toilet trained, I simply said no. That was the truth but not the whole truth. There was so much more to the issue and only when I opened up about it did we get the guidance we needed.

New Year’s resolutions.

This coming year, I resolve to be more honest about the important things. I will counter the fear-filled thoughts that lurk in my mind when it comes to admitting what I don’t know/can’t do, what I’m sensitive about, and what “just is” when it comes to life with autism. This is better for her and for me. Forgive me though if you ask me how our long-two-week-holiday break from school was and I reply, “just fine”. It’s a work in progress!

Happy New Year to you and yours. Do you make resolutions? Share some with us. Remember to be patient and realistic and gentle with yourself.