Battling Infantilization

I haven’t been on my facebook page much the past few days because I’ve been struggling with some things. Thinking my way through. …or more accurately, thinking myself in circles. doubting myself. a lot.

I read a post not too long ago, had to be a few days, maybe a week, I don’t know. If you follow me anywhere you know I suck at remembering anything related to time. So, I read this post. It was about infantilizing autistics. Don’t quote me on that, please, I’m guessing. it did have to do with infantilizing, though. and was written by an autistic woman. and immediately, I started worrying. (shocker, right?) I’m all, oh my goodness! I’M DOING THAT!!!! I say my son is a 12-month-old inside a 10-year-old body! Don’t I? I think I do. Oh, man. oh, this isn’t good. I must fix this. but first, I have to find out exactly what the hell she’s talking about and how I’m doing it wrong. So, I message her. and she says recognizing younger interests is not infantilizing. assuming *only* younger interests is. again, don’t quote me on that, I’m guessing. So, fine. I can fix this. Dora’s cool. Blue’s Clues is cool. Keep the Sesame Street. but we’re trading some other shows for Sponge Bob and Fairly Odd Parents. Now, at one point in time, Fairly Odd Parents was ok but as soon as I decided he had to at least try to have older interests… I tell you what, for a non-verbal kid, the boy sure knows how to get his point across. I’m not doing that again. uh-uh. So, fine. But we’re cutting this infantilizing crap out. I’m putting my foot down. Somewhere there has to be something older that he’s going to like.
Then I’m looking at his life. and CRAP. I’m totally treating the kid like a baby! I already tried forcing the potty training issue- not gonna happen. at least, not until he’s ready. We’re already working on feeding himself with a spoon. sometimes. ok, allowing the option more than “working on”. but you know. what purpose does eating with a spoon serve, anyway? to be socially acceptable? F*ck social acceptance! and we already got the whole drinking out of a glass. so yeah, that totally tops a spoon. so, whatever. oh, yeah. I need to google spoons. anyway, and he needs that stroller, man! He’s really getting too big to be carried. and he insists on not walking far no matter how much my back ends up hurting from lugging his big butt around. So that’s all got to stay. But somewhere something has to change. He is 10 years old. I need to see him as 10 years old. I need to treat him like a 10-year-old.

and then there was an *incident*. so I’m cleaning his room and I’m putting his toys away and this is what I see…

There is not one single “age appropriate” toy there and I am ready to cry. Yes, I see the irony in that and I’ll get to it. Just give me a minute because I’m still fretting over infantilizing my boy. Ok, so, I’m back online. any time I see that word, you can bet your bottom I’m clicking on the link because I want to know how to fix this. it has to be fixed. infantilizing anyone because of their disability is taking away their right to be a full person. it’s dehumanizing them and cannot be tolerated. So, I see a link and I click on it. and way down at the bottom, I see a comment… “developmental delay or developmental disability do not mean developmental stagnation”

and… OH, LORD!!!! I stagnated my baby! (which is so not infantilization. You’re never too old to be your mama’s baby. I have come to the conclusion that if that is good enough for my other boys, it’s good enough for him so he can suck it up and deal with it, “big boy” or not.) Protesting the sentencing to a special school in kindergarten because of the impact it could have on his future education, the school said to me in defense of their decision, “you have to consider the fact that he may never go beyond where he’s at.” and I believed them. and I went with it. after some good mourning, ya know, but still, I accepted that. and I get to the point that I’m cool with it most days and then this. What the hell am I doing to this child!? I have to ask now, am I shortchanging him by accepting who he is and not pushing for more? I decided against outside therapy because I want him to be a child. I want him to live his life, not work his life away. Was that the wrong decision? Did I not believe in him? Is it my fault that he has made no significant progress what-so-ever in his entire school career?

So, I go running to my friend, crying about my problems to her as usual. and she explains both infantilization and stagnation. He’s not stagnated. Not in the least little bit. He makes progress every day. It may be slow progress, but it’s still progress. Slow moving water is still moving water and therefore not stagnant water. and “infantilizing is about treating someone as a child regardless of their maturity…and recognizing that he enjoys the same things a younger kid would is being respectful to who is and not ignoring his maturity.”

and this brings us right back to Christmas. Remember why the words “age appropriate” piss me off? No worries, I’ll remind you…
“It has recently come to my attention that my oversensitivity to those words may be because there’s not a thing age appropriate about this child- even less so as the years go by, and being told that his interests or his needs or his behaviors don’t meet those specifications is being told that he is not the same as everyone else. He’s not typical. He is different. He is abnormal. Even for a child that is autistic. That I should be doing everything I can to make him more age appropriate. More typical. More normal. Because he’s not good enough as he is. I should be ashamed that I am not working hard enough to potty train him, make him eat with a fork, make him walk nice, make him use his words, make him play with toys that a 10-year-old plays with- don’t give him what he wants because what he wants isn’t right.” and remember what I had to say about that?

“I’m not doing this. I’m not going to feel guilty. This is his life. He is who he is and he is perfect. Who gives a crap what he wants? what he likes? “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” This is my son. I make the decisions for him. and if I want to give him what he wants, well, then, I’m damned well going to give him what he wants. It doesn’t need to be age appropriate, it needs to be Alex appropriate. He sets his own bar. He beats his own drum. Anyone who can’t see the beauty in the rhythm he taps out… well, that’s their problem. There’s not a thing wrong with him, not a blessed thing that I need to change. Alex is Alex and I like him just so.” In my effort to fight infantilization, I started fighting him. Who he is. I started telling him that he wasn’t good enough. I won’t do it. I’m walking away from a battle that does not need to be fought.

Alex is Alex and I like him just so.
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I cover every aspect of parenting at some point in time, including but not limited to; the awesome privilege of being a mom, teenage parenting, being a grandparent, ADHD, teenage ridiculousness, ADHD, Autism, ADHD, and marriage in the chaos, and all of the wonderful moments in between.


I cover every aspect of parenting at some point in time, including but not limited to; the awesome privilege of being a mom, teenage parenting, being a grandparent, ADHD, teenage ridiculousness, ADHD, Autism, ADHD, and marriage in the chaos, and all of the wonderful moments in between.

3 thoughts on “Battling Infantilization

  • Although I am not sure if it may help you any…I have autism, and much of the things in my room are not in any way “age appropriate”. My biological parents were constantly trying to get my to be what they considered “normal”, the pressure to socialize, to have similar interests to other kids, to be interested in boys and all of that…which eventually spiraled me into an eating disorder for several years with several inpatient and residential stays. My adoptive mother accepts me for just me, allows me to be just the person that I am…and although I may have so many non “age appropriate” interests and toys throughout my room, I know that she loves and accepts me for who I am..and for the first time ever…this will be officially my first year with her and my first year without being in treatment for anorexia. 🙂

  • Totally agree, my son has/does things that maybe many other children his age don’t but that works both ways. He may like babyish’ things but then at the same time he understands concepts and has knowledge beyond many of his peers. Should I stop him doing those as well as they aren’t ‘age appropriate’ Bah!, now way. He is who he is and likes what he likes. He doesn’t care what the label on the box says so if he’s happy and it”s not clearly inappropriate (adult films, games…) then I roll with it.


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