Thank you for this. There nowhere to go to discuss how growing up NT with one or both parents who cannot navigate social interactions and cannot model productive social/relationship conflict solving profoundly affects one for life.
My father was the typical poster boy for Asperger's. He was fascinated by the phone book as a boy and and would memorize pages as at time and when he wasn't doing that he was memorizing dictionary entries much to my grandparents' despair since he refused to play with other children or even with regular toys. He grew up to get an analytical job and was often fired for being inflexible and then rehired because nobody else could do what he did - which did not help his arrogance and disdain for other people. At home he was a rageoholic. We all walked on eggshells all the time. He never did have a sense of any of us as individual people and any needs beyond being “accomplishments” to show off well turned out on company picnics baffled him at best and enraged him at worst. Unveiled resentment was the “room temperature” on the dial.
Now, I made peace with having one “bad parent” a long time ago, but in recent years that's been turned on its head and my whole sense of the journey of trying to figure out how to be in the world is still rocking wildly. About a decade ago a series of traumatic events happened to me which I needed help processing because I was not okay. I thought it was obvious that I was/am suffering from ptsd but the therapist was adamant that I was on the asd spectrum. I did not recognize myself in this at all but was assured that “it's different for females.” The more I read up on asd in females the less I saw myself but disturbingly I saw my mother very clearly. I did not want to recognise her in the literature and in blogs but asd women but there she was . The more I read the more I saw my mother and the less myself and suddenly so much made sense.
You see, my whole life going back to nursery school I have been my mother's “translator.” I've studied people hard so that I could tell her what to write in cards, which gifts to give to whom, which clothes are appropriate to wear to which occasions and so forth. I started choosing her clothes for her at her urging because I was “better at it” at five! It's 40 years later and I still choose her clothes because she just can't do it on her own. She has meltdowns trying to decide what to buy or because she's chosen something constricting or itchy. When I was a baby she was so overwhelmed with emotion for me that she didn't know what to do – so she sunk her teeth into me like an overwhelmed toddler but with bigger gnashers and had to take me to hospital. I still have a scar. She stalks people she barely knows because she just doesn't know how to convert feelings of “liking” into appropriate actions. Police intervention doesn't help because she doesn't understand that she's doing anything upsetting. I was constantly apologizing for her, rationalizing and explaining her actions to other adults but there was no one to help me navigate being a child among my own peers. If I had a problem at school my mother would lecture me on what was wrong with the other person followed up with assigned reading in wildly age inappropriate academic books and journals to “prove” her diagnosis. I had a great vocabulary but no strategy for just being a kid. My mother is not a terrible person but she has no natural theory of mind. She cannot put herself in another's shoes at all. She was mad at me for getting divorced for “no reason.” I told her that I was unhappy. After a long pause she said, “That's not possible. You have great general knowledge.”
When I grew more independent and eventually left home my “toolkit” was sorely lacking. I am, having been rigorously tested by a specialist, thoroughly NT, but boy did I pick up my mother's quirks! It was a revelation that nothing terrible will happen if food touches on the plate and clothes won't be ruined in the wash if you don't remove the label. Not only that but I had no idea what a boundary was outside of a title deed and had never once seen an interpersonal conflict ended in a way that didn't involve throwing a tantrum, then pretending it never happened, ignoring the original problem as well as the fallout of the tantrum. I wish that I'd had an easier induction into adulting. It's been like trying to get up to speed to join the motorway from a very short slip road. There have been accidents along the way and I have been at fault due to my slow speed.
I've seen a few comments from asd/aspies asking what to do if they have NT children. I am not sure I can say anything comforting, that it'll all turn out fine, because the very nature of the condition involves not being fully aware of what is lacking, only that “something” is lacking. I would say do not have children unless you are willing to share the parenting role with a family network of NT adults and to be willing to take a back seat for the sake of the child. This is a very big ask of anyone so perhaps it's better to consciously not have children.