We bow to your undying devotion and the effortless attention you shower on your children. Every. Single. Day.
As mothers, you bring your babies into this world and then you hit the ground running. There’s no looking back because you’re too busy trying to foresee a bright future for your child and for yourself. You are their teacher and a superhero in disguise, but most importantly, you are ma.
Words like the ones above are comforting in a world of frenzy and dismay. With so much devastation toiling the world, mothers are the rock of every child’s universe and shield him/her from havoc and chaos. This very bond between a mom and her child, unexpectedly paired with the negativity affecting modern-day society, gave birth to an important question posed by Jai Jai Hooray: What if there were more women in charge? What would the world be like then?
A future full of female leaders is where this world is headed, that’s for sure, but until we get there, let’s relish in the different ways we get to celebrate every female in the world. Women are honored in various cultures, in various ways and festivals happen to be one of them, festivals like Navratri.
Jai Jai Hooray is a company that is re-imagining cultures of South Asia by making beautifully simple toys and tools. They began with an exploration of Hindu mythology, and it’s an educational platform trying to put learning materials in every parent’s hands.
In light of the Hindu festival Navratri, the founder of Umani Rupa Parekh, and her team at Jai Jai Hooray, attempt to shine a spotlight on the world of everyday women and their personified roles as goddesses—the term “ma” refers to both mother and the female, Hindu deity, hence relationship between the two is inevitable.
With an effort to promote the power of the everyday mom and to help raise awareness of horrific incidents such as domestic abuse and female human trafficking, Jai Jai Horray presents the public with the #SheIsAGoddess social media campaign on the heels of its newest product—The Goddess Power Tower, an educational toy to help teach children about the many Hindu goddesses.
When asked to comment on the creation of this toy, Parekh explains:
“It started with us wanting to make a toy. But not just any toy, something unique and innovative. We also got a lot of customer feedback to focus on just the Goddesses. We asked ourselves, and a lot of families, ‘How do you explain who a goddess is to a toddler?’ Through our design research, we realized the best explanation was, ‘MOM.’ To a little one, mom is the center of his or her universe.
Another fun breakthrough came with Kali. So many Hindu moms have told us that they have a hard time talking about Kali to their kids because she is scary. We wondered, what if parents had easy prompts like, “She just keeps the monsters away at night.” That’s where this idea formed: What if we could create a prompt for each goddess that helps a child connect with her as though she were mom.
What we are most excited about is to offer families a high-quality, beautifully designed toy that combines identity, story, and play. Growing up, most brown kids never had that.”
In an active effort to promote both the educational aspect of the Goddess Power Tower and the importance of women in any given society, Jai Jai Hooray presented their brilliant social media campaign throughout the nine auspicious days of Navratri.
“Our Instagram campaign [#SheIsAGoddess] was an effort to celebrate fantastic females who use their 14-arms every day to do amazing things. We really do believe that the future is female; these women offer some hope and positivity in the world during bleak times,” Parekh said.
The company brought together nine amazing women who share their story, how the Goddess Power Tower has impacted their lives, and which Hindu Goddess they most resemble.
Kanika Chadda Gupta and her husband are practicing Hindus and are devoted to reciting mantras and bhajans in the home. The relatively new mom, who takes on the image of Parvati in the #SheIsAGoddess campaign, says that she always knew she wanted to be a mother, but it came as a shocking, yet pleasant, surprise when the couple found out they were expecting twins:
“Twin moms have a unique experience of being thrust into motherhood. From creating schedules, to nursing around the clock and learning what works for one child may not work for the other, we master the art of doing double the work twice as fast.”
As a mother, and mompreneur and CEO, it’s so important for Gupta to teach her children about gender equality and that’s where the Goddess Power Tower comes into play:
“I feel this toy is a great tool to teach my son and daughter about gender equality. Despite stereotypes or restrictions that may still exist in society, we want to inculcate the belief that they both can achieve whatever they set their minds to. Women are just as capable as men. So, here’s to all the devoted moms out there who are present and constant day and night, serving as the ‘sun and moon’ of their families. We are divine. We are Goddesses.”
It is impossible to speak about Parvati without the mention of Sita, so it’s only just to go ahead and introduce the Sita of Jai Jai Hooray’s #SheIsAGoddess campaign. Everyone, meet Sonali Patel, a strong and defiant single mother who has seen her share of adversities and suffering, yet has prevailed and is triumphant. On being Sita, she admits,
“Although there are different interpretations, I hold both a traditional and modern view of her [Sita]. Sita is known for bravery, loyalty, morality, virtue and immeasurable patience. These are all qualities that mean a great deal to me and that I’ve been tested on, want to live by and teach my daughter.
Over the course of five or so years, I encountered experiences, circumstances, and emotions I never imagined I’d have to consider, let alone live out. I became a new mother and a short time after that, watched a family member battle cancer, lost my father and then my mother, got divorced and became a single mom. The waves of emotions, fear, hypersensitivity to life, losing so much family, feeling orphaned in my 30’s—is that a thing?)—was crippling. I couldn’t be crippled though because I had this beautiful, intelligent, sweet baby girl that needed me (and I needed her just as much).”
Sonali’s daughter, Ellora, is of mixed identity:
“Ellora is a mix of Indian, Jamaican, European Jewish, Spanish and Italian backgrounds. (I think I got everything!) It is important as a parent to be proactive in providing tools, information, and experiences if you want your child to understand and identify with any part of their culture. It was easier for me to expose her to the various elements of Indian culture (because that is my background) when I had my parents, but after they passed, she was no longer hearing the language spoken or immersed as much as I wanted her to be. Now, I am very mindful to incorporate as much as I can so she can have constant exposure.”
Jai Jai Hooray’s goddess Radha comes in the form of supermom, Kajal Desai. Desai resonates most with Radha because she relates directly to everything that the mythical goddess is known for—Radha is full of love, has strength in her spirituality, and strongly believes in the joy that dance can bring into one’s life.
While she’s in the middle of building her career, Desai understands her priorities and the route she’s taking in raising her son. As she shares her story with us, this young mom admits that when she found out she was pregnant, she was really hoping for a daughter.
“When I found out I was pregnant, I wanted a girl. I had a desire to raise a strong, loving, generous, confident girl, and then I found out I was having a boy. Once that set in, I realized I had an even greater role [and that was] to raise a son who always saw women as his equal, would never allow a woman’s confidence to be broken or their dreams to become jaded.”
Kajal promotes the idea of equality by continuing to pursue her professional dreams while raising her son. To this she says that she won’t break and set an example for her son—she wants her son to grow up knowing that the women he crosses paths with will never break. Today, if you ask which superhero he wants to be he will say, “I’m Super Mommy!”
Since we’re speaking of super mommies, it’s only right to introduce the next deity from the #SheisaGoddess campaign, Pranika Uppal Sinha. Sinha is the face of Durga, fierce and powerful. With a continuing battle against her diagnosis of Alopecia, this mother of two little girls has defied the standards of beauty.
After being diagnosed at the age of four, and with very little hair left, Pranika made the decision to shave off what was left on her head:
“My husband was at a meeting and couldn’t come, so the girls went with me, held my hand, and comforted me as I got emotional. They liked my new look and gave me nonstop smiles and hugs. They have never pressured me to wear a wig or hat and are comfortable with me no matter what! I feel as though they truly understand that beauty is inside and out and you get to define it for yourself. As women, we can spend our whole lives trying to fit other people’s expectations, when really we can never be confident and free until we got our own. My daughters have helped me with their encouraging words, hugs, and love, and I like to think that inadvertently I have helped them as well.”
When it comes to the Goddess Power Tower, Sinha says,
“My daughters have never had a toy quite like this. I find that it’s unique, empowering, and allows them to really see the power of brown girls and goddesses, and learn more about their religion. Every year at the end of Navratri, we celebrate our daughters as goddesses on Ashtami. Now they can play, and ‘interact’ with these goddesses daily, and know that girls and goddesses alike are mighty.
The Goddess Power Tower and the #SheIsAGoddess campaign encourages us to make cultural learning fun and a part of your child’s on-going educations, and it reminds us to celebrate that women are divine, they’re fierce, and they’re goddesses way beyond mythical tales. Women are your everyday superheroes.
The following post is in partnership with Umani—a company whose mission is to create beautifully simple toys that make introduce aspects of Indian culture to new audiences with a modern twist. Their newest toy is The Goddess Power Tower—a set of stacking blocks that feature the most fierce female Goddesses from Hindu mythology. Buy your tower today just in time for Diwali presents!
Sandeep Panesar is an editor, and freelance writer, based out of Toronto. She enjoys everything from the holiday season to the cold weather, and the warm beverages available in the winter months- a true Canadian, eh? When she’s not binge-watching her favorite Bollywood movies, or sipping on tea and gorging on pakoras (or Timbits), she’s keen on highlighting the pulse of community issues through her writing assignments. Sandeep is driven by her passion for fashion and writing, and uses both as catalysts to express her individuality; she’s an avid believer in the power of the word.
Holi is a Hindu festival that celebrates the coming of spring and is observed near the end of winter. It’s also referred to as the festival of colors or the festival of love. Although my daughters and I are not Hindus, (we are Sikhs) we still celebrate Holi. Our Holi celebrations always include reading about this festival, making colorful art, playing with the colorful powders, and making some delicious, traditional sweets. This is always such a great occasion to discuss the diversity of Indian culture with my daughters. I use this opportunity to teach them about inclusivity and respect for different cultures around the world. All across India, different states celebrate this festival in their own meaningful ways.
My first experience celebrating this beautiful festival was in university. My roommates, friends and international students put together a lovely day of Holi celebrations outside. We were completely covered in variety of colors — pinks, purples, and blues. There was music, laughter, dancing, and an overall joyous atmosphere (including bhang, which is essentially a cannabis milkshake). It was particularly heartwarming to see so many Indian students coming together as a community, so far from home, to connect with such a beloved tradition.
For those of us, brought up in Canada, such celebrations were amazing opportunities to genuinely experience the true spirit of Holi. Similar to how it is done in India, everyone became one – there were no small groups or cliques doing their own thing; class lines and caste systems, predominant across India, disappeared. Everyone joined together; our skin tones hidden under the bright colours of the Holi powders. It surely was an unforgettable time.
As a child, I got to experience Holi only through Indian Cinema. Bollywood films like “Silsila,” “Darr,” and “Mohabbatein” stand out in my memory. The actors are dressed completely in white at the beginning of the song, enjoying Holi celebrations, and are then painted from head to toe, in various bright colours, by the end of the song. Since then, I’ve learned that certain colours hold meaning and significance. Red symbolizes love, fertility, and matrimony; blue represents the Lord Krishna; and green stands for new beginnings.
Now, as a mother, I don’t want my children to experience our culture through a screen. So we bring these Holi traditions into our home in our own creative ways. We certainly tend to get creative since around March there is still ample snow on the ground outside and a chill in the air!
The activities we have fun doing are:
Making rangoli designs using coloured powders (this is a helpful site we’ve used)
Making paper flowers to decorate the house with (like the ones here)
Making tie-dye shirts (we’ve got a kit for this because the girls love it)
Baking a traditional Indian snack, like gujiya (we bake them because I get paranoid about the girls being around hot oil).
“Let’s Celebrate Holi!” by Ajanta Chakraborty and Vivek Kumar (for three to seven-year-olds)
“Festival of Colors” by Surishtha Seghal and Kabir Seghal (for two to eight-year-olds)
“Why Do We Celebrate Holi” by Anitha Rathod (for eight years old and above)
This year, Holi falls on the same date as International Women’s Day! To combine the two celebrations, my daughters and I plan on sketching South Asian females we look up to the most, and then adding bright colours using different types of paint. For another element of texture, we might add the paper flowers to these as well. I’m thinking these are going to be frame-worthy pieces of art!
In her new book “Dear Durga,” author and life coach Shanita “Shani” Liu takes a different approach to self-help. Liu guides readers by providing a courageous framework. She writes to the Hindu goddess Durga Ma, who is a symbol of courage to Liu. Durga Ma represents power and protection in Hinduism.
Liu ties together the personal. She shares her experiences in witnessing fear-based patterns from her own Guyanese family and culture and noticing them in herself as a mother while proving coping strategies as a life coach. In this candid conversation, Liu explores the journeys of motherhood, writing, overcoming fear and leading future generations by example.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
It came from a diary entry I wrote in 2018 or 2019. I wrote that I was going to write a book called “Dear Durga.” I created a folder on my computer and it said “Dear Durga Book” and it was almost like I was setting the intention. I didn’t know what it was going to be about, but I did know that Durga and writing to her was an important part of my journey. And so I just had this intuitive feeling that I was going to be able to share this story one day.
In 2021, we were going through the pandemic, I just had my third child, and Durga was very much like, ‘okay, now you’re going to go write your book.’ And I was like, ‘Wait, what? I’m sorry. I’m, like, trying to navigate motherhood again and my business and everything else that was going on.’ And she was like, ‘no, you’re going to participate in this writer’s workshop. You’re going to learn how to write a book proposal. You’re going to enter it into this contest. You’re going to win the contest, and you’re going to write a book.’ And I thought she was nuts. And all of my fears started coming up – who am I to do this, I can’t do this, I’m not enough, what am I writing about?
I had to muster up the courage to write this book. And so Durga was a catalyst for me to call on my courage and say, ‘it’s time.’ This moment made me realize what I’ve been doing professionally for the last seven years is walking folks through my framework to help them activate their courage. So even though I was terrified, I realized this book can take the personal and the professional pieces of this puzzle and really put it all in one place.
When you say that Durga was your driving force for action, do you mean spiritually and religiously, or something else?
For everything, yes—emotionally, spiritually. In 2015, when I was falling apart and embarking on these major life changes in my life, she came through. It was the catalyst for me to say, “I have to start breaking myself out of these fear-based mindsets and really start entering these new phases of my life with courage and disrupting old patterns.”
Describe the writing process for this book. How did you find that courage to move past your fears?
Definitely writing to Durga. Knowing that the book was going to be about this journey of me connecting with my courage, I had to accept the challenge. I’m a writer by training. I’ve been writing my whole life. I was an English major, so I knew I could write, but I had to sit down and excavate six years of my life. I had to go into my journals from 2015 up until when I started writing the book at the end of 2021.
It was wild to re-experience myself going through these various obstacles, these discouragements, these discomforts and then find the strength through this courageous energy I had within me, to take these small steps and overcome each obstacle. The excavation of my own life was an interesting part of the process for me to get clear on the themes based on what I remembered.
The writing process was very spiritually and emotionally transformative because I’ve been doing all this work with my own courage that I sort of had to channel it with my own creativity to write and to marry what I had been doing professionally and what I had been going through personally. So, once I formed the book proposal, the blueprint for what I was writing, and submitted it to the Hay House contest, I then learned I won the runner up prize, I was able to write the manuscript pretty quickly. At that point, I was like, ‘okay, I know what I’m writing about now. I know I have the courage to do it.’ Durga was right, after all.
Walk us through the four steps for somebody who is just hearing about this and is interested in your way of approaching courage.
I have a Courage Kit framework, and I’ve had to walk my talk through it, but I’ve used it with hundreds of clients. It’s a four-phase process to support you with activating your courage and keeping it alive. The first phase is activating your courage and calling it in, identifying your courage metaphor, how to access that energy and how to commune with it and build a relationship with it. The second phase is about aligning with your needs because, as mothers and women, we don’t ask ourselves what we need due to this societal expectation and cultural conditioning. That’s an important part of emerging victorious. Victory is important because it means to attain fulfillment. Being victorious means having the courage to honor yourself so that you can be victorious, whatever that is like for you. The third phase is alleviating stressors so you can feel your best. Then the fourth phase is taking action so you can start making baby steps towards your goals.
How was this journey impacted by being Indo Caribbean? What role did your culture play in this?
The role that my culture plays is huge. In the book, I talk about the legacies of sacrifice that I come from because of indentureship. I’m three generations removed from that history of colonizers exploiting indentured laborers. When you come from these legacies of sacrifice, fear-based mindsets and behaviors accompany it. When I was acting from a place of martyrdom and sacrificing my own needs, I realized I learned that from the women who came before me, who learned it from the women before them.
When you zoom out you realize this has happened across cultures. Why are women in our culture asked not to use our voices? Why are people telling us to shut up, play small and don’t cause trouble? Our voices have been collectively suppressed, and over the last few decades, we’ve been liberating ourselves. We’re going to honor all parts of ourselves and express ourselves as we need to, and we need courage to do that.
Why dedicate the book to your younger self?
I had to dedicate this book to my Little Shanny because her voice was suppressed, and due to cultural and societal expectations, she wasn’t allowed to be her fullest self. She’s very lively and creative. In the book, she is writing and we make rap songs and other things to call on our creativity. This book is an honoring. As I was honoring all parts of myself and healing my own emotional wounds, I was liberating her at the same time.
How would you describe your relationship with Durga Ma? How can others who are not Hindu achieve that sort of relationship with their metaphoric courage figure?
Regarding Durga and myself, I don’t say, ‘I got this courage metaphor, now help me.’ You have to build a relationship with it. In the last eight years, I’ve been able to build a solid relationship with her where my courage is almost automatic. If I feel or think about fear, my automatic courage alert starts going off. The stronger connection I build to her, the stronger our relationship becomes, and the more self aware I become about making courageous choices.
But, in the introduction of the book, I clarify that folks can use the Durga archetype or work with Durga whether they are Hindu or not. It doesn’t matter what walk of life you come from because she embodies victory over evil, maternal protection and an unapologetic courage that we need for fulfillment. So I encourage folks to connect with her because people who are meant to resonate with it will resonate with it and if Durga doesn’t resonate with you, you understand you have this courageous wisdom inside you. If telling my story about the way it looks for Durga and I, inspires somebody to ponder a relationship like that, that’s great! In the end, I just want folks to walk away feeling comforted and equipped with tools to be their most courageous selves.
How do you take this idea, this archetype, and apply it to yourself or anybody?
We’re human beings and I think sometimes we just need something visual or tangible to hold on to. Sometimes I need an idea or person to help ground what’s coming up for me, so the metaphor is really helpful because I can visualize and interact with it.
The metaphor offers information because when you’re scared and fear is clouding your judgment, it’s easy to default to doubt. Your courage metaphor offers information, encouragement or directions – targeted guidance. As long as you connect, communicate with and build a relationship with it, it will help you. That’s why I use “Dear Durga,” channeled writing, as a common thread throughout the book, it’s one modality that works. If this modality doesn’t work for you, then try interacting with it differently. But at the end of the day, regardless what modality you find, you can leverage that metaphor’s information to inform your next step.
How did motherhood and becoming a mother play a role in writing this book and also your career as a life coach?
I started life coaching when I became a mother. I was pregnant while I was in my Life Coaching Certification Program, and Durga Ma showed up just a few months before I found out I was pregnant. I think she knew I was going into the next phase of my life, and I couldn’t continue on my own anymore. So motherhood was a huge act of courage for me. I left a toxic job so I could embark on motherhood and begin making professional choices that would support me once I became a mom.
The beautiful thing about motherhood is that you become a different person – you change. Your ability to care, give, create and grow changes. Motherhood informed the work that I did with other women in their mind, body, spirit wellness and it forced me to focus on my own wellness. Also, Durga Ma just happens to be this maternal archetype, so maternal protection and nurturing felt important to my process as I was healing wounds. This is a powerful energy that can support other moms because we need support. We’re caring for little human beings and, as it is, most moms are under-resourced. Courage is a resource that doesn’t cost any money, that can help with life’s challenges.
Did you have to endure little battles with people around you to gain support for the kind of work that you do?
I don’t think anyone around me discouraged me. The battle was within myself and having the courage to say, ‘I’m this life coach who’s going to focus on courage.’ I had to get over my own impostor syndrome, self doubt and fears that were weighing me down about coaching with this mindset among many other coaches. When I started, I was focusing so much on self care, but then I realized it’s so hard for women to self care because we have a fear of doing it. Everything goes back to fear. That’s why I realized the root of all of this is coming back to our courage.
As an Indo Caribbean mother, there can be a lot of expectations. Did the courage framework also help with that?
Absolutely. Most moms are givers, especially those of Indo Caribbean heritage. We saw our moms constantly sacrificing everything so we can have high-quality lives. But this trajectory of motherhood and bringing my courage in through my own framework forced me to ask for help, set boundaries and put my needs first. Obviously we put our children first, we’re always protecting them. But I began to honor myself. To realize I can honor myself and my needs while managing motherhood felt really important. But that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to do that because we’re breaking out of old patterns from our family’s example. This is why, in ‘Dear Durga’ I tell a lot of stories about my grandmother, because she was a major influence in what I thought motherhood should look like.
Can this in turn create a healthier experience for the child?
Absolutely. You’re a demonstration to your children. Your children do not do what you say, they do what you do. I have daughters and a son, and I don’t want my daughters growing up thinking that when they get married or have kids and start a family, they have to clean the house all the time and never experience joy. I want them to see that Mommy can experience joy and fun and she can work, and she can do these things. It may not look perfect, but they can see that I can do all of these things without it costing my mental health and sanity.
Do you have a favorite story that you use in this book for reference?
It’s not my favorite, but the story about my grandmother’s death and the shock that my family and I felt stands out the most. She was the matriarch and anchor to our maternal line. So, when she passed away, it created chaos. As a little girl, it wasn’t until she passed away that I questioned: ‘Who was she? What was her life like?’ It allowed me to see what my grandmother was like outside of being a grandmother. When the funeral happened, I heard stories about how she sacrificed, whether it was for her education or her family. It gave me perspective on everything that went into my family coming to the U.S. But it also made me think, now that I have the privilege and the opportunity to change things, am I going to take advantage of that?
Liu champions personal growth and overcoming fear, emboldening us to find our courage, be vocal about our needs and refute the age-old myth that Indo Caribbean women must struggle to be successful. “Dear Durga A Mom’s Guide to Activate Courage and Emerge Victorious” is now available for purchase.
February 28, 2023February 28, 2023 4min readBy Sara Qadeer
Hi! I am Sara and I am a mom to a beautiful, neurodivergent child. This piece explores some challenges of parenting an atypical child in a typical world.
It is a sunny day in the summer of 2020 and I am trying to enjoy the only entertainment that has finally been “allowed” by our province. Parks. Sunshine was always free; scarce but free. I have eyes on my daughter, running and somersaulting, with that untethered quality they say she gets from me, while socializing with two girls her age from a distance.
All of a sudden, the distance called ‘social’ gets smaller and as I run and call out in vain my child has the kid in a tight and loving but forbidden hug. I understand that pandemic or no pandemic, physical space is a basic right but for my daughter, it falls under the ‘but why?’ category.
The next 15 minutes are spent apologizing to an exasperated mother asking me why my kid was not taught the dangers of COVID-19 and personal space. She is four, I tell her, she just got excited. At some point, I zone out and just let her say her piece. Some of it is in a language I have never heard before, complete with hand gestures and melodrama as if it was not a preschooler but Bigfoot.
Maybe later I will do the thing we all do; oh, I should have said that. Maybe I won’t. This is not the first time my kid has drawn public attention and it is not the last.
Six months later, we received a diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). After the reaction time (read stress eating and ugly crying) ended, we began our journey of raising an atypical child in a world that insists on the typical.
Textbook wise, neurodivergence includes Autism, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, OCD, hyperlexia and Tourette Syndrome.
I could write a book on my journey as a mom raising a child who is neurodivergent (ND). I will in due time and the first chapter would be, “Fighting for inclusion in a world insisting on exclusion.” If you ask any parent with a neurodivergent kid, they will tell you that it is not finances or the fear of the future bringing them down, it is just people. But that’s been the case since the dawn of time anyway.
If you are someone who is kind and inclusive but are confused by the jargon, read on for some guidance that will make you an ever-favorite ally and, well basically, just decent. It is just basic decency after all to be inclusive and kind.
If you have a kid on the spectrum for ASD or ADHD or any other neurodivergence in your social circle, the first step is to not stop being friends with their parents. Yes, that happens. Parents can get super isolated and alienated because their kid is a certain way. Give ND families a chance to breathe. Invite them to BBQs, ask them what their kid will eat, encourage your kids to include them — the whole nine yards.
There will be meltdowns, at birthday parties, at the mall, in restaurants. Sometimes the best thing to do is to look the other way. Ask the right questions. Rather than asking “what happened?” or “why are they doing this?”simply say “how can I help?” Maybe you can help with another sibling or give the child some space.
Do not equate a sensory meltdown or otherwise to a parenting failure or a lack of discipline. ND parents face a lot of judgment on those grounds. That is one of the top reasons they scoop up their kids and leave before dinner is even served.
The biggest challenge in our community is acceptance. There is a dire need to accept that around 30 percent of our population is neurodivergent. This includes adults and undiagnosed individuals. You and I might not even know if we are atypical, the world is just getting to know this word and what it entails. As for the South Asian community, neurodivergence is practically stigmatized and seen as ‘spoilt’ child behavior or ‘mom spending too much time at work, on social media, Netflix, sewing, knitting, kayaking…’ The list goes on.
It is 2022 and we are all trying to make space for people at our tables. This includes people who might not look or act or perceive the world like us. As a parent I have fears that all parents have, but somehow those fears have been heightened to exponential limits ever since my kid’s diagnosis came through.
How is she doing? Did someone bully her? Does she have friends? Is she included in activities? What if she says something silly and they laugh at her? What happens when she is older? Will she go to college? I should not be thinking that. I want to think about how much she is learning at school, what game they played today, what she and her friends talk about and all other typical mom things.
Except I am not a typical mom. And that is okay.
My child has wonder; she has innocence. I see things from her lens and her computation of the world is unique. The biggest misconception people have is of intelligence. A child with autism finds difficulty in processing social cues (like sarcasm) but otherwise they are as smart as you and me, if not more. Probably more.
Some days are hard but not all days are hard, and not every moment of that rough day is difficult. We, parents of ND children, do not keep obsessing over the fact that our kids are atypical; we binge watch the same shows, we have hobbies and interests and date nights and ‘me-time.’ Some days are magical and the most important thing for people to know is that Autism families are not looking for pity parties, just kindness and inclusion with a healthy sprinkle of understanding— an understanding of the atypical in a world only rooting for the typical.