I was making breakfast for some friends after they’d stayed with us. The scene was pretty chaotic, three adults and four children all crowded around the dining room table, one small child was waving around half a croissant, with strawberry jam clinging to the side of it seconds before it was likely to splodge all over the kitchen chair he was leaning on. One of the dad's laughed as he stumbled trying to reach over and grab some butter from the centre of the table.
I stood by the cooker desperately stirring some scrambled eggs. I’d made everyone poached eggs but the children didn’t want them so I’d gone back to make some eggs more to their liking. “They won’t be long,” I called, looking over my shoulder, only to look back to see scrambled eggs sticking further to the bottom of the pan. I glanced down at the floor to see a fake beanbag egg, one of my children’s toys that was part of an egg and spoon race set, it may well be the only piece left. I laughed to myself, eggs all round.
I reached down to pick up the discarded toy egg as I walked towards the table with the freshly made scrambled egg. I happened to stand next to my four-year-old daughter, after dishing out the scrambled egg on the children's plates, I asked her, "do you want an egg?”, brandishing the fake egg. She looked at me, then the egg and then back at me, she burst into tears. I immediately knew that I’d made a terrible mistake and instantly regretted standing near her, it really was just a matter of chance I'd chosen that spot. There was just so much laughter around the table and we are frequently silly about so many different things but my daughter did not find this funny at all. I comforted her and apologised, I tried to explain that I thought it would be funny and I didn’t do it to upset her.
My daughter often doesn’t seem to be on the autistic spectrum but I believe she is. Many people I've known over the years have been unsure whether she is, perhaps to make me feel more reassured, yet it is instances like these that drive it home to me how she struggles to understand situations other children find more straightforward. To hurt her this way was all the more upsetting to me because I felt just the same as a young girl, now years later, my autism diagnosis clarifies these instances and makes them more understandable to me. I can’t protect her from these misunderstanding, apparently I can’t even stop doing them to her myself, but I can understand where she’s coming from and give comfort from the shame and embarrassment these misunderstandings cause, and help her later when she is ruminating about the situation.
Several days after egg-gate my daughter told me frequently, often out of the blue, "I didn’t like the trick you played on me with the egg," she explained that she knew that the egg wasn’t real but it still upset her. I apologised again and tried to explain that I meant nothing by it I just wanted to make her smile. I didn’t try to brush it under the carpet as just silliness and tell her to get over it, I listened to what she had to say, I apologised and I helped explain and clarify. A week later she came up to me, “I’ve got an egg for you,” she said gleefully, holding the toy egg, "thank you." I said, smiling.