Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Things We Don't Do Anymore

At some point, when you have a kid on the autism spectrum, you realize you don't parent like your friends. Usually, it's at about the same time you find yourself saying, "It shouldn't be this hard. What am I doing wrong?" It's not surprising you find yourself saying this when your ASD kid is, say, doing that exact same thing you asked him not to do a thousand times. And I mean, literally 1000 times. See, this is before you get the diagnosis and you don't realize a) he probably hasn't heard you the other 999 times, and b) even if he did, he didn't generalize the suggestion to suit any other situation but one exactly like the situation in which you made the suggestion previously. Also before you get the diagnosis, and when you are still sure you are the world's worst parent, you find yourself wondering why you are having a knock-down, all-out shouting match with your 4 year-old over the fact he can't have apple juice with his dinner. After all, you have never let him have apple juice with dinner, ever, and no one made even the slightest suggestion to indicate the rule would suddenly change, but there you find yourself, arguing about an idea that has popped into his head for no apparent reason. And you can't back down because everyone knows that parents who give into tantrums just get more tantrums in return. So you stand your ground despite the fact that you're pretty sure not giving in to tantrums has done absolutely no good up to this point.

Somewhere along the way, you also realize how many things you have stopped doing, and you wonder if you would still be doing them if your kid was different somehow. And this depresses you because you think you should be a better parent than that, that you should be able to take your kid out in public and do things with him you always thought you would do with him. (Even as you know that you can't or at least that you haven't been able to do any of those things you stopped doing with any degree of success.) And the weird thing is that you don't necessarily consciously stop doing things. It just becomes easier not to do them. Things like:

* After school sports: team sports = your child running around wildly (and usually off field)

* Trips to the grocery store with kids in tow: face it, this is hard for any parent; imagine it with a kid who has sensory-overload issues

* Eating out: new environment=loss of inside voice and inability to follow simple instructions

* Casual play dates: "Yes, mother of other child, I have taught my child it's not nice to hit, but I didn't know your kid was going to start play fighting with him and didn't have a chance to explain to him the distinction between play hitting and real hitting." (He doesn't do make believe well.)

* Watching TV on school nights: who knew PBS could be so stimulating?

* Staying up past bed time: less than 12 hours of sleep = exponentially more meltdowns the next day

* Spontaneous anything

Once you get the diagnosis, everything makes sense, at least to you and to those who know and care about your kid. But it doesn't help stave off the judgment of hundreds of strangers, not to mention the moms of kids in the same class as your kid, or even some of your distant relatives. After all, he looks normal enough. Why can't you just control him?

And as a mom to one kid who is on the spectrum and one kid who isn't, you constantly have to ask yourself whether you are living right by each of those kids. And you have to cut yourself just a little bit of slack because you know that just because you can't do these things today, doesn't mean you won't be able to do them tomorrow. Sure, there will be new battles tomorrow, but what you don't know doesn't always hurt you.


Liz said...

Hi. Just read your entire blog and LOVE it. I lived in Japan for five years for get that, and we have a five (soon to be six) year old aspie boy. Anyway, this post, yes, yes YES. Im clearly not as articulate as i think i am cause i cant think of anything else to say than i agree with everything you say!

Mom on the Edge said...

Sounds like we have a lot in common. Glad you found stuff that resonates with you!