“...I have no desire to foresee you. You can’t disappoint me.”
That’s some serious unconditional love right there. How many of us parents can honestly say we feel this way all the time when we think about our children and their future? I’ll be honest, I haven’t always felt this way,
I am a worry wort...I want what’s best for them but also my pride weighs in. There are times I want to boast about all that’s good in my eyes but when it’s not great, when they’re not doing what we want them
to do or being how we want them to be we’re disappointed right? Haven’t we ALL been there?
Of course we want the best for our children...but is it more that we want what’s best for us? So preoccupied and invested in what they will be, what we want them to be so we can show off. Our expectations are set really high, and we expect them to be what we want.
Now don’t get me wrong expectations are great and setting them high can be a good thing and self motivating. But what if our expectations and dreams are not what our children want or what if there are circumstances which make the basic things that we hope for seem impossible? Circumstances like special needs? Circumstances like a u t i s m...
I’m a dreamer, I think a lot...and when I got pregnant I had a lot of thoughts about my first born. I always thought he’d play a sport, like football or basketball, or maybe he’d play tennis or run,. I thought that he’d be a creative, maybe an app developer, maybe get into gaming? No I wasn’t dreaming of things like law or medicine, Nah I was thinking other things and of the world and how it is right now, I had outside of the box thoughts, he was going to be an amazing creative visionary, an entrepreneur doing something big in IT or something like that....
But then a u t i s m happened - he was three when he was diagnosed.
I went through a period of mourning, letting go of all those specific dreams I had for my son...any dreams really... I had to have different expectations now. In fact I had no expectations. My dream became him just saying the word “mommy” and him being able to tell me if he wanted an apple or juice. Autism had me letting go of everything
and starting from scratch...
Autism insisted that I start from ground zero...painting a new canvas so to speak where all our plans HAD to be all about just going with that autism flow...wherever it took us. Our only duty was to embrace autism...embrace our son and follow his lead.
I've learnt to take it one day at a time, one goal at a time and really focus on what makes my son tick. Drawing on those gifts and talents I knew were just waiting to be discovered.
We discovered from early on that our son was musically talented. At first we thought only with drums, but nine years later he’s not only playing drums, but also playing a bit of piano and doing voice training...who knew he’d be doing all of that?
I certainly didn’t.
It’s exciting to watch him grow and stretch his talents and I’m extremely proud. In fact I’m over the moon and if you’re following me on Facebook and Instagram you know I’m not only raising awareness and promoting acceptance of autism but I’m also doing a whole heap of boasting as well!
So here I am dreaming again of what he may do in the future, who he may be.
I see him as a musician, some sort of multi talented superstar drummer...
BUT what if that does not happen? You know what I have to say about that?
I’ve been down this road before and I’m not going through that mourning s#%t again. I know better now. My son is my son. If he doesn't end up living MY dream (haha) and works in a music store selling music instruments and accessories, I'm one hundred percent OKAY with that. Why? Because I know he’ll be happy once music is involved- whatever it is. But most importantly he will always be MY superstar/rockstar musician....PERIOD.
These past nine years I’ve learnt that my role as a parent is to love unconditionally, no matter what. I hope you feel the same way too. So what if they’re not going to be that doctor, lawyer, accountant or whatever...there’s something out there for each of our children. Something that they were made to do, something they were brought into this world for, that will bring them joy and thereby bring you joy. That’s how it should be!
Does he really NEED to learn to read
music to play
I always thought that since he learnt to play drums naturally...by ear...why stress him out with the theory aspect of drumming? He has raw talent and loves it...why stress him out to “read music”...he doesn’t even want to read a book. I didn’t want him to hate what he loves.
BUT apparently I was getting worked up over nothing...
Apparently “reading music” for drumming is actually easier than it is for piano or guitar...the lines and spaces on the musical staff represent the parts of the drum set! Think VISUAL...if you’re an autism parent and your kiddo is a visual thinker YOU KNOW...it’s happy dance time,
it’s peasy lemon squeezy time! Well sorta...
In any event his teacher had plans...plans to challenge him, and stretch him, plans to set and achieve goals! YASSSSS! Don’t you just love that?!
But more importantly, when You sit down and really think about it...if MUSIC IS HIS LANGUAGE and he is learning it won’t he be much better off becoming musically literate as well?
Yeh I think so too.
So here I am thanking God once again for teachers who think outside the box, teachers who want to make a difference, who see the potential...who see the differences but don’t think less...in fact they think more.
Let's address the elephant in the room, shall we? No? Not ready? Ha ha, yeh me too....I don't think I will ever be. Which parent is? Puberty can be awkward and embarrassing for most people. BUT you know what? It shouldn't be - It's just BIOLOGY. Right? Right.
Puberty is no walk in the park, and for some special needs children and their parents it seems puberty is one hundred times worse, way more sensitive, exaggerated, and intense....know what I mean?
My son is almost twelve years old and I'm literally facing the elephant in the room. He was happily going along his merry pubescent way and I thought woohooo this isn’t so bad - just a lil jog in the park...I thought wow I GOT THIS...without even preparing.
Slow and steady was his pace....until summer. Summer came and BOOM another growth spurt then BOOM BOOM BOOM real, proper puberty and all the stuff that comes with it...and yes, this mama was not prepared.
Don't make the same mistake people. Be prepared, get ahead of the curve because they don’t stay young forever...EVERYBODY grows up...who knew? haha But seriously, no matter who you are, autism or no autism, puberty is inevitable. It’s the same in some ways and a little different in other ways. But the bottom line is that ALL children grow up...it is what it is. It is the great equalizer.
So what will puberty be like for my ASD child? I honestly don't know as it is different for every child...kind of like autism?! Just be prepared for the same things that happen with typical children to happen to your ASD child...I know, yikes. So how do we prepare?? i.don't.know! All I know is what I have gathered so far, and IF it can help you? Awesome.
Emotions Emotions Emotions
Get ready for some emotional outbursts, mood swings, aggression, arguing and defiance. Thankfully I haven't experienced all of that. What I have experienced is a bit of moodiness and a lot of that good old defiance. Time to get ready for school - "NO”, Time to have a bath - "NO I DON'T WANT TO". This might not seem like much but when you're used to a usually compliant child and suddenly you're getting "Nos" for everything that is a huge change. My advice? Pick your battles, and for issues that are not so important just let them go...for your sanity's sake.
Just so you know, if your child is like mine, almost twelve and still walking around with stuffed toys and blankets, still watching shows like “Thomas the Train” and “Little Einstein’s”, the same shows they watched when they were three years old, DON’T be fooled. Don't get blind sided. Don’t think they haven’t started puberty and that you have time. Nope...don't do that...trust me... it’s either right around the corner or happening right under your nose! While they might not be developing like their peers socially or emotionally, best believe they are developing physically. I’m serious...my little boy is not a child anymore. So check for those subtle signs. You've been there, you know them, and if you've forgotten, now's the time to use that awesome search engine Google to refresh your memory. Visit the paediatrician if you need to and get some guidance. Talk to your child's school, teachers and teacher/shadow assistants, have a plan in place and just mentally prepare yourself already!
So your kiddos are older now, no longer five or six...think about this for a minute. Go ahead think about it, I'll wait. Ready? Ok, now think about their peers. I know you see it...the now very noticeable development gap. As I mentioned earlier my son is still walking around with stuffed toys and watching “Thomas the Train” etc. - that and all the other differences are now glaringly obvious.
Here's the problem, as kids get older and become teens they become more socially aware. What's in, what's not, what's cool and what's definitely not. They now notice how different their special needs peers are, they might even joke about these differences, unfortunately. It's sad, but the reality is that some teens are mean. Social skills are already challenging for our children on the spectrum, but stack that mean teen on top of that and what do you end up with? 99 problems kinda problems. So what do you do? Easy, what you've already been doing - advocate advocate advocate! Continue to raise awareness and encourage kindness and acceptance in spite of differences and pray for the best. Be prepared for those bad days and BE THERE for your child...BE PRESENT.
I don't know about you but because my pre-teen is able, I'm all about encouraging independence. I'm not going to be around forever, and he needs to be able to take care of himself - so long as he is able to do so.
When he says he's had a "bath" but then he comes in close for a hug and you're all "sniff sniff gahhhh ehhhrmagadd"...Why? PUBERTY of course, it's no walk in a wonderfully smelling park. It's awkward, its confusing and yup stinky.
So what can you do? For me, right now it's just "gentle" reminders to bathe properly, PUT ON YOUR DEODORANT, brush your teeth, and put on deodorant. Did I say deodorant already? Twice? Yeah....apparently I don't say it enough, so hear I go again, put on your deodorant! Grrrr...sigh it's just, you know...those pesky hormones...you can't make them win and there’s really no need for our kiddos to be singled out because of this. These are manageable issues. Issues you can work on at home where your child is comfortable.
At some point I'll have to deal with hair growth and shaving and all the sensory issues that come with that, but not now...thank GOD. Right now that's not on my plate - small mercies!
All this growing equals non-stop eating. So just be prepared and have those hopefully healthy snacks ready for in between meals.
Those "Other" Issues
I don't need to spell it our for you. You know what I'm talking about. I wasn't planning on discussing that online with you. The plan was to just gloss over it. Because for one, that stuff is PRIVATE and maybe, just maybe my boy would cringe at the thought of me even mentioning this topic. So respecting his assumed wishes, all I'm going to say is you need to start thinking about how you will manage this issue. If your child is verbal, think about what and how to discuss it when it arises. If your child isn't verbal or only slightly verbal, think about how to actually "discuss" it with them given their verbal limitations, or if you will even be able to discuss it with them. Probably not. You will need to establish what the ground rules are, the Whens and the Wheres, i.e. when it's appropriate and when it's absolutely not, where it's appropriate and where it's absolutely not.
Bottom line? We all want to keep our kiddos safe. I have no clue what my child even understands about puberty, what is happening to him or what he is feeling BUT I want to keep him safe, so giving him skills to deal with all of this is my priority. That and praying for the best outcome and then watching over him like a hawk...that's my strategy. It's all I can do. But when I leave this earth what then, who will do this for me? This is when I start feeling overwhelmed and emotional and I have to remind myself - "one day at a time DBM, one day at a time..."
Parenting is challenging and preparing for puberty can be overwhelming - I haven't even scratched the surface with this post! Clearly I’ll have more to add later.
For now though, maybe think about these issues, if you’re not thinking about it already, and just be ready for it. You have no control over hormones and puberty but you can control the information your child receives initially and more importantly how this information is given.
"I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher." - Temple Grandin
I See You...I see what you Are Doing.
I see you early in the morning waiting to greet my son at school. I see you smile when he tells you good morning. I see how you guide him and how you keep a watchful eye on him to make sure he is always safe. I see the extra work you do to prepare him to learn.
I know that you have been there for my child especially when he’s frustrated. I know you’ve taught him to speak positive words over himself, that he is a smart boy and that he can do this, to help calm his overwhelmed mind.
You have learned about his personality, his little quirks, his strengths and his weaknesses. You know him...i can see that. I see you building a connection...building his trust, pouring yourself into my child’s development, knowing that there’s a lot of potential - we just have to be patient. Without me having to tell you, You already know my child is brilliant. That he can sense compassion and knows immediately when someone isn’t being genuine. You know he needs to feel comfortable with the people around him to learn properly. Thank you for helping to create that kind of atmosphere for him. Thank you for caring for him and loving him so well.
I know you have days that are rewarding and days that are exhausting and so very discouraging. But still you press on. Thank you for not giving up.
Your hard work does not go unnoticed. My child notices you. I notice you and I want you to know that I see YOU and what you are doing, and I am grateful.
I've never really been a "stop and smell the roses” kind of person. In our family that person is my daughter. We'll be in a rush but not her, she's the one lagging behind looking at butterflies or anything interesting - just taking it all in while we're desperately needing to leave to get where we need to be. But that's her and we've grown to appreciate her and her process - we know who she is and we learn from her. This ability which she has acquired naturally, is not so natural for others, some of us need to be taught to slow down and appreciate beauty that surrounds us, some of us need to take a break and smell the roses at some point in our lives.
So yes we think we know our daughter...and we think we know our son. Well, maybe only a little bit...but what if we are wrong about what we “know”?
Here we are making assumptions about our children, thinking that we know them and what do they do? They turn around and surprise us...boom just like that they do something out of the box that makes you think ok clearly we’ve got this thing wrong.
For instance the other day when my daughter was outside playing with neighbourhood friends, making plans to use flowers to make perfumes. My son and I were also outside while they were busy running up and down collecting flowers. I was just watching, making sure everything was ok and my son was running around, singing and drumming on his chest - usual scenario...or so I thought. After a couple of minutes of running around, my son went over to a hibiscus plant and shouted out to my daughter, "look at the flowers...Do you see the flowers? Do you see the flowers over here?"
I think I was in shock and so was my daughter because it took her a few seconds to register what he was saying and to respond. She came over looked at the flowers and said “thank you, these are beautiful!” Then she glanced up at me beaming probably trying to convey something like "did you see that Mommy...did you hear that?!
I couldn’t stop beaming as well!
Since that evening I've been thinking about that little flower conversation. What was I meant to learn from it? That as much as my son seems like he is in his own world at times he is in fact very much aware of what’s going on? Or that he knows his sister and knows that she loves flowers, so wanted to show them to her? Or both?
I really don’t know, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that with regard to my son and his autism, I KNOW NOTHING - like John Snow from Game of Thrones. (yep here I am, a hopeless fan #sorrynotsorry).
One thing I do know though is that both of My children are growing up, evolving and changing and basically we the Parents, are still figuring things out. So while we continue figuring things out and our children keep growing like weeds we’re going to appreciate the small things and smell the roses and the flowers. We’re going to do some cloud gazing and point out what we see, we’re going to look at butterflies and ladybugs and all things that make us appreciate life, because at the end of the day it’s the moments...those little things, that will be appreciated and cherished the most.