There is a lot of Aspie in me. I have never been diagnosed but as a child my brother’s nick-name for me was “Inspector Gooso”. I read through our entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica every time I was sick; memorizing large sections of them. I was the “keeper of random pieces of information”. My quirks have always been a running joke in our family. Whenever my brother sees my son, he shakes his head and says, “Wow! You reproduced!” Some of these traits, I don’t see. Others are painfully clear.
I didn’t grow up in a family that was at all sensitive to special needs. My sister had severe dyslexia but was “diagnosed” by my father and grandmother as lazy. Dyslexia didn’t exist in their reality. There was never any formal kind of recognition of the ways I was different. I learned coping skills from of a surprisingly intuitive mother, strict expectation regarding behavior and my own resulting trial and error. Today, I can look back and see the path I have taken, but it was never a planned path. It was a very organic path.
While I am glad my son has a diagnosis that allows us to better understand where he is coming from, it can be a double-edged sword. I want him to overcome his challenges. I want him to learn to use his Aspie traits to their full advantage. I can see the Aspie traits in me and in the ways we are similar, I want to “give” him the coping skills I have learned. These skills allow me to take advantage of the strengths and mitigate the challenges. However, this is very dangerous.
Out of the best of intentions, I will try to press him into the mold of Me. I find myself insisting that simply mimicking the behaviors that are a result of my coping skills is the solution. This perspective completely misses the point. His personal journey of development is lost in my desire to achieve a particular outcome. I seem to forget this is his journey.
I think, the key is to honor the process. If I give a person a hammer, demonstrate how to use it but then insist they force themselves into a motion that simply mimics my own, there is the danger that they will never learn to effectively use that tool. A person can be taught the how-to-fundamentals of a tool. For example, you hit the nail with the flat round side of the hammer, not the claw. But the teacher must be able to step back and let the student work with the tool – even slam their fingers a couple times as they learn the balance and motion that is specific to them as an individual. Every person has to find the way to make a tool their own tool. They must each personally develop the skill required in their own unique way.
I have to keep this perspective as I interact with my son. I need to remember honor the process of learning. I need the ability to be as gracious about the perceived failures as I am overjoyed by the success. Both are equally important parts of his journey. I guess these are the skills that I am having to learn to make my own. I too, am on my own journey.
This journey is a much slower process then simple mimicking. For me, it requires stepping back and watching, listening, asking questions and letting him find the answers. This means embarrassing moments, painful experiences and overwhelmingly joyful successes. It means having to admit my own failures. Most of all, it means setting aside my timeline, my goals, my pride, my own desires for my son and simply being there to coach him on the road to his own goals, his own desires, his own life.
How do you find a balance between being a parent, an advocate and an aid to your child and being overbearing?