As a parent to an atypical child, I find myself spending a large part of life living in the future or the past. I come by it honestly. Having a child that will respond to life atypically or have unique challenges in school and other situations, I have learned to anticipate. I run scenarios of how a situation could go. I plan for as many possible contingencies as I can imagine. Conversely, I am always looking at the past for pointers to where a situation is going or comparing to find signs of development.
After living this way for so long, I had become fairly adept at handling life this way. I had reached a point where I felt able to adjust and handle most of what life with my Aspie-son would throw at me. Then we hit the teen years.
As my Aspie-son’s hormones raged, every aspect of life intensified. I reacted by amping up my planning/comparing coping mechanisms. I became hyper-vigilant. I became trapped.
My family as a whole started to suffer. My Aspie-son, my husband, my other typical children and finally, I began to suffer. I was being swallowed whole trying to plan, be or do enough to stay in control and guarantee success. Life was miserable.
I arrived at my younger daughter’s kindergarten class to volunteer. My mind and heart were not present. I spent the whole time moving through the motions but truly, I was in my head trying to figure out a way to help my Aspie-son pass 8th grade. Not only was my coping mechanisms not working for my son, but I had taken up permanent residence in the mental world of the future and the past. I was no longer present for the life that was happening now.When I started to think about parenting my child toward purpose, my perspective and my interactions with everyone around me changed. I have recognized that my life is now. The present moment is my focus. I see the need to live in the present moment because this moment is all I really have.
I still plan. My focus has changed. Instead of living in the future I make plans then focus on honoring and giving my fullest attention to the step, the moment that I am in right now. This shift has brought balance to my life. For me, learning this focus took three main shifts:
I had grand ideas of what our storyline was going to be. Living in dreams of a successful future was an escape from the current struggles. Those dreams were so alluring. Sometimes, that vision would inspire me to continue but more often, that same vision was like Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It made the present moment pale and tasteless. I endured now with the hope of a better tomorrow but tomorrow never came.
Focusing on this moment, I have again found joy. When I let go of what tomorrow could be, I see the successes, precious interactions and joyful moments right now. The journey has become the focus, not an illusionary destination.
Accepting My Limitations
My Aspie-son is mismatched to the world we live in. It seemed that My son is the round peg to the outside world’s square hole. I thought I was accepting this fact.
I have realized that I my acceptance was conditional on a belief that I could fill in the gaps between the outside expectation and my son’s reality. I believed I could make the world accept my son and acknowledge his successes. I had a distorted perception of who I needed to be in my son’s life.
I can never do or be enough to make my son and the typical world’s expectations mesh. Accepting my limitations, opened a new path. Instead of seeing the world as rigid, I saw flexibility. As I expanded my view beyond the world of the public school structure, I could see the endless variations that our world allows. My role is to guide my son as he creates his path in this world and finds his purpose.
My Aspie-son is an important part of my life, but he is not my whole life. I did not cease to exist when he was born. Additionally, there are other small lives in my care. The loudest need cannot drown out the other needs. My son and my typical children learn from how I live. How can I tell my Aspie-son that I believe that he can be an independent adult and then do everything for him?
When I give my focus to the moment at hand, I honor all the parts of my life. My time with my husband is for him alone. My time with each of my children is sacred and preserved. The time I set aside for caring for myself is spent doing ONLY that. This is a practice I have yet to perfect but the practice alone has increased my self-awareness and increase the balance between the various aspects of my life.
My Aspie-son came to me the other day and told me that he wants to start doing his own laundry. He thinks that would be a good step toward self-sufficiency. In the past he was required to do his own laundry because I thought it was important that he know how to do laundry. However, recently and in the interest of saving on the number of loads, I have put his laundry in with ours. I was surprised that he wanted to take on a “chore” Starting this week, I will be giving him some laundry room time to do his own laundry.
What is your biggest challenge to finding balance in raising your Aspie child?