“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.” – Abraham Lincoln
I have always viewed integrity as an ideal. Lately, it has been dawning on me that integrity is actually my life line in parenting my teenage Aspie.
“I think that I actually just hate you,” my Aspie Son informed me the other night, “I get along fine with everyone else and when I was at Dad’s house, I did the work he asked me to do with ease but when it is you, I feel so angry. So, I think it is just that I hate you.”
“Well, I think that makes sense,” I replied, “When you visit Dad’s house, it is for a short time and there is a lot of emphasis on you having fun. With me, there is a lot more working on life. I am the one who works with you through school and a lot of the life lessons so I can see how I could be the one that triggers irritation.”
“Well, I don’t know because Dad talked to me about life but I didn’t get angry. I think it really is that I just hate you!” he concluded.
I took a deep breath and remained silent. I realized that engaging in this a conversation when he is in this kind of space is not helpful. However, the conversation does continue later when he is doing the dishes.
I was walking toward the kitchen and my Aspie Son popped out.
“What do you want?” he demanded.
“I wanted to get a glass of water,” I explained, “Is everything ok?”
“See, that is what I mean. I think I just hate you because just you saying that makes me SO angry!” he replied.
“Well, that is too bad because I love you and there is a lot about you that I actually like,” I explained.
“Well! How do you think I feel? Hating my own mother! But if I didn’t tell you, I would be living in denial!” He emphasized the last part of this with a dramatic turn back into the kitchen.
I nearly burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of this last display. I was thankful for this gut response. The earlier conversation had me feeling sad and discouraged. My Aspie Son’s bluntly honest responses to everything are sometimes harsh and painful.
Being a parent to a typical child is difficult. There is uncertainty, guilt about mistakes and fear of making the wrong decision. The same struggles exist when parenting a child with special needs. These struggles are often magnified and there is a unique lack of payback. There is little reciprocation from the child and often my child’s frustration is poured out on me. Additionally, the outside world rarely gives recognition of the hard work being done every day. Quite the opposite, there is judgement, shock, and a drawing back when my child’s behavior is outrageous and socially unacceptable.
How do I keep my perspective and persistence in these situations? Truth be told, I don’t always keep my perspective. When I do, it is because I choose my motivation. I do not chose to act in order to receive praise or recognition from others. My choices cannot be motivated with a hope that my son will be pleased with me or even acknowledge me.
I must make my decisions, take my actions and draw my motivation from inside of myself, from who I want to be. I do what I do because of the parent I want to be. I will know when I lay down at night or when I look at my face in the mirror in the morning that I have done what I believed was right and best. Integrity is my life line.
“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” – Frederick Douglass