My tall drinka water husband and I have a lot of ideas on how we want to raise our kids.
- They shouldn’t be super glued to screens. Elmers at most.
- We want to travel and expose them to God’s unending and unbelievably amazing creation.
- They’re taught to put others and God first. That one is taped to the garage door as a daily reminder.
- Family dinner time is held in high esteem.
- We preach kindness and respect with each other and all the other humans.
- The great outdoors is a second living space when at all possible.
- Being active isn’t an option. We move our bodies.
- We encourage endurance and initiative.
- We’re social beings and crave meaningful community. We WILL commune with other humans.
Most of these ideas? They’re tough friends. They’re really tough. And if I’m being truthful, we FIGHT most days to force these ideas into action.
Many kiddos and adults living on the Autism spectrum love themselves a good screen. They crave consistency and routine and comfort. Times of expectation for appropriate behavior and sitting still are grizzly. The great outdoors contains lots of smells and sensory sensations that are unpredictable, slimy, gross, poky, and sweaty. Being active is exhausting to the point of near death most often. We’re talking, laying in stranger’s lawn, just go on without me, near death. Endurance isn’t even a thing we can expect really. Initiative can exist IF the activity speaks to strong internal desires. If not? Forget about it. Moving bodies in ways that speak to his ideas on what sounds fun can work. The trick is getting his brain to agree that it’s going to be worth the moving. And the last point about communing with others? We do it – often, but man can it be tough. Small gatherings can be beautiful and seamless. Add more than one strategically placed family? Self regulation isn’t even possible and a shit show of sorts is likely to result.
Its taken us years to wrap our minds around expectations and what it means to be our breed of family. We’ve ignored obvious signs pointing toward what our normal needs to look like and forged ahead. Which doesn’t look pretty for any of us. We’ve entered into situations that were never even possible for him to succeed in and convinced ourselves that he should be able to find success. We’ve arm wrestled with truth and variations of our ideals and ride roller coasters of what’s fair to expect and what’s a pipe dream that doesn’t have anything to do with him. And so often it ends with reminders to each other that he’s an awesome little human with complexities that need to be taken into account in everything we do. Everything we plan. Everything we expect. Everything we dream. Everything we say yes and no and maybe to. None of that is his fault and it’s not ours either. It just is.
What we’re learning (slowly) is that our ideas don’t need to be erased. Just adjusted. When we adjust with intentionality he’ll blow our expectations out of the water.
- Our son will spend more time on screens than we would like. It brings him immense joy and will be an integral part of his career some day.
- Traveling will be more tame and predictable than my Enneagram 7 husband would prefer. And when it’s not, one of us will stay home with him.
- He’ll continue to strive toward putting others and God first in ways that continue to teach us humility.
- Family dinner will not be blissful or endearing most of the time. He’ll walk around and stand up and talk about Pokemon. Our discussions won’t be focused and napkins won’t lay on laps.
- Kindness will continue to be his middle name and will leave us speechless. And respect will be a fight until he’s able to understand what that word actually means. And until we’re okay with letting go of what we think it needs to look like.
- We’ll enjoy the great outdoors and not judge him for enjoying it in morsels.
- We’ll definitely promote movement and being active and offer grace when it involves drama and complaining. And we’ll try to understand how hard it is for him and accommodate when we need to.
- Endurance and initiative will be slow moving with baby step goals in mind.
- We’ll commune with our people and will say “no” a lot more than we want to. And we’ll be selective because we have to.
Raising kids with special needs is a special kind of really broken beautiful. To eliminate the brokenness of the journey is to do ourselves an incredible disservice. Because within the brokenness lies so many important truths that deserve recognition and respect. Our son deserves to be taken into account for all his intricacies. Even when they don’t line up with what we assume to be best and right and essential. He challenges our ideals and encourages us to adjust and re-shape and adjust again. As he matures and grows, so too will our methods and truths as a family. And while none of that is simple or seamless, what family is? In many ways we’re no different and in many other ways we are. The joy and grief of all of that will ebb and flow until we’re put to rest.
With sweet Jesus and liquor stores at hand, I can’t imagine or wish this life to be any other way.