My son who is labeled as being on the High-Functioning Autism Spectrum is absolutely thriving at a public charter school right now.
He has a 4.0 GPA, plays bass guitar, enjoys going on errands with me, sleeps well, eats well, and overall seems happy. BOOM!
We also very successfully made it through my recent cancer experience and are well on the other side of that right now. BOOM-BOOM!
I sometimes feel like I’m not “qualified” to write about raising my son, but anytime I have that thought I immediately think about how awesome my kids are and how well they seem to be doing in this society.
He was different from the first day we welcomed him into the world. I’m not sure I would have done the same things, but I’m almost positive that I had to experience a life that helped to create a young man who will be able to go to college (this wasn’t always a guarantee).
He’ll be driving on his own next year (again, this wasn’t always a guarantee, and he’s got one car accident under his belt already), and he’ll be a man who will hopefully find success and joy in his future life.
And I had so much to do with that.
So I made a list.
What is it that I’ve brought to my children that has helped them to be successful, independent thinkers who engage with the world around them?
I thought of nine broad strokes of qualities that I use to parent my kids most of the time. Of course, I have breakdowns and failings, but for the most part, these 9 things are (or were) part of our daily routine.
And here’s what I came up with:
The #1 quality I feel that I have brought to my sons and my whole family, in general, is patience.
In the beginning, when all of the tantrums were hourly and daily, I was patient with Michael. I was confused as all get out, but I was patient as we waded through each tantrum, laugh, nap, day.
It was no joke, my friends.
My life is what it is. Your life is what it is at this exact moment.
I thought I wanted a typical family who stayed together (I’m divorced) and went to baseball games on weekends and were invited to all the classmates’ birthday parties.
That’s galaxies from what my reality was.
I had a baby who screamed like he was being tortured. I had a baby who demanded I put on his socks in a specific order–or else the screaming came back. Whatever I did, the tantrums were intense and daily, if not hourly. And that’s just what it was. It’s different now. I’m trying to accept our new life as well–it’s a process for sure.
#3: Constant Learning
CE credits for doctors are required, and I’ve essentially taken this task on as a parent.
There are parenting classes–did you know that? Parenting, just like any job, can always use some solid training that’s been researched to prepare you for the sole purpose of helping you raise your children the way you want.
I chose the nonviolent path for my parenting style and focus, and I’m grateful. Speaking of which, I’m going to review some of the materials from my past class. I’d like to find more kindness and joy for my children, and those classes always helped bring that to me and my family.
#4: Rebellion – strong
We have to rebel against stupidity and dumb-bum outsiders. It’s a sad fact of this journey since people just don’t like kids on the autism spectrum sometimes.
I wrote about my own parenting rebellion here, and I stand by this article.
Kindness matters always.
#6: Commitment to non-violence
Autistic kids can push us to every limit we’ve ever come up against–internally and externally.
I had to commit to not hitting my children, but I understand those who end up doing so even if they don’t want to. We have to get help when needed, create personal boundaries as we can, and commit to non-violence at every turn. That’s the kind of world I want to live in, and that’s the type of world I want to teach my children to create.
#7: Self-care Advocate
This is the area that I need the most improvement in, but I got much better at it during my cancer journey.
You’re worth it. You’re worth a thirty-minute warm Epsom salt bath. You’re worth taking the time to enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the morning. You’re worth a parenting class and social outings to maintain your sanity.
Whatever it is that you need that’s within your ability and models to your kids that self-care is important–do it!
Being responsible is what I call adulting. It’s paying the bills on time, making the appointments, and sticking to them. Being responsible is making sure my kids have the right foods available as much as possible on my very limited budget. It’s taking care of myself post-treatment.
Being responsible is sometimes the biggest pain in the ass, but it’s a must.
It might be said that raising kids on the autism spectrum requires resourcefulness above all else.
We have to find the doctors that actually listen to our truths and who care about us as human beings and not the docs lined up with the pharma companies (we experienced that firsthand).
We have to figure out how to get money to pay for our most basic needs if we start with nothing. We have to learn the ways of therapists so we can do it on our own and not have to pay too much or work out the insurance confusion. We have to educate our friends and family about our child’s condition, we have to . . . and the list goes on about what we have to find and gather in order to provide what our children need.
Keep It Simple!
Here’s the deal: you’re already great at many of these. There are a few where you could improve, but what we know is that getting a little better at something is always better than staying the same. Always.
So pick one. Pick one of the above qualities and get a little better at it. Find videos and tutorials on YouTube to learn some strategies to get better at one area you’d like to improve upon. And begin again.
Huge love and appreciation,